ALAN JAMISON Assistant Professor, Physics and Astronomy, IQC
MAKING MOLECULES BEHAVE AT THE QUANTUM LEVEL
Alan Jamison likes looking at what happens when individuals become groups. Do behaviours change? Or do the groups act as expected? He examines these questions in his lab where he sticks laser-cooled atoms together to create molecules. It’s a frigid temperature — around 100 nanoKelvin cold — one billion times colder than Antarctica in winter.
“Atoms are easier to observe and to control at low temperatures,” Jamison said. “Once we group them together into molecules, our goal is to get them to behave.” When you make atoms ultracold, you can make precise measurements.
We’ve seen applications of these cold atoms in things like atomic clocks and GPS. Cooling molecules is still a new field of research with only ten years of work behind it.
“It’s an early stage of research,” Jamison said. His curiosity about the field was born from a love of fundamental research and laboratory work, especially with questions that stymy researchers theoretically, where only experiments can solve it.
In his spare time, Jamison is collaborating with an economist. He’s expanding his research on atoms and molecules to look at how people react in individual versus group settings. Does human behaviour mimic the systems of many quantum particles? Jamison doesn’t have the answers yet, but like his experimental research, he doesn’t plan on hitting pause on the questions.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “We are seeing new technologies developing as we conduct research.”
VERN PAULSEN Professor, Pure Mathematics, IQC
PURE MATHEMATICS TAKES A SEAT AT THE QUANTUM TABLE
Vern Paulsen, a pure mathematics professor who spent his formidable career focused on operator algebras, became interested in quantum information in the early 2000s.
“People studying quantum mechanics began asking me questions that were very intriguing,” he said.
Theoretical math, he realized, helps researchers understand quantum effects, like entanglement. It can also help researchers design suitable experiments to find quantum solutions using models not yet explored.
He came to IQC in 2015 as his research expanded to exploring abstract quantum channels — communication channels which can transmit quantum information. Today, he teaches functional analysis methods for quantum information to graduate students to help them better understand how to use mathematical models in their research. “All [quantum] labs are trying to discover answers,” he said. “Mathematical models show us what is possible. So, theoreticians and experimentalists need to work together.”
While Paulsen is preparing to retire from academia in 2022, he calls his stay at IQC the capstone to his lifework. “Uncovering the possibilities of how math can guide the experimental process is truly exciting.”
He may be stepping back from teaching, but he anxiously awaits to see how the next generation of quantum researchers will continue to uncover the power of quantum.