Re-thinking plans in the times of COVID-19

Saturday 13 June 2020

My project is on quantum mechanics and it involves coding with python, a programming langage, to investigate the dynamics of a particular class of phase transitions happening in the quantum realm. Specifically, I am looking at quantum systems that are open (i.e. interacting with another external quantum system, usually called environment or bath) characterised by quantum phase transitions that are dissipative (i.e. energy and/or information flows from the system to the environment irreversibly) and that have memory (i.e. there can be non immediate feedback effects from the environment to the system). The algorithm I have been working on during my research time last year, which should have been the focus of my project this year as well, computes the dynamics of the aforementioned quantum systems and explores their behaviour under different parameters.

One of the graphs that I produced last year

I am not going to delve further into the details of how this is done, however the code requires a good amount of computational power to be run, which unfortunately my personal laptop lacks. This was not an issue last year as I could make use of the university resources: the department of physics provided me with a laptop meeting the criteria necessary for my coding work. Because of the closing of university departments caused by the coronavirus pandemic, this year the above was obviously not possible. Hence, I had to re-consider my aims and re-think the organisation of my plans in order to make the most out of the second part of my research project. After some careful consideration of the different possibilities and having discussed with my supervisor, we reached the conclusion that it would be best to split the five weeks of the project in two: two weeks at the beginning of summer done remotely and the remaining three weeks when the university resources become again available, either (hopefully) at the end of summer or during christmas break. I have right now almost finished the first research block: since I am unable to code, I have spent this time focusing on relevant papers. I deepened my understanding of the underlying theoretical framework of dissipative quantum phase transitions and I am in the process of writing a short review of what is the current state of research on the topic (specifically, the localisation transition in the sub-ohmic spin-boson model). The second block will (finally!) involve getting my hands back on coding and improving on my work of last year.

I would like to thank my supervisor, Dr Brendon Lovett, for the opportunity of researching this incredibly interesting phenomena of physics, and the Capod team and Lord Laidlaw who made the Laidlaw Scholarship program possible.

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