This week, we give a warm welcome to Araceli Venegas-Gomez (@sciencefreak_), PhD student in Quantum Optics. After working as an aerospace engineer for many years, Araceli decided to quit her job to be a full time scientist. Oh we know those feels. In addition to being a PhD student at the University of Strathclyde, she is President of SCOPE, Strathclyde Student Community for Optics, Physics and Engineering, as well as part of the European Physical Society Young Minds committee.
As always, we asked Araceli some questions about her path to science:
I have always been interested in science since I was a child, and kept myself up to date with the latest scientific news. Some years ago I started to participate more actively in science discussions and conferences as a hobby.
I’m actually an aerospace engineer and science lover. After several years working in industry, I decided to follow my passion for science, and became a Physics PhD student! I like to think that I might discover new things about the universe at the quantum level. I love explaining complicated concepts and raising science awareness to the general public.
I fell in love with Quantum Mechanics. I wanted to learn more about it and found it so exciting that when I took the decision to quit my job in industry and go into research, I knew it had to be in that field.
There are just so many unanswered questions and unsolved mysteries about the universe we live in, both at a macro level and, in my case, at the tiniest level. We are now entering a second quantum revolution, where Quantum Technologies is emerging as a cross-disciplinary field of applied research, based on the properties of quantum mechanics, such as quantum entanglement and quantum superposition. It is a very interesting time for me to be part of it!
Many phenomena in the quantum world cannot be investigated directly in the laboratory, and even supercomputers fail at simulating them. Quantum simulators are specific purpose devices designed to provide insight on unique physics problems. I work with quantum simulators, using mathematical models to mimic the interactions of atoms in optical (light-made) lattices. With these investigations we can design specific magnetic properties or control matter to eventually create a quantum computer.
Behind all great technological advances in History there was a huge amount of theoretical work required to understand how things really work. To use a couple of examples, the GPS is based on the Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and the laser invention relied on understanding the discrete nature of atomic energy levels (the quanta), which is the basis of Quantum Mechanics. Today, lasers are surrounding us and are key part of many commons tools we use daily! Quantum Physics studies the universe at the smallest level, and its applications are part of our daily life, in computers, magnetic resonance, lasers … Specifically in my work, we study quantum magnetism, directly linked to high temperature superconductors, leading to possible new materials in the future.
My passion is science, and I spend a great amount of time reading about science news. I know, I’m a total science freak! I’m also the president of SCOPE (Strathclyde Student Community for Optics, Physics and Engineering), which organises different activities, from social events to career sessions. I’m also involved in several outreach events, as part of SCOPE or by myself. For more than a year now, I’m part of the European Physical Society Young Minds committee. This gives me the opportunity to reach a wider view of the physics activities and research currently happening across Europe, and offered me the occasion to visit CERN! In general my extracurricular activities involve a lot of science communication activities, such as updating my scientific blog www.sciencefreaktion.com
I love heavy metal and regularly go to concerts, Glasgow being a wonderful city offering a wide range of musical and cultural activities! After a rough day, I enjoy liberating my adrenaline excedent during my fitness classes, before enjoying a nice meal and movie. Travelling is also an important bit of my life, either to attend conferences as part of my PhD or just during my free time to discover new places and relax (which is also important, and sometimes difficult to find the time to). I also participate in various events for science communication, and I’m always glad to motivate young physicists in any career session.
The ideal relaxed day off would be sleep late, watch series, read an easy novel and finish the day with a good dinner and wine. A hiking trip enjoying nature might do as well, for the non-relaxed day off 🙂
And if I was living in a southern country, laying down at the seashore, feeling a warm breeze and the sun on my face would also be perfect!
Please welcome Araceli to Real Scientists!