Quantum Matter International Conference 2023a leading global forum being held in Madrid, Spain from May 23-25, 2023, is an opportunity for participants to find out how Spain is helping to shape the future of quantum technologies and materials.
Along with all the keynotes and panel discussions, many of the thought leaders in the space were interviewed individually to get their thoughts on where the industry is and where it’s headed.
During the conference, Dr. Ana Maria Raya renowned theoretical physicist and professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder – who happens to be one of the twelve people covered in TQD Exclusive: 12 Women Pioneering the World of Quantum Computing some time ago –interviewed by Virginia GrecoScientific Writer at ICN2.
Rey, it should be noted, is the first Hispanic woman to be awarded the prestigious Blavatnik Prize for Young Scientologists, recognizing her outstanding contributions to quantum physics.
During the interview, Rey provides insight into the basic principles of quantum phenomena while also explaining the development of new quantum computing and communication technologies, their path to success, and what young people must do to enter the exciting world of quantum technology.
Greco’s first question was about Rey’s research and career path.
“Well, this is a very exciting time for us, our work is trying to use atoms and light and control these systems with various applications that range from quantum information metrology in quantum information simulation and of course, quantum computing,” said Rey, adding that the goal is to take pure systems that can be controlled and manipulated in the lab like atoms, molecules and ions and then arrange them in different configurations, in different geometries, in different situations so as to help him and his team understand the complex behavior of quantum many-body systems.
Rey explained that her job at the University of Colorado at Boulder with Rey Theory Group not only theoretical but also involves real experiments.
“Yeah, to be precise, that’s the really interesting part. So what we do is do theoretical modeling, we guide experiments and tell them what parameter regime they have to operate in to see the expected behavior,” said Rey.
The interviewer then asked Rey about her groundbreaking work on atomic clocks and metrology and what they had in common.
“They are very closely connected,” Rey answered. “So the idea is that most of the atoms we use are what form the basis of atomic clocks. It is a strontium atom because it has a very long life. And the idea is that clocks allow us to interrogate with great precision the two internal levels in these atoms.”
He continued that clocks were so precise, they wanted to minimize interaction effects because clock interactions were bad.
“But on the other hand,” continues Rey, “by understanding interactions, we can use clocks to explain complex quantum behavior. It’s really a marriage between trying to use a clock for precision measurements and better timekeeping, but also making a watch better by understanding the physics of things, and these feedback cycles.
Early Years & US
Greco then asked Rey about her youth in Colombia, South America, and how she developed such a successful career for herself in the US.
“Well, I mean I think Colombia is great in the sense that I have a fantastic education. From the early stages of my life, I knew that I loved math and I wanted to use math to translate behavior or explain behavior about how things move and so on,” said Rey, before explaining how she did her undergraduate program at the University of Los Angeles, where she met great teachers. “But to do that, actually, I had to leave Colombia and leave my family, and of course, that was very difficult.”
Rey has said that he received a lot of support in the US, which has continued throughout his career. From here, he tries to establish connections and foster knowledge and collaboration in his home country.
When asked about her career achievements, Rey has one thing in particular to talk about.
“I mean, in the context of atomic clocks, we need to understand the many-body interactions to make clocks better and this is something we’ve done very successfully. So, perhaps one of the accomplishments was that we predicted the specific configuration in which interactions we would suppress and allowed the clock to measure the gravitational redshift in millimeter samples, and it did,” said Rey.
Rey thinks quantum metrology will be the first vertical where quantum mechanics will have its first useful impact on our world.
“Well, I think definitely metrology is the first important quantum application that we will have realistically,” he said. “The idea that we are using quantum effects to make better sensors, which is already happening in the lab (at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory)), but now we have to do it using a fully controllable system, I think this is the first milestone and with that, I think there has been a huge advance in control of the arrangement of atoms to do qubits, so maybe develop better gates, better ways to control and manipulate these systems.
Rey wants to position the quantum clock to explain fundamental questions about our universe.
“Maybe clocks can tell us about dark matter,” he said. “The unification of quantum gravity, gravity and quantum mechanics. This could be something that hopefully in the next few years, we can make watches with such precision that we have an answer.”
Finally, Greco asked the Blavatnik Award winner what he would say to any young scientist who is early in their career in this field.
“Yeah well, first, work in the things you love, that you love and work really hard because only with hard work can you acquire all the skills of advancement needed to be successful but if you work hard and love what you can, you can do it,” Rey said.
Featured image: Quantum Matter International Conference 2023