Research Interests – Precision Ultraviolet Spectroscopy
My research focuses on the spectroscopy of simple atoms and the short-wavelength laser sources needed for such experiments. The study of simple atoms – namely hydrogen – has historically been an extremely fruitful endeavor, catalyzing the development of quantum mechanics, quantum electrodynamics and even some nuclear physics. All of these advances occurred when discrepancies were found between the physical theories describing the atomic energy levels and the experimental data. In fact, such discrepancies persist until today (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1301.0905v2.pdf), which may be evidence of physics beyond the standard model.
A major part of our research effort will be the development of lasers with extremely precise frequencies. In fact, to perform competitive spectroscopic measurements, we will need to measure and control our laser frequency with 15 digits of precision (Parthey et al., PRL 107, 203001 (2011)). However, the precision of such an advanced laser source will not be transferred to an experimental measurement if the motion of the atoms is not well controlled. Therefore, we will also investigate laser cooling of atomic hydrogen, which will require somewhat less precise but very high-power UV lasers.