Optomechanics and Spin Transfer at McGill

Cavity photons coupled to the drumhead motion of a 50-nanometer-thick membrane (not a photograph).

Our goal is to develop a coherent interface between micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), photons, quantum defects, and (most recently) spin-transfer-driven nanoscale magnetic circuits.

Mechanical systems are ubiquitous throughout society, from oscillators in time-keeping devices to accelerometers and electronic filters in automobiles and cellphones. They also comprise an indispensable set of tools for fundamental and applied science. For example, using tiny mechanical systems, it is possible to “feel around” surfaces at the atomic scale, detect mass changes from adsorbed chemicals with single-proton resolution, and sense the gentle magnetic “tugs” from individual electron spins, persistent currents in a normal-metal ring, or even element-specific nanoscale clusters of nuclei. Meanwhile, human-scale masses (positioned kilometers apart) currently “listen” to gravitational waves emitted by violent events across the galaxy. The majority of these applications are fundamentally limited by the internal mechanical dissipation present in modern elastic materials. In order to overcome this limitation, our group is currently exploring MEMS supported primarily by optical forces, thereby replacing traditional flexible materials with light. Because the behavior of photons is fundamentally different from that of atoms in elastic solids, such devices should circumvent the dissipative limitations of the best existing materials and achieve an unprecedented level of coherence — whereas the best existing MEMS might ring for seconds when struck, optically-supported MEMS are predicted to ring coherently for weeks. Such systems would be sensitive to sub-zeptonewton forces, and should be capable of coherently shuttling quantum information between wide array of competing qubit technologies and telecom-wavelength photons.

Open Positions

  • Positions available to experimentally-inclined students with a background in physics or engineering
  • Postdoctoral positions may be available for qualified applicants in a related field

Funding Opportunities

  • Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship ($70k / year for 2 years)
  • Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship ($50k / year for 3 years)

McGill University is located in the center of downtown Montréal, a vibrant, artistic, dual-language city. McGill’s primary language is English, and one can navigate the city in French or English. Given its size, the cost of living in Montréal is surprisingly low. The city has a network of bicycle paths with a bike-sharing program, and a viable mass transit system including subways, trains, buses, and spiffy little “drive-and-leave” electric cars (operated with the same proxy card). I sold my car when I arrived. It’s awesome.