With the selection of Professor Michael S. Feld (1976-2010) as Lord’s successor in 1976, lasers became the central research tool of the Laboratory. Professor Feld received his training at the Institute, earning a PhD in physics in 1967. His special interest was the interaction of intense light fields with atoms and molecules.
Professor Feld led the Laboratory into a new era, pursuing fundamental studies and applications of lasers in various branches of science and engineering. The strong interdisciplinary emphasis is characterized by a widening set of active faculty participants from the physics, chemistry, biology and engineering departments. Major programs include high-resolution laser saturation spectroscopy, study of dynamical processes in atoms and molecules, laser chemistry, the application of lasers to nuclear physics and studies of structure and function of biological molecules using resonance Raman and other laser techniques. Achievements include the first observation of super-radiance by Feld and his coworkers, and the discovery of a left-handed form of the DNA double helix by Professor Alexander Rich of the Biology Department and his colleagues, accomplished by analyzing X-ray diffraction patterns with the Laboratory’s optical analog comparator. Under Feld’s directorship, there was a marked increase in the number of collaborations, including colleagues from more than 10 institutions.
In 1985 Feld established the Laser Biomedical Research Center (LBRC) at the laboratory with support from the National Institutes of Health. With the LBRC, the Spectroscopy Laboratory became a leading research center in applications of spectroscopy to biomedicine. LBRC researchers developed techniques in fluorescence spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, multi-modal spectroscopy, and other technologies to image living cells and diagnose diseases from arteriosclerosis to breast cancer.