Olek '12 Spends Summer Cooling Atoms

Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2011

Devin Olek ’12 is spending a second summer conducting research with Assistant Professor of Physics Pasad Kulatunga.

“This is an optimal internship because I benefit from working alongside one of my professors in a one-on-one environment,” said Olek, a double major in physics and chemistry.

In the lab, Olek is using special lasers to cool atoms. The atoms are then captured in a Magneto-Optical Trap –are then purely optically in the focus of a high intensity laser.  Olek is now attempting to further cool these optically trapped atoms to even colder temperatures, testing a novel cooling scheme.

As a student researcher, Olek has been given significant responsibility in the work, including knowledge of the theory of the experiment, building sophisticated timing electronics and circuitry, installing and aligning optics, developing programming to collect data, and mathematically processing the data and comparing it to the theory.

“He takes initiative, is not afraid to try new things and can work independently,” says Kulatunga, speaking of Olek’s performance in the lab for the second consecutive summer. “I can outline the broad parameters and he can figure things out and implement them on his own. In fact, he works like a graduate student. I am quite impressed with his abilities, and his experience from last summer definitely helps.”

Olek explains the work is a critical stepping-stone to his career. “I plan to continue on to graduate school after HWS for either my master’s or doctorate,” says Olek. “Having research experience before graduate school is highly regarded.  It puts me a step above the rest when I apply.  The other benefit of summer research is the experience itself; it allows me to view my future life and decide the direction I would like to take.”




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