Tracy Northup: Nanoparticles in ion traps
Tracy Northup has been invited as a hot topic speaker at ICAP 2022 in Toronto from July 17–22nd. Learn more about Tracy in this short blog (and don’t forget to catch her talk!)
Tracy completed her bachelor’s at Harvard University before moving to Caltech where she completed her PhD work in the group of Jeff Kimble. She then joined Rainer Blatt’s group as a postdoc at the University of Innsbruck where she continues to reside as a professor of experimental physics. Her research interests include trapped ions, cavity QED, and more recently, trapping of nanoparticles in ion traps. We asked Tracy some questions about her research, her memory of previous ICAPs, and what she’s excited to do in Toronto!
Q: Tell us a bit about the exciting research you’ll be presenting at ICAP
My background is in experimental atomic physics — using atoms, ions, and photons for quantum information processing — but about five years ago, my group started a new project working with nanoparticles. I had been interested in optomechanics for a while, and I was curious to see how we could adapt trapped-ion approaches to much bigger particles. It was exciting to think that we might be able to bring the center-of-mass motion of a nanoparticle, made up of hundreds of millions of atoms, into the quantum regime!
I’ll present recent work in which we’ve trapped nanoparticles in ion traps under ultra-high vacuum and found ways to cool them efficiently. Most research so far with levitated nanoparticles has used optical traps, so I’ll explain the advantages of ion traps, in particular for future quantum experiments. I hope it can be interesting for the AMO community to see how we can adapt and extend techniques that were originally developed for atoms and molecules — and also to see how nanoparticles are expected to provide access to new quantum regimes.
Q: How did you first get involved in AMO physics?
When I was looking into options for grad school, AMO physics appealed to me because you could do tabletop experiments that looked at really fundamental interactions between light and matter. This is still what excites me about the field. It amazes me that we can build up experiments that let us control single atoms and ions, and that we can capture the underlying physics with relatively simple Hamiltonians.
Q: Do you have a favourite memory from previous ICAP conferences?
The first ICAP conference I attended was in Innsbruck in 2006, when I was a grad student in Jeff Kimble’s group at Caltech. I also attended the ICAP summer school. I was really impressed by the lab tours, and it seemed like a great place to do physics. That experience at ICAP certainly contributed to my decision to apply for a postdoc with Rainer Blatt in Innsbruck, and as it turns out, I’ve been in Innsbruck since 2008, which I didn’t imagine at the time of the conference!
Q: Outside of ICAP, what are you excited to see in Toronto?
One of my college roommates lives in Toronto, so I’m looking forward to seeing her and her family. I’ve only been to Toronto once, in the winter, so I’m looking forward to seeing it in the summer and to going running along the waterfront.