Light play

opto-lightrays1

I met Joshua Hordell in a kickboxing class. That is where we used to go dump our lab life frustrations and I can tell you for free, nothing beats the blues like a muscle exhausting endorphin burst. You cannot worry about failed experiments, nearly overdue reports and calves that won’t function at the same time, so that temporary space of no worry is a nirvana while it lasts.

 

I am constantly joking over my physics inadequacies so people like Josh live it for me. He studied an integrated masters- 3 years of undergraduate and a year of masters in succession. He says it was a cheaper yet more challenging alternative.

 

This led to a PhD in quantum optics, which is the science that will eventually aid in better visualization of cells – the more understood they are, the better for drug developers. Outside the biological side (sorry I can’t help it), the technologies behind it can also be helpful in the study of galaxies and hosting powerful surveillance systems.

 

Academic background

 

Master of Physics from the University of Kent in Canterbury

Doctor of Philosophy- Quantum Optics (Currently completing) at the University of Birmingham

 

Day to day

As part of the Cold Atoms Group, work varies a fair bit; usually it’s lab work, which involves using mirrors to direct a laser beam into an atomic medium. Every Monday there’s a general meeting where occasionally I present my project progress to the department. Other times I attend conferences, usually at other universities/institutions. Outside of the university, I try to read as many papers as possible. The nature of the experiment requires a lot of understanding from different areas of physics, but also partly out of curiosity.

 

Current Project

The current project is centred on four wave mixing and quantum optics, but this can require a lot of other side projects as well. The equipment used to manipulate the beam as it passes through the system have different specs and outputs, which can call for additional components to be made in order to get the equipment to properly interface. These additional components usually require soldering, so occasionally the experiment can sit for a while unused while I make these components.  The system itself has also required changing over time, and needs a working knowledge of lenses and Gaussian and ray optics. There have been setbacks, where I have thought one thing and found it to be another. For the most part, the project has progressed and given results, which is a good thing in Science.

 

All of this is geared at achieving extremely fine control over fluctuations of light at the quantum level, in order to image objects more precisely.

 

 

Career challenges

Trying to find time and motivation to have a social life/read papers.

 

Aspirations

Originally it was to become a professor, but the more I progress through academia, the more it seems like a nonviable path. With a fairly hefty student debt and plans to move abroad, it might be a while before I accomplish that. I do know that either way, I would like to stay in a Quantum research based position, regardless of where I work.

 

Advice to future / current students

Talk to your professors and lecturers. They’re people that can help you figure out what’s next, which will be easier if you’ve already talked to them prior (especially as they’ll be referees). The more they know you, where your strengths are, the more likely they’ll be able to suggest where you should apply.

 

There is a recent global paradigm shift from progression into science academia, with most people who remain in science choosing to practice in industry either in quality or research roles. A shift that would be interesting to understand why.

 

Photocredit: http://www.electronics-eetimes.com/

 

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