Research Shining Light On Quantum Matter

What is quantum matter?

Our everyday interactions with the world around us are determined entirely by classical physics. Objects have well defined positions, they respond to the application of forces according to Newton’s Laws, and nothing appears probabilistic.  However, at the subatomic scale, in which one considers the behavior of, say, individual electrons, the universe behaves in a very different manner.  The physics at this scale is instead described by a theory known as quantum mechanics, in which subatomic particles are viewed as waves instead of point particles.  Nature does everything in its power to hide its quantum reality from us, which is why our world appears so classical in the first place.  Thus, although solids are comprised of millions and millions and millions of “wave-like” electrons which all interact in an indisputably quantum mechanical fashion, at the end of the day almost all materials are well described by classical physics. Despite the complexity of quantum mechanics at the microscopic scale, the macroscopic measurements of a material give classical results.

Quantum matter is simply the opposite.  These materials often possess electrons which strongly interact with one another, so that the “quantum-ness” cannot be ignored.  In a sense, classical physics breaks down and one is forced to use quantum mechanics to describe their properties. There are many forms of quantum matter and scientists all over the world are uncovering more every day.  Each type constitutes an entirely new phases of matter with remarkable properties which may one day lead to a technological revolution.  Already, the theoretical and experimental ground work for a new class of computers based on quantum matter – “quantum computers” – is being laid.  The technology of our’s and past’s generations has been entirely classical but the technology of future generations is indisputably quantum.

The Institute For Quantum Matter (IQM)

The Johns Hopkins University

In my graduate school research within the Complex Material Spectroscopy Group at the IQM, I used low energy terahertz light to study the electrodynamics of quantum states of matter.  I designed and built low temperature spectroscopy experiments to study both magnetic excitations in quantum magnets and charge dynamics in topological insulators. 


Ph.D. Thesis 
Low Energy Electrodynamics Of Quantum Magnets


Obtaining The Magnetic Susceptibility From A Time-Domain THz Experiment 

Among some of the more novel contributions of my research at the IQM, I helped develop a method of extracting the optical magnetic susceptibility from a time-domain THz measurement. I’ve now made the code which performs this analysis (and much much more) public.  My analysis procedures can now be accessed on my personal Github page.

The Institute For Quantum Information And Matter (IQIM)

The California Institute Of Technology

Beginning August, 1st, 2017, I’ll be joining the Hsieh Research Group within the IQIM to continue searching for quantum materials with light. Here I expect to expand my experimental repertoire to infrared frequencies through second harmonic generation and pump-probe spectroscopy techniques.

Stay tuned for further updates!