“Being a (double) STEM major at Mac is a great experience. My favorite part is that the professors are so accessible.” —Connor Thompson

By Connor Thompson ’20
Davis, Calif.
Mathematics and physics

I came to Mac unsure what I wanted to study, so I took a variety of classes to help me decide on my math and physics majors. I then got into physics research by talking with my professor, James Heyman, and asking him about his work.

Going into the project, I felt like my physics classes so far had prepared me for what was to come. Last summer, I helped put together and test an experiment called the Quantum Eraser. The experiment was created for the quantum mechanics class, so some of my physics major friends will be doing the experiment when they take the class. My work included creating circuitry, building and aligning optics equipment for the experiment, and creating a program to run the experiment with. In the process, I learned new ideas about quantum optics as well as programming and electronics.

As for the experiment itself, the Quantum Eraser is a demonstration of quantum mechanical phenomena that violate classical interpretations of the world. Students performing the experiment measure what’s called single-photon interference in each of two correlated beams of photons—that is, light. Because of another concept called quantum entanglement, it turns out you can manipulate the amount of interference in one beam solely by taking measurements on the other. This is where the term “quantum eraser” comes from: you can “erase” the interference by performing measurements on a separate beam.

Being a (double) STEM major at Mac is a great experience that I’m glad to have. My favorite part about my departments is that the professors are so accessible—I haven’t had a class in either department where I wasn’t comfortable with my professor or with showing up to their office hours to ask about an assignment or just to talk. Similarly, the students in the departments form a friendly community. This carried over to summer research as well, and I felt like I always had new topics to discuss with everyone in Olin-Rice doing interesting projects.

January 7 2019

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