science and academics

I’m a physicist by training and career trajectory — my degrees are in physics (A.B., Princeton 1992 and Ph.D., Caltech 1998) and my academic appointments have been in departments of Physics (Caltech 1998-2007), Control & Dynamical Systems (Caltech 2001-2007), and Applied Physics (Stanford 2007-present). I served as Chair of the Department of Applied Physics at Stanford from 2010-2016. My early-career scientific research focused on open quantum systems, quantum measurement, and the quantum-to-classical transition. More recently my research group has turned towards fundamental issues of quantum engineering, such as quantum nonlinear dynamics, quantum feedback control and quantum model reduction. Along the way we’ve worked substantially on single-molecule biophysics and quantum information science, and touched a bit on quantum materials. In the past few years our work in quantum optics has focused on exploring phenomena of ultrafast many-mode nonlinear nanophotonics in the strong (few-photon thresholds) and intermediate coupling (incipient non-Gaussian) regimes, and we’ve developed a major new emphasis on physics-motivated approaches to combinatorial optimization.

Beyond the work my research group does supported by industrial contracts and federal grants, I spend a fair bit of “professor time” studying scientific aspects of materials and processes from traditional craft. I’ve described some of this in a blog post, short article, and presentation on wood-fired ceramics, and in a project blog that includes natural indigo dyeing. I’ve also recently developed an interest in the many connections among weaving, computer science, and the mathematics of knots. In addition to thinking of all these things as personal research projects, I make them core material for my undergraduate teaching at Stanford. I’m very excited about integrating traditional craft more centrally in modern university education (as we did for example in JAPAN126/226, Japanese Functional Objects), and about interdisciplinary coursework that bridges STEM fields with the arts and humanities (as we did for example in APPPHYS189, Physical Analysis of Artworks). I’m currently thinking about curricular innovation from an institutional perspective as vice chair of Stanford’s Breadth Governance Board.

My current academic roles also include serving on the executive committee for the Making@Stanford initiative and on Stanford’s Public Art Committee and Natural Science Curriculum Committee, as well as participating in the exciting Critical Making Collaborative. I’m an enthusiastic supporter of Stanford’s Asian American Art Initiative and Center for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence.

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