School navigation

The Source

Assistant Professor of Physics Shannon O’Leary lands major NSF research grant

September 15, 2015

  • News Image

The National Science Foundation has awarded Lewis & Clark $195,008 in support of Assistant Professor of Physics Shannon O’Leary’s project, “RUI: Coherence-Derived Light Fluctuations for Atomic Magnetometry.”  

During the three-year grant, O’Leary, collaborators, and Lewis & Clark undergraduates will be involved at all stages of the project, as they study interactions between laser light and a specially prepared gas of atoms that is sensitive to small variations in the surrounding magnetic field.

“What I loved about learning physics at a liberal arts college holds true for teaching at one: it is so exciting to be part of the discovery of new knowledge, in quantum optics or in any field,” said O’Leary, who earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Puget Sound before going on to earn her Ph.D. at the University of Oregon.

Since joining the Lewis & Clark faculty in the fall of 2011, O’Leary has worked closely with students, providing them with invaluable hands on experience and preparing them for careers in research science and other STEM-related fields. Her students have gone on to graduate studies at New York University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other prestigious institutions.

In addition to engaging students in meaningful research, this work will further scientific understanding of atom-light interactions, as well as produce new techniques for detecting small, unknown magnetic fields. It will help develop a new platform for atomic magnetometry that makes use of low-cost, accessible, and potentially portable laser systems.

Aojie Zheng ’15 and Assistant Professor of Physics Shannon O'Leary