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Experimental/theoretical quantum optics?

  1. Oct 11, 2005 #1
    I'm in the third year of my undergraduate studies - physics - and trying to begin with some research. I am really interested in quantum optics - and rather experimental than theoretical.

    There is a center for quantum information at my university, which has a really good reputation, but they are working on theory, which I am somehow "scared of" - I simply can't imagine myself being a theorist. I am not sure if I could be the one to discover anything new in theory, although I don't have problems with Theoretical subjects (like Theoretical and Quantum mechanics, from which I've got A's).

    On the other hand, the optics department is on a very poor level. They do some research in holography and optical communication systems, but they have a very bad reputation and don't do anything related to quantum optics.

    So my question is:

    Should I:

    1. go for optics, do something in optoelectronics and later to go to a grad school where they do experimental QO

    2. go for theoretical QO and later to go to a grad school where they do experimental QO

    3. go for theoretical QO

    If (answer == 2), does one need all the subjects like:
    Differential Geometry
    Lie Groups
    Standard model
    Mathematical physics
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 11, 2005 #2


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    Ok it depends how this subject evolves, whether this belongs more in the career advice or in the quantum physics section.

    Career advice wise, I'd say: if there's a good department on a certain subject, go for that subject (or change university!). Don't go for a bad department. But that's just my opinion.

    Concerning quantum optics, the bible is Mandel and Wolf "Optical coherence and quantum optics". Look at it and you'll get a gist of what's needed. The subjects you quote are, in my opinion, not really necessary for quantum optics, except maybe mathematical physics and some QFT.
    But go to one of the professors and ask !
    Compared to "hard core theory", quantum optics seems rather "phenomenological" :smile:. I don't think you even need to look deeply into renormalization to do quantum optics.
  4. Oct 12, 2005 #3


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    If you want to work in quantum optics, you don't NEED any of these in any real sense depending on exactly what you do. However, you would be well-advised to get a grounding in QFT and techniques in mathematical physics.

    That said, I would advise you to take as much theory as you can handle while not neglecting to build your experimental abilities (if you want to become an experimentalist). Understanding theory will help you in the long run as you design your own experiments and understand how to interpret the ones you do.

    It is worth doing some hard theory stuff early so you get a sense for what it is like, and you will know how to approach it all later. You don't need to learn it all at the beginning, but if you go to a grad school that requires lots of theory courses, it will help to have seen some of it before. The most important thing you can learn is how to learn about more physics in the future. And that is why I recommend getting a taste for some hard stuff early so that you have somebody around who is supposed to be there to help you out with it.
  5. Oct 12, 2005 #4
    I would suggest you to go first to the theoretical direction. Learn the main methods and approaches to describe a quantum optics problem. Learn the quantum theory, just enough to understand:

    photon echo
    Rabi oscilations
    Janes-Cumming model
    Weisskopf-Wigner model to spontaneous emission
    interaction free measurement
    Wigner function and the question of classicality of the state of a system
    Mach-Zender interferometer
    Bell inequalities and twin photons in non linear optics (non linear cristals)
    Entanglement of atom and cavity through atom-cavity field interaction
    Young´s experiments on interference (one slit and two) using photon states interpretation
    Trapping techniques of atoms and ions
    Raman transitions.
    some topics in quantum information theory

    I believe this background when acquired, will provide to the experimentalis
    inside you a good tool kit to decide what to search in the research set of options.

    Best Regards

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