Patrick Inacker-Mix

When did you join Brookhaven Lab, and how did you find your way here?

I joined Brookhaven Lab in Summer 2016, just after the July 4th holiday. While at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, I worked for a laser research institute that had an exchange program with the University of Central Florida in Orlando. I used this opportunity to complete research work for my master’s thesis abroad. I was about to head back to Germany to complete my degree when I found a job posting for a laser engineer at Brookhaven. A few months of interviews and completing my master’s degree later, I was hired. It has been the most rewarding experience.

What is your job at Brookhaven?

I am a laser engineer and leader of the Laser Group in the Instrumentation Division of the Collider-Accelerator Department. My job is it to work closely with various project teams to find or build the best laser for a particular project or experiment and provide support through the laser’s entire life cycle. Most recently I have been working on the laser system that will drive the electron source for the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC).

What inspires your work here?

I very much enjoy that I can support each project through its entire life cycle—from the initial concept, through construction, operations, and finally decommissioning. When you are working this closely with a project team there is a lot of feedback about what is working, what is not, and new requests. While the laser system fundamentally does not change, it evolves with the project to address changing needs. Every time, this is a unique journey—with a lot that can be learned.

What is your favorite story about your job?

I had been at the Lab for about a year when we found that a laser system used for one project could no longer provide the necessary power. I pitched the idea of building a regenerative amplifier—a special kind of laser amplifier—to reach the needed power level without having to replace the entire laser system. The lead scientist agreed, and this became the first system I designed and built by myself. I had to learn several new skills to tackle this major project as a young engineer. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences in my life.

What future activity at the Lab are you most excited about?

I am most excited about the upcoming Electron-Ion Collider and all the new and exciting projects that require one-of-a-kind laser systems to drive them. Every new laser has its own challenges and quirks, especially when it must run 24/7, unsupervised and for months at a time.