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Spotlight! Brendan P. Marsh

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Brendan P. Marsh, Ph.D. Applied Physics

What first got you excited about science?

Mostly science fiction, to be honest! I was a big star wars nerd growing up and my dad really liked watching shows about black holes and the universe. I always thought I would be a nuclear physicist working on fusion generators in school.

What got you excited about quantum science?

It's hard not to get excited by quantum science when you first hear about it! Superposition, entanglement – these ideas are at first completely contrary to our intuition from everyday experience. Yet, they're real! Quantum theory has been in the making for 100 years, and while many things are understood, there remain a lot of deep questions that we are still trying to answer. However, probably most exciting to me is that we're right now experiencing a massive boom in the emergence of quantum technologies and quantum computing. It's really exciting to be part of that.

What do you study @Stanford?

I study multimode cavity quantum electrodynamics. That's a fancy way of saying that I study the interactions between light and matter when you stick really cold atoms between a pair of mirrors and shoot laser beams at them. The mirrors trap the light and produce interesting interactions between the atoms. This can be used to build quantum optical neural networks, simulate a disordered phase of matter called spin glass, and other fun things.

Who are you working with? Research areas, projects, etc.

I work in Prof. Benjamin Lev's group. We have various projects going on involving ultracold atoms, optical resonators, and quantum materials. I spend about half of my time working on theory and half my time building and running the experiment.

What made you decide to come to Stanford?

I fell in love with Stanford after doing an internship in the area while in college. That, and coming into graduate school I actually was not totally set on what area of physics I wanted to work in. Stanford has amazing research going on in so many areas that I knew I would find my place.

Where do you see quantum science going?

Tough question. Some things are a given, for example quantum computing is going to remain a hot (and important) topic as we keep inching our way toward a practical quantum computer, but it's hard to say what unexpected turns we might take! Science is often driven by discoveries. The laser revolutionized not just physics but seemingly everything from medical technologies to consumer products like CDs. I'm hoping we'll see another breakthrough like that!

What are your hobbies?

I play a lot of guitar at home and enjoy cycling around the area!

Do you have a pet/favorite plant, and if not, why? If so, do you like them more or less than Jon’s cat Emmy?

I do, I have a little fuzzball of a cat named Atlas. He sleeps all day in the sun and terrorizes his parents all night. I ABSOLUTELY like him more than Jon's cat Emmy. You can tell him I said that.