Wellesley Will Collaborate with Center for Integrated Quantum Materials and Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines

October 7, 2013
two students work in Welleslsey physics lab

Wellesley women now have even more opportunities than ever to take part in cutting-edge scientific research. Last month, the National Science Foundation announced the creation of several research centers, two of which will involve Wellesley’s faculty and student participation.

At the Center for Integrated Quantum Materials, which received $20 million from the NSF and which will be based at Harvard, MIT, and Howard, researchers of different specialties will collaborate as they examine “quantum materials.” These materials exhibit electronic properties that are intimately tied to the often strange consequences of quantum theory, which correctly describes the behavior of systems on a minute scale.

“The Center will focus its efforts on materials that have all been discovered in the last 10 years and offer exciting possibilities for the next generation of electronic devices,” said Professor of Physics Robbie Berg. “There was already a group of researchers doing work on these materials, but there wasn’t a lot of cross-talk between people working on different materials, so one purpose of the center was to bring people together for collaborative research.”

The work at Wellesley will take place in the Science Center's Laser Laboratory and will focus on the optical properties of these materials; researchers have discovered that they can learn a great deal about a material by studying how light interacts with it, as researchers are currently doing through examining a defect in the structure of diamonds, a defect that behaves like a single quantum particle that can be monitored and manipulated with light.

“Another rationale for these centers is training the next generation of students to work with these materials,” said Berg. “The materials and equipment necessary for these projects are really expensive, so the scale of this kind of work would be really hard to do in isolation at a liberal arts college. On the other hand, at places like Wellesley and Olin and other members of the network, students have extraordinary opportunities to participate in research and have great potential for becoming the next generation’s scientists. Without exposure to this type of research, those students might be lost from the pipeline. So we’re going to try to combine the best of both worlds.”

Wellesley also will participate in the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines, which will bring together neuroscientists, engineers, mathematicians, and computational scientists through a global network of academic, industrial, and technological partnerships, headquartered at MIT. As with the Center for Integrated Quantum Materials, the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines will also serve to train the next generation of scientists and engineers through a summer school program, technical workshops and online courses.

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