Katherine Lawrence

Hertz Fellow: Katherine Lawrence

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Area of Study


Fellowship Years

2014 - present

A Yale graduate in Physics, Katherine will examine how clouds of atoms can be used to manipulate individual photons, and how photons that form laser light can be used to manipulate individual atoms. She hopes to use the unique properties of quantum systems to create novel states of matter and light. Her research explores questions of physics that can lead to a deeper understanding of quantum systems and their control. That in turn will enable advances in information processing (quantum computing and cryptography); telecommunications (photonics and all-optical devices); and condensed matter physics (simulation of superconductors). She says: “What fascinates me is that we can play around with single atoms and photons as if in a quantum sandbox, exploiting their bizarre behavior to create new systems, never before imagined.”

Katherine spent two years at the Large Hadron Collider located in the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, outside Geneva. There, an immense particle accelerator smashed protons together trying to grab a piece of the primordial fire, forces, and sub-atomic particles that may have existed a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Katherine studied the production and decay of a type of particle called the tau lepton, critical to many questions in particle physics. Recently, CERN scientists announced that after the longest, most expensive search in the history of science, they had discovered a new particle, the Higgs boson, thought key to why objects in our universe have mass. At MIT Katherine will pursue small-scale experiments in Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) physics for hands-on involvement in probing essential questions of quantum mechanics.

“One aspect of the Hertz Fellowship that excites me is the community of Fellows and the many opportunities that the Hertz Foundation provides to strengthen those relationships. I’ve always loved learning about advances and innovations from diverse scientific fields. There’s nothing that sparks creativity like conversations with passionate researchers from different disciplines.