Meet the RadiaSoft Team is an ongoing Q&A series, where we introduce you to our stellar employees. Learn about their work, their background, and some of the things that make them who they are. Today, Research Scientist Abdou Diaw, talks about his projects at Radiasoft, some interesting things he’s worked on previously, and a some surprising facts about himself.

What do you do at RadiaSoft?

I work on multiple projects on modeling and software development for plasma-based accelerators. Some of my projects focus on using AI to held automate parts of scientific experiments at Oak Ridge National Lab and accelerate scientific discovery in material science.

What’s your educational and career background?

I attended the University of Bordeaux as an undergrad for physics; then I got excited about thermonuclear fusion, so I enrolled in a Master’s program that involved six different Universities in France and organized around ToreSupra tokamak and inertial confinement fusion (LMJ laser). We visited these gigantic facilities and ran experiments. So all of this to say, I hold an MSc in Interia Confinement Fusion. It seemed like a good idea back then, maybe still is with the recent news from Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

After that, I went to grad school in physics at the Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France.

I worked on modeling the production of proton beams and the primary mechanism involved in producing these particle beams, which is an electrostatic acceleration of protons at the rear target surface. This work was done with particle-in-cell (PIC) and fluid simulations and supported experiments at the LULI lab. After grad school, I joined LANL as a postdoc, where I worked on different projects around plasma modeling and material science.  I also worked at MSU for one year on an AFOSR grant modeling low-temperature plasma in support of experiments at BYU.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Nouakchott, Mauritania. Then we moved to Louga, Senegal, when I was three years old. We again moved to Bordeaux, France, when I was 10.  So I grew up in different parts of the world.

Before joining RadiaSoft, what’s the strangest or most interesting job you’ve held?

Harvesting blueberries, “vendange” as the French call it, was the strangest summer job I have ever held. It lasted for about an hour. The job was to pull the blueberries from the trees and fill up a huge crate, then transport it to some place to be weighed. Once I filled up my first crate which took me forever to do, I realized the amount of effort it would require to make some decent money, so I told everyone I am done. I quit. I lasted 1 hour on the job.

Who is your favorite scientist from history and why?

I will say, Richard Feynman. However, Max-Planck and Enrico Fermi are high on my list. Our understanding of light-matter interaction and charged-particle interactions comes from Feynmann’s work on quantum electrodynamics. He also pioneered the miniaturization revolution in electronic devices, which led to the development of nanometers size chips. Most of our current technology came from these developments in nanotechnology. As an undergraduate, There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom got me excited about nanotechnology and quantum mechanics.

Tell us about one of your current projects.

I am currently working on three projects. The first one is Flashcap. This project aims to develop a reliable magnetohydrodynamics tool for modeling plasma and capillaries for wakefield accelerators. We use the MHD code FLASH from the University of Rochester. We have been working on improving the microphysics, such as transport properties and equation of state. We are also working on the laser heater aspect of the simulations. This code will be available soon on our Sirepo App.

The second project is Nuline, in which we use AI to automate sample and beam alignment in Neutron scattering experiments at Oak Ridge National Lab. Nuline is an exciting and challenging project as we spent a large chunk of our time curating and processing the experimental data. This part is tedious, but it is an essential part of data science.

The third is the GSM (‘Gas Sheet Monitor”) project with RadiaBeam. The project develops a non-destructive beam phase space diagnostic for high-energy electron beams at SLAC’s FACET-II facility. Right now, I am working on the beam reconstruction algorithm.

What is a talent, secret superpower, or fun fact about yourself that people wouldn’t guess?

I am a very good salsa dancer.

What’s your favorite Slack emoji and why?

I do not have one. I hardly used Slack in my previous job. So I am a very new active user of Slack.

What’s something you wish people understood better about RadiaSoft?

Most scientists spent many hours installing and debugging codes previously written by some colleagues in some old language, for example, Fortran 70. Trying to find the appropriate modules on some computer platform or completely rewriting diagnostics is an incredible waste of time. For example, some companies spend a couple of weeks each year going through this installation process with interns. You can port this process in the cloud with a browser-based interface and remove the tedious installation and debugging parts altogether. This approach removes the computational science and allows scientists to focus on the design, modeling, simulations, and analysis aspects. RadiaSoft is a pioneer in this field through the Sirepo app. The app has various particle acceleration and plasma codes such as FLASH (coming soon).