“As an experimentalist, I enjoy building new experiments that probe unknown aspects of the physical world and validate yet unproven theories. In experiments, we are sometimes able to see the truth beyond the reality of the world around us. I find that studying atoms is like studying life. It is interesting to think about how atoms have lives of their own—their own unique sets of interesting behavioral properties. My goal is to simplify, and when I see something new, I seek to explain it.”
IQIM Postdoctoral Scholar in Quantum Information and Quantum Dynamics
What is your current research?
In my work, I engineer quantum systems to process quantum information and create a bridge of knowledge between quantum information and condensed matter physics with the tools and systems of atomic physics. In our lab, we are building a new experiment to create a chain of single atoms that will help us see the interesting physics that emerge when these atoms interact. We want to better understand the properties of interacting quantum systems and then engineer these systems to simulate condensed matter systems.
My current work is building an optical system to create optical tweezers that will allow us to trap single atoms using a focused laser beam of light to exert a force on an atom. Our current goal is to cool, trap, and image single strontium atoms arranged in a chain with a linear array of optical tweezers. Ideally, we would create a chain without defect, but that is not always what happens because of imperfect loading efficiency. Using new feedback control algorithms, we will use a camera to identify the defects in the chain, and using the optical tweezers, we plan to reposition the atoms and create a perfect chain without defect. Previously atomic work has been done with rubidium and its single electron, but the two electrons of a strontium atom will allow us to investigate how the rich physics in this more complicated two electron system functions.
What drew you to this work?
It was the metaphysical questions that drew me to physics. While I was always interested in the applications of physics, I am also intrigued by the fundamental questions. During my PhD at MIT, I began working more specifically with single quantum systems in solid-state devices. There is really interesting physics in small ensembles of interacting quantum systems, but it is difficult to scale these systems up and control large ensembles with single particle resolution. Consequently I became interested in ultracold gases, because in these more complex systems, there is a lot of physics to be understood. I am interested in understanding the problem of the emergent properties of increasingly large quantum systems and better understanding the physics principles that may elucidate the quantum-to-classical transition. I find that the intersection of the theory and the application is a great place to look for the answers to fundamental questions.
What do you do when you’re not doing physics?
I enjoy running, and when I’m not at the lab, I also do laundry and buy groceries. I like to work out and read, but mostly, I think. I think that thinking is a big deal. When we do physics, there are a lot of questions and problems to think about, and it is important to leave space for contemplating these questions. Thinking takes a lot of energy, so I also make sure to have time to mentally disconnect. I try to minimize what I do, because I feel that when I can eliminate what is not essential, I have time to think and consider the larger questions that drew me to my work.