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Cindy Regal

Cindy Regal arrived in early January of 2010. She is JILA’s newest Associate Fellow and a University of Colorado, Boulder Assistant Professor of Physics.  Her experimental physics labs have found a home on the second floor of JILA, and she teaches a variety of undergraduate courses in the physics department.

Three major research efforts are underway in the Regal lab. They are providing the group with advanced experimental capabilities in both cold atoms and nanomechanical systems.

The first research effort is the control of single neutral atoms. In this work, the group uses a tightly focused beam of light (called optical tweezers) to confine a single atom of rubidium (Rb) long enough to laser cool it to its lowest-energy state. This experiment has become a source of cold atoms for investigations in quantum optics, quantum simulation, and quantum computing. Laser-cooled ground-state atoms may soon be used in few-atom studies of strongly correlated physics. The group is currently investigating multiple tweezers with a tunnel coupling and has started collaborating with the Rey theory group at JILA.

The second research thrust is the investigation of mechanical resonators coupled to optical cavities. In this project, the group is harnessing radiation pressure to deeply cool mechanical motion.  This work is expected to open new frontiers in quantum information and the study of quantum limits to measurement. For instance, in one experiment laser light was used to track the position of a tiny drum, and the researchers observed the quantum backaction in this measurement. More recently, the miniature light-powered machines the group builds have been able to reduce the amount of quantum noise in the amplitude of the light.

The third research effort is a collaboration of the Regal and Lehnert groups. The collaboration’s goal is to build a converter that, by harnessing the motion of a tiny drum, can reversibly and efficiently link the microwave and optical light. Such a microwave-to-optical converter would be able to link quantum computers via optical fibers, making it possible to build large-scale quantum information networks.

Regal’s research interests are creative extensions of her early training that ranged from AMO to devices and condensed matter physics. She did graduate work at JILA with Fellow Debbie Jin on ultracold atoms. As part of her thesis work, she succeeded in getting pairs of fermions to dance together and form a condensate. Her postdoctoral research in the Lehnert lab provided her with new techniques for cooling nanomechanical oscillators with microwaves, a process similar to laser cooling of atoms. At Caltech with Jeff Kimble, she further explored the idea of laser cooling nanomechanical oscillators while also learning about quantum optics and quantum information processing with cold atoms. 

Regal has won several prestigious awards, including the University of Colorado Boulder’s first Clare Booth Luce Professorship in 2010, the David and Lucille Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Grant in 2011, as well as a 2012 Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering.

Cindy is originally from Duluth, Minnesota.  She is married to former JILAn Scott Papp, who is with the Time and Frequency division at NIST. The couple has a young family, and they enjoy living in Boulder.