Sunday, November 10, 2013

URSP Student Colin Cattanach Detects Gravitational Waves with Entangled Photons

I was watching a TedxWaterloo Talk on Quantum Computing by Ray Laflamme when I first became fascinated with applications of quantum computing. The concepts were unlike anything I was familiar with and I soon found myself searching for more talks and literature on the subject to better my understanding. After taking a course on optics last semester, I became aware that my professor was very experienced in the field of quantum science and quantum information. After expressing my interests, Dr. Tian agreed to mentor my research project for the fall semester.

My research project has given me the opportunity to explore and expand my knowledge in modern optics, as well as, allowed me to explore the fundamentals of quantum optics. This project has also given me a firsthand glimpse at the real aspects of research, such as the application process for funding and the level of dedication to thought and computation. I intend on pursuing a doctorate degree in physics and I believe the experience I am gaining as a result of this opportunity, will prepare me for a research intensive graduate program.

                  This project involves building and running many simulations. Several hours a week are spent either working out the calculations by hand to verify their accuracy, or running simulations and adjusting parameters to see how the system behaves. If I cannot figure out how I should approach a calculation, I head to the library to find a reference that will give me a starting point. When I have made some progress on a task, I plan to meet with my mentor to discuss the next step or review my methods to make sure they are correct.  I also run tests on the lab’s Cryostation while working on the simulations, since a single cool down can take several hours.

                  One thing I learned this week, and will never take for granted again, is that nothing is as simple as it appears in textbooks. I have been warned of this before, but you do not thoroughly understand the concept until you actually apply the knowledge you have learned to a realistic scenario. Textbooks are a great starting point; however the concepts must be tailored appropriately to fit realistic parameters.