Did you find out about the award?

Click here for MSU College of Natural Sciences writeup about Roy’s SCGSR!

Click here for MSU Today writeup about Roy’s SCGSR!

What does it mean to you, both personally and professionally, to receive this award?

From a professional standpoint I’m thrilled to be working with and learning from world experts in atomic and nuclear physics. My advisor, Dr. Jaideep Singh (who teaches here at MSU), and I are collaborators with a research group known as the Cold Atom Trappers, whose PI is Dr. Matt Dietrich, at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). With the SCGSR award I’ll work on-site with the Trappers directly on the experimental apparatus using upgrade components I’ve developed for the past two years at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at MSU.

When I applied for the award back in May, I told my parents (they live on the west coast) that I might be able to work in the Chicago area for six months. This circulated to my sisters and grandparents, and just about every weekend since applying I was asked “Did you find out about the award? When are you going to Chicago?” by somebody. This was pretty routine for about three months; it didn’t matter that during every weekend family phone call I explained that I wouldn’t hear back until September, and that it was very competitive so I probably would not win the award. I was pleasantly surprised one September morning to see the award offer from the Department of Energy in my inbox! Telling my family the good news and hearing their (positive) reactions was great and I imagine I’ll look back at the memory fondly.

Receiving the SCGSR award is a milestone for me. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity it provides. I’ve received a lot of guidance from Dr. Singh and Dr. Dietrich and could not have done it without them. I’m a little sad to leave my peers, friends, and research group for six months but I’m also thrilled to work with our collaborators at ANL!

What will the award allow you to do for your dissertation research? (If you could briefly describe your research and how the award will support you).

I develop upgrades for the Ra EDM collaboration to improve the sensitivity of our measurement of the permanent Electric Dipole Moment (EDM) of the isotope Radium-225. There are many groups that do EDM experiments, but only the Ra EDM collaboration uses Radium-225. The Ra EDM collaboration includes folks from all over the country and world, as well as my research group (Spinlab) here at the NSCL. We perform research and develop upgrades offline to support the live experiment at ANL. When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) is ready, we’ll also be able to produce Radium-225 at MSU!

The live experiment takes place in the experimental apparatus at ANL. For brevity, I’ll coarsely define the two parts of the apparatus as the “laser transport system” and the “science chamber.” Radium-225 atoms are collected from an oven and trapped between two high-voltage electrodes (you may think of them as ideal capacitors) in vacuum via the laser transport system. The high-voltage electrodes are the heart of the science chamber. They generate an electric field between them that the atoms, which are optically trapped, hang out in. With a high enough sensitivity, we would expect to detect a precession (think of the motion of a spinning top) of the atoms about the electrode-generated electric field lines from which we could extract a non-zero EDM. No one has been able to measure a non-zero EDM so far, but we’re getting there! Two things that would improve our EDM sensitivity are higher electric fields and more trapped atoms.

My dissertation research will focus on two Ra EDM collaboration upgrades: higher electric field and better atomic trapping efficiency. These upgrades target the science chamber and laser transport system respectively.

At MSU, I developed procedures and techniques for improving the electric field capacity of high-voltage electrodes for the Ra EDM experiment. When ready, we’ll be able to transport a pair of electrodes rated for much higher electric fields than what has been used in previous Ra EDM live experiments to ANL. The atomic trapping portion of my dissertation requires me to work directly on the laser transport system at ANL. To more effectively trap atoms, the laser transport system has to be upgraded from its current (“red”) cycling transition to a different, more complex (“blue”) cycling transition of the Radium-225 atoms. The cycling transition refers to the laser pumping scheme required to populate a specific atomic state that we can detect. Upgrading the laser transport system to the blue cycling transition requires detailed knowledge of the relative decaying probabilities associated with the blue cycling transition, or “atomic branching ratios.” The atomic branching ratios we’re interested in have never been experimentally measured before.

The SCGSR award will allow me to work at ANL with the Cold Atom Trappers for six months. During this time I will be able to implement a high-voltage upgrade to the Ra EDM science chamber using the electrodes we’ve prepared at the NSCL and perform branching ratio measurements for the Ra-225 blue cycling transition as a preliminary step to upgrading the Ra EDM laser transport system.