My research focuses on building machinery that produces the fifth state of matter, a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). A BEC can be understood as a ball of atoms with a narrow distribution of velocities centered around zero, and it typically implies the atomic gas having a very cold temperature of around a hundred nanoKelvin. To reach this temperature, we cool our atomic gas in several stages.
In this image, the cooling stages are depicted via a Google map cartoon. Like the Google map app depicts the speed of cars on roads, this image indicates the speed or temperature of the atomic cloud. The yellow and orange stages leave the atomic cloud at 1 milliKelvin and 10 microKelvin respectively. After completing the red stage, we achieve a BEC, which is the destination.
While making a BEC will be a major milestone in my graduate career, further experiments with the BEC will lead to realizing a variety of topological phenomena. There are smaller paths, which represent other choices-sometimes a different way to do an experiment or a different research direction altogether. Such is the nature of research, it’s complex.
Welcome to one of the coldest (and coolest) places in Urbana-Champaign!