Mike Martin

Mike Martin 2017-01-20T10:46:44+00:00

Project Description

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Mike Martin

“Another thing that appeals to me about this work is that nobody else is doing precisely what we’re currently doing at Caltech. We’re working in a quantum optics group with an amazing history and collaborating with one of the best nanofabrication groups in the world on these projects. It’s exciting.”

  • Researcher, Sandia National Laboratories
  • IQIM Postdoctoral Scholar in Physics
  • PhD, 2013, University of Colorado
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What is your current research?

We work with cold atoms and nanophotonic devices, which are tiny structures that carry and guide light. We want to marry these technologies and use them to study how modifying the properties of light in the devices changes the way that light particles, or photons, interact with arrays of cold atoms. One reason we do this is to develop groundbreaking tools for quantum optics.

We take two types of measurements with these systems. We measure the optical properties of the nanophotonic devices, and those results feed back into our fabrication process so that we can make improvements to the devices.  Our other type of measurement involves putting atoms near these devices and analyzing the light signatures to determine how well the atoms are interacting with the photons. We build interference patterns into these structures so that light moves through them more slowly than it normally would, and that’s one way we’re able to strengthen its interaction with the chilled atoms. The more strongly we can couple the atoms to the photons, the more useful these systems become as tools for quantum optics and quantum information.

How did you get into physics and this line of work?

Physics was the first truly intellectually rigorous subject I studied, and that immediately drew me to it. Just by knowing Newtonian mechanics you can already predict and explain so much about the world around you. I liked having that potential for deep understanding. It’s empowering and very satisfying.

My entry into this quantum world started with what’s termed frequency metrology, otherwise known as time keeping. Part of my PhD work involved research aimed at making the world’s most precise atomic clock, and my colleagues have recently reported producing the best clock by any sort of metric. If you’re an atomic clockmaker, interacting atoms are bad because the ideal clock is an isolated atom sitting by itself at absolute zero, completely cut off from the rest of the world. I was trying to get a better understanding of how atomic interactions would disrupt the clock, and that kind of led me into this area. The types of atoms that we were working with also have great potential for simulating novel types of exotic systems that don’t really have any analogs in nature.

Another thing that appeals to me about this work is that nobody else is doing precisely what we’re currently doing at Caltech. We’re working in a quantum optics group with an amazing history and collaborating with one of the best nanofabrication groups in the world on these projects.  It’s exciting.

What do you do when you’re not doing physics?

I like outdoor sports like rock climbing, bicycling, hiking, skiing.  They force you to be in the present and focus your mind, which is nice because often it’s hard to stop thinking about work and about physics.