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Prof. Bill Colson



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Department of Physics
Spanagel Hall, Room 203
833 Dyer Road
Monterey, CA 93943-5216
(831) 656-2145
DSN: 756-2145

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Mission Statement

Bill Colson
Distinguished Professor of Physics
Ph.D. Physics, Stanford University, 1977

Dr. Colson joined NPS in 1989. His research interest is computer simulations of Free Electron Lasers. Over the past 25 years he has developed, along with Prof. Colson, a set of programs for simulating FELs on desktop workstations. His recent research, and an aspect of his Doctoral Dissertation, has been on short Rayleigh length optical cavities for high power FELs, FEL amplifiers and oscillators, and the 4 dimensional simulation of optical pulses in the FEL.

Dr. Colson joined NPS in 1989. His research is centered on the theory and simulation of free-electron lasers. Prof. Colson has been the Principal Investigator of 45 research contracts with LANL, LLNL, SPAWAR, AFOSR, ONR, NASA, NRL, LBL, and NSF. He has published 120 research papers, holds 3 patents, and has given 62 invited lectures. He has been a Guest Editor for IEEE Journal of Quantum of Electronics, and is a Co-Editor of a book entitled Free Electron Laser Handbook. Prof. Colson has advised over 48 M.S. thesis students and 4 Ph.D. dissertation students at NPS. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association of Physics Teachers, the Optical Society of America, the American Society of Naval Engineers. He was awarded the 1989 Free Electron Laser Prize.

Phone, 831-656-2765, Email:

William B. Colson
Distinguished Professor
Mail Code: PH/Cw
Department of Physics
Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Monterey, CA 93943
Phone: 831 656-2765
Email: colson (at)
PhD - Stanford Univ, 1977
MS - Wayne State Univ, 1972
BS - Wayne State Univ, 1966


  • Professor of Physics, research, teaching, thesis advising


  • 1989 - present - Professor of Physics, NPS
  • 1985 - 1989 - Senior Associate with Berkeley Research Associates
  • 1980 - 1985 - Adjunct Professor, Department of Physics and the Quantum Institute at the Univ of California, Santa Barbara
  • 1978 - 1980 - Assistant Research Scientist, Center for Space Physics, Rice Univ, Houston, TX and Acting Assistant Professor at Stanford Univ, Stanford, CA


  • Developed courses entitled "Introduction to Computational Physics": An introduction to the role of computation in modern physics with emphasis on the programming of current nonlinear physics problems and the use of graphics. Subject matter includes projectile trajectories with air drag, nonlinear celestial mechanics, damped and driven nonlinear oscillators, molecular dynamics in solids, liquids and gases, and numerical integration methods
  • and "Simulation of Physical Systems": Comparisons between simulation, theory and experimentation as techniques of scientific investigation. Applications emphasize physical principles including subjects like nonlinear oscillations, numerical integration methods, molecular dynamics in solids, liquid and gases, numerical chaos, wave propagation in various media, distributions of random numbers, static electromagnetic fields, quantum mechanical wavefunctions, and Monte Carlo simulation techniques.


  • Theory and simulation of free-electron lasers. This work has been performed in close collaboration with experimentalists at various National Laboratories and Universities that are building free electron lasers.
  • General area of interest is the physics of complex radiating systems. Computer simulations combined with traditional physical analysis are now an effective way of doing research on complex phenomena. Currently, these interests are being applied to free electron lasers, synchrotron radiation physics, short pulse and wave propagation in nonlinear systems, nonlinear electromagnetic interactions, lasers in nature, coherence, noise, and long-range order in relativistic electron beams, laser particle accelerators, and quantum electrodynamics.


  • Fellow of the American Physics Society, Physics of Beams Division
  • 1989 Free-Electron Laser Prize from the IEEE Laser and Electro-Optic Society
  • 1972-1975, Bendix Corporation Graduate Fellowship
  • Member of Sigma Xi


  • Has been Guest Editor for IEEE Journal of Quantum of Electronics, and is a Co-Editor of a book entitled "Free Electron Laser Handbook" published by North-Holland Publishing Company. Has been a Visiting Scientist at LURE, University of Paris, Orsay, France, and at the Center for Energy Research (ENEA), Frascati, Italy, and at the Shanghai Institute of Optics, Academia Sinica, Shanghai, Peoples Republic of China. Has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council Committee on Free Electron Lasers and Other Advanced Coherent Light Sources, a member of the Medical Free Electron Laser Program Review by Life Sciences Research Office of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, and the Office of Naval Corsortium's Free Electron Laser Program at CEBAF, Newport News, VA requested by NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. Member of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Optical Society of America, Sigma XI and International Union of Radio Sciences, Commission H.


  • Colson, W.B., “Short-Wavelength Free Electron Lasers in 2000,” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, (to be published in 2001.)
  • Thomson, R.W., Jr., Short, L.R., McGinnis, R.D., Colson, W.B., Shinn, M.D., Gubeli, J.F., Jordan, K.C., Hill, R.A., Biallas, G.H., Walker, R.L., Neil, G.R., Benson, S.V., and Yunn, B.C., “TJNAF Free Electron Laser Damage Studies,” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, (to be published in 2001.)
  • McGinnis, R.D., Thomson, R.W., Jr., Short, L.R., Herbert, P.A., Lampiris, D., Christodoulou, A., Colson, W.B., Shinn, M.D., Neil, G.R., Benson, S.V., Gubeli, J. F., Evans, R., and Jordan, K.C., “Free Electron Laser Material Damage Studies,” Naval Postgraduate School Technical Report, NPS-PH-01-001, 2000.
  • Colson, W.B. and McGinnis, R.D., “The Free Electron Laser With Inverse Taper,” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, 49-52, 2000.
  • McGinnis, R.D., Blau, J., Colson, W.B., Massey, D., Crooker, P.P., Christodoulou, A., and Lampiris, D., “Simulations of the TJNAF 10kW Free Electron Laser,” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, (to be published in 2001).
  •  (Selected Publications List)


  • Keywords: Free Electron Lasers, Simulation of Physical Systems



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