Ana Maria Rey
Theorist Ana Maria Rey arrived at JILA on August 1, 2008. She’s hard at work realizing her life’s dream of using mathematical models to describe how nature behaves — in all its amazing complexity. She’s currently focusing on ultracold systems and optical lattices, topics that promise to warm the hearts of more than a few of her colleagues here at JILA.
Her research on ultracold optical-lattice systems is targeted towards the use of these systems to build upon Richard Feynman’s pioneering ideas of quantum simulation and quantum information. She wants to control and use the lattices to simulate and study strongly correlated models that appear in condensed matter physics and to prepare large-scale entanglement between atoms
Rey received her Bachelor’s degree in physics in 1999 from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. She was fortunate to win a fellowship in support of her undergraduate studies in physics because, at the time, her family thought she should choose something that would provide more abundant employment options — like engineering. Rey persisted with her dream of becoming a theorist and wrote her undergraduate thesis on the propagation of light in the presence of a black hole.
The next stop in her training was the University of Maryland at College Park, where she began research on plasma physics. She found a mentor in Charles Clark at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg. She worked with him for four years on the dynamics of strongly interacting atoms in optical lattices. As part of her research, she contacted Maryland cosmologist Bei-Lok Hu to help her adapt relativistic techniques to the study of nonequilibrium lattice dynamics. This work led to her being awarded the American Physical Society’s Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (DAMOP) thesis prize in 2005.
She was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Theoretical Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP) at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Harvard University Physics Department where Rey collaborated with Mikhail Lukin and Eugene Demler. One of her research projects at ITAMP was to develop methods to probe and manipulate superexchange reactions, which are spin-spin interactions that arise because of the interplay between interactomic repulsion and exchange symmetries. This project led to the first experimental observation of superexchange interactions in cold atom systems. Such interactions form the basis of quantum magnetism in strongly correlated systems and are believed to play a fundamental role in the context of high-temperature superconductivity. Rey believes that cold atoms will help us understand this phenomenon and other as-yet unsolved problems.
When Rey is not busy modeling the ultracold universe, she spends time with her husband Juan Gabriel Restrepo, Assistant Professor of Applied Mathematics at CU.