College of Arts & Science at Miami University
The Coldest Matter in the Universe
Conducting Research in a Physics Lab
(student perspectives, April 2009)
A full text transcript of the video is available below.
(This video features students reflecting on their physics research in the Bali lab. This research has garnered national attention for Dr. Bali and his students.)
One of the first things that happened when I got here was [that] all of the faculty encouraged me to do research as soon as I could ... which is really a great experience. It really gets you in with everyone real quick and it really gets you knowing physics. It's one thing to hear a lecture; it's another thing to come down and work a laser for a bit. In addition to working on the Mott lattice stuff, I also worked on a project about the Hanle configuration ... which is, by using lasers, we can create electromagnetically induced absorbance, or transparency, in rubidium gas. So I can shine a laser into a gas and the laser disappears. And then I shine a second laser in and the laser reappears. It's pretty cool stuff, actually. The future of it is going to be in things like optical switches and a little bit into slow light — we can trap light and then release it later. Then we could also theoretically get things to move faster than light ... kind of. It's an interesting field. I have a lot of fun with it.
- Peter (junior)
Another amazing thing about this lab and working in a research lab is the opportunity to work with students and teachers who are all very enthusiastic with physics, to apply in real life the stuff you've learned in textbooks ... All the complicated concepts — you actually get to see them working. So it's not just magic anymore; you actually get to see it and that's quite amazing ... Not many other students in other institutions get a chance to actually see these concepts put into real life and that's amazing.
- Courtney (first year)
I cool atoms down ... rubidium atoms to submicro-Kelvin temperatures — so extremely cold, a million times colder than outer space. We do that with laser cooling. So it's basically like shooting a bunch of ping pong balls at a bowling ball to slow it way down. We do that here in the labs. I'm working on getting a lattice there to organize these atoms. So now the atoms, more than just being cool, we'll have control over them and can measure how they move ... how they operate in the lattice ... so that we can have some control over them. If we know more about the atoms and how they operate, how they move, then we can later find out how to control them, how to make them move how we want them.
- Nate (graduate student)
I'm the 2008-2009 Astronaut Scholar at Miami University. The Astronaut Scholarship was put together by a bunch of former astronauts. They give the award to about 10 students a year from 10 different universities or so.
- Richard (senior)
I actually got into physics a little late. I'm a junior now and I just declared my major at the end of last year. And really what made me make up my mind to be in physics was getting into the lab and getting hands-on [experience] especially with professors and other students instead of just in the classroom. And I'd say to any prospective student that might want to get into physics is to definitely get into a lab because any professor here wants you in his lab and will do anything to help you get into a lab if he doesn't have room and it's just really a great experience.
- Eric (junior)
And I'm hoping that eventually I can go on and work in industry, do lots of math, and make a big contribution ... maybe in high energy or new eco-friendly cars or whatever ... using those tools that I get here at Miami.
- Don (junior)