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Graduate Student Profile

Daniela Angulo Murcillo

PhD Candidate
Experimental Quantum Optics

Fall 2022 Newsletter Graduate Student Profile Angulo-Murcillo

Daniela has always been drawn to math and science. As a child, she would spend a lot of time in her dad's grocery store talking to the customers, and she remembers an engineering professor that visited the store often and taught her how to play chess and gave her math riddles. This curiosity for math and science got stronger during high school and led her to choose mechanical engineering as her major (at first) at a university in her native Colombia.

However, during her second year of engineering she realized that she was interested in more foundational subjects and, against her parent's wishes, she switched majors without telling them and started physics. Optics became her favourite subject during undergraduate studies and she became fascinated with light and wave mechanics. She then saw how intertwined light is with quantum mechanics and joined a research group in quantum information.

Following her passion for quantum optics, Daniela applied for a summer internship at the Institute of Quantum Computing (IQC) in Waterloo. She was accepted and came to Canada in 2016 to work in a lab studying quantum dots. Before that, she had followed Professor Steinberg's work closely. She was amazed by the unusual questions that would interest his group: from making a photon act like eight photons to measuring Bohmian trajectories. Being so close to Toronto was the perfect opportunity to visit Professor Steinberg's lab and see where all the magic happened.

In 2017, she came to U of T to study light-matter interaction using cold atoms and lasers under the supervision of Professor Steinberg. Her experiment uses cold atoms to mediate interactions between photons and harness those interactions to study problems such as measuring the amount of time that a photon spends as an atomic excitation if it is transmitted through a cloud of atoms.

What she likes the most about the Steinberg group is that they are free to ask questions that don't necessarily show an immediate practical application, which has become less common in modern research since things are moving towards technological advancement. Her research addresses a fundamental question about the interaction of light with matter that seemed very basic at first but turned out to be very challenging from both an experimental and theoretical perspective. Their theoretical work even predicts, counterintuitively, that a photon can spend a negative amount of time ‘inside of’ an atom.

Daniela is very passionate about life. When she is not working in the lab, she enjoys going on long bike rides, running, or playing the guitar and singing. She also enjoys discussing politics and reading novels that dig into the human condition, such as those of Dostoevsky.