Timothy L. Kovachy

Hertz Fellow: Timothy L. Kovachy

Stanford University

Area of Study

Physics - Atomic, Molecular & Optical Physics

Fellowship Years

2009 - 2014

Timothy (Tim) Kovachy concentrated in physics and mathematics at Harvard College, graduating in 2009. As a Hertz Fellow, He obtained his PhD in physics at Stanford University in 2016 and is currently a postdoc at Stanford.

Tim’s research interests center on using techniques from atomic physics to build devices to perform precision measurements. He has built a 10 meter tall atom interferometer in Professor Mark Kasevich’s lab at Stanford that has an unprecedented sensitivity to gravitational effects. Moreover, Tim has proposed and experimentally realized atom optics techniques to improve the sensitivity of atom interferometers by multiple orders of magnitude in a wide range of applications.These methods pave the way for a new generation of fundamental physics tests, including tests of quantum mechanics at macroscopic scales and of general relativity. In recent work, Tim has applied these ultra-sensitive atom interferometers to testing Einstein’s equivalence principle and to making precision measurements of gravity gradients. In a complementary direction, Tim has experimentally demonstrated a way to cool atoms in free space to effective temperatures of 50 picokelvin. The ability to prepare atoms in this ultra-low energy regime is critical for next-generation precision atomic sensors.

Tim is interested in applying his work on long-baseline atom interferometry and advanced atom optics and cooling techniques to gravitational wave astronomy. He has performed a detailed study of the relevant design criteria for an atomic gravitational wave interferometric sensor in low Earth orbit, culminating in a mission proposal in collaboration with NASA. In addition to detecting gravitational waves, such an instrument could be valuable for geophysical studies.

In his free time, Tim enjoys traveling and SCUBA diving.


2016 - New Techniques for Precision Atom Interferometry and Applications to Fundamental Tests of Gravity and of Quantum Mechanics