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    Connections Newsletter
    Issue 3                                                                                                                                         Spring Semester 2012


    A Note from the Collaborative Director

    Undergraduate Research: Adjusting to Life at a Liberal Arts College

    2012-2013 McNair Scholars

    Fall-Summer Collaborative Grants

    Convention Spotlight



    • Kaela Gedda
    • Jens Paasen
    • Gretchen Panzer
    • Hannah Schmitt
    • Luanne Spence
    • Sarah Titus

    Collaborative Research Stories


    Important Dates

    May 4, 2012 Student Academic Travel Grant and Attendee Grant applications due

    Collaborative Research Stories

    "Controlling Laser Frequencies with Atomic Transitions"

    Jon DesChane '12 of Wauwatosa, WI, Physics & Math Majors 

    Faculty Collaborator: Dr. Erik Brekke of the Physics Department, Atomic Physics & Optics Research Specialist

    Diode lasers provide a cheap and easily accessible source of low power laser light, but require external means to control the range of frequencies that are emitted.  Atomic vapors provide an excellent means to control these frequencies by observing the absorption of the laser through an atomic sample.  Two techniques have been accomplished to eliminate Doppler broadening and control the frequency of a home-built diode laser system.  One method uses the saturated absorption of single photon transition in Rubidium, and another uses a two-photon transition.   The control demonstrated will be essential in pursuing future laser-atom interactions.

    We are able to control the frequency of the laser in a couple of ways.  We are able to narrow the broad range of frequencies by adjusting the grating feedback.  After that, we can also move the entire grating feedback closer or farther away from the laser in order to adjust the actual frequency of the laser.


    A common challenge in any atomic physics experiment is Doppler broadening.  This is when the movement of particles in a cell causes the laser to be absorbed over a broad range of frequencies.  Since there are many particles moving at different speeds in the cell, each particle may identify the incoming laser frequency differently. This would allow a range of frequencies to excite these atoms, depending on their speeds. It is our goal to eliminate the effects of Doppler broadening so we can identify which specific laser frequency excites the atoms at rest.

    The arrival of Dr. Brekke in the Fall 2011 presented the opportunity to research in his field of interest, which is atomic optics.  Not only did I have little knowledge about atomic physics to begin with, but I hardly even knew who Dr. Brekke was.  However, Dr. Michael Olson assured me that it would be an excellent opportunity to work with a professor and his research specialty. 

    Since then, I have gained an immense amount of knowledge about the subject matter.  By reading articles and journal entries from previous researchers and by using instruments that most people will never get to use in their lifetime, I was able to learn in a very efficient manner.  The objects and tools I used on a daily basis were very specialized (and expensive), yet I was given the opportunity to use these to maximize my learning experience.

    Physics, in general, is a subject that truly has no borders and working in this lab proved to be no different.  As a physics major, you are showing people that you are able to solve complicated problems, which is a good skill to have in all areas of study.  In the research lab, the same situation presented itself; there were many times where I needed to think through a certain problem, whether it was mathematical or technical.  When I come across a complex predicament in the future, I know I will have the confidence to work through them because being a physics and math major along with doing research properly prepared me for challenging situations.

    The research I have done over the last year will serve as a fundamental building block for future student researchers at SNC.  The experiments I have set-up in the lab will be used for others to create other experiments.  It is exciting to think that this lab will be an ongoing lab for many years to come and that I was the first student to be given the opportunity to participate in such an amazing learning experience.

    After the two-photon spectroscopy experiment, future students will continue to build onto the set-up in hopes of observing four-wave mixing.  A series of posters was presented at multiple events to give general background information about the research I participated in; however, there are no publications or performances were done.


    Faculty Narrative

    I have really enjoyed have Jon work in the lab with me.   As this is my primary research, we have worked alongside each other throughout the year, which has enabled Jon to learn quickly and have direct interaction with me throughout.   This line of research works very well with student collaboration, as it can be divided into smaller projects, and it has worked well as Jon has had particular optics to assemble, and been able to investigate atom/light interactions with them.   In addition, I have been able to help him get a better understanding of how to find information about research in relevant papers are journals.



    St. Norbert Collaborative

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