Another Wavelength: Charles Condos

    Date Posted: 
    Wednesday, February 10, 2021

    This week in Another Wavelength, we chat with 1st year Ph.D. Student Charles Condos, currently mentored by Dalziel Wilson.

    Where are you from? 

    Austin, TX

    What brought you to study optics? 

    The OSC’s Winter School and Workshop played a huge role for me. As a physics undergraduate I worked in a Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) lab and really enjoyed how hands-on it was - some equipment maintenance can be like repairing an engine in a cleanroom, which is somehow very enjoyable for me. So, in looking for a graduate program, finding a place with multiple cutting-edge experimental physics labs to work in was important. The lab tours and talks given at the WSWS revealed to me how many opportunities there are in the optical sciences for physicists.

    Who is your hero in science? 

    I think that some of the most heroic figures in science are STEM educators. For me, one such person is Jeff Allison, my undergrad chemistry professor. He was a huge early influence on me and really got me into quantum mechanics early on, before I planned on majoring in physics.

    Describe your research in 20 words or fewer. 

    Design, build, and conduct experiments that study the motion of nanomechanical resonators at the standard quantum limit.

    Describe your research in 200 words or fewer. 

    I am a new member (first-year PhD) of Dal Wilson’s Quantum Optomechanics (QOM) group. Over the summer, I revived two liquid helium flow cryostats and used one in conjunction with a fiber-coupled Michelson interferometer to probe a “trampoline” resonator. Lately, I have been working as part of a collaboration with Zheshen Zhang’s group where my role is to characterize the mechanical properties of a nanomechanical membrane resonator in an ultra-high vacuum (UHV) chamber that is coupled to a free space Mach-Zehnder interferometer. My long-term role in the QOM lab is to develop a tabletop cryogenic optomechanical system for use in fundamental physics experiments. Though this project is still in the design phase, once complete I will demonstrate its capabilities by carrying out a search for ultralight dark matter in a much more cost-effective and compact manner than in previous attempts made as part of large-scale collaborations.


    Name three neat facts about you. 

    1. I was born and raised in Dallas, TX, but moved to Austin (where I lived for nearly 8 years) to pursue music. I started playing guitar at age 10 and played in/filled in for several local bands for many years.
    2. Lately, I’ve been into upcycling my waste glass into planters. I crush the glass and use it as an aggregate for a concrete mixture that is then poured into molds to make the pottery. It works remarkably well.
    3. I built an aquaponics system into my tropical freshwater fish tank, and it works really well. Now, I have 3ft-tall heirloom tomato plants in my living room that are (so far) perfectly pest-free.