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Students Collaborate on Research Published in Physics Journal

May 31, 2017


Students Rene Gonzalez '17, Eduardo Alejandro '17 (l. to r.), and Assistant Professor of Physics Anne Goodsell used lasers to control the movement of atoms. 

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Rene Gonzalez ′17 and Eduardo Alejandro ’17, whorecently graduated, worked with Assistant Professor of Physics Anne Goodsell as students to study how forces of light and of electric fields affect the movement of atoms. They documented their research in a paper, “Two-photon excitation of launched cold atoms in flight,” that was recently published by the Journal of the Optical Society of America (JOSA). Emma Erwin ’15.5, who worked on the project as a student, is also listed as an author.

“I'm very delighted that the work of students has led to the publication of their research,” said Goodsell.  

According to Goodsell, she and the students set the energy of their laser light to perfectly match the energy that atoms can absorb, and then used lasers to make individual atoms in a gas heat up, cool down, or come to a nearly complete stop in midair. They used simple mechanics, like Newton’s law of motion F = ma, and quantum mechanics to predict how the atoms absorbed light and how the light changed the paths of atoms. They also did experiments that confirmed their predictions or showed them new behavior for moving atoms. 

“In our recent paper, we have completed the first two steps of making our moving atoms even more sensitive to electric forces, by exciting atoms with two packets of light—two photons—of different energy,” said Goodsell. “Eventually, we'll be able to launch our highly excited atoms into unknown electric fields. By measuring the motion of the excited atoms, we′ll learn about those unknown fields.”