Mines Student Helps Photons Travel on Communication Highway

Abbi Elger

Abbi Elger’s enthusiasm for science is captivating.

Elger, who is working in the physics department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, is a participant in DOE’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) program coordinated by the Lab’s Office of Educational Programs.

“Since I was a kid, I have been curious about how our universe works. I especially find the fields of astronomy and quantum physics totally fascinating. I am thrilled that I get to work at Brookhaven and be surrounded by amazing scientists who share my interests and teach me something new every day,” said Elger.

Under the direction of her mentor, Brookhaven physicist Andrei Nomerotski, Elger is working on a quantum science project in collaboration with Stony Brook University (SBU) that may help communications become “hack proof.”

“We are capturing data related to entangled photons,” said Elger. “Currently, entangled photons—two photons that are produced together and correlated—can only travel over short distances. To advance the methods of encrypted communication that are currently available and to connect quantum devices, our goal is to send entangled photons over long distances, such as from Brookhaven to  Stony Brook University or even from New York to California.”

“Abbi was a perfect fit for this project,” said Nomerotski. “She is very motivated and has been an asset to our investigation. This research may lead to the first quantum repeaters—devices that will help entangled photons travel over longer distances by propagating their signal along the way. This needs to be done in a special manner to preserve their quantum properties.”

Elger hails from Wyoming, where she says she has been interested in science since fifth grade. She was president of her high school science club and captain of the science bowl team, which she led to victory in a regional science bowl competition. She is currently in her junior year at South Dakota School of Mines, majoring in physics (with a minor in math) and planning to pursue a Ph.D. in physics.

“My professor suggested I apply for the SULI program and I’ve been stoked since the moment I was accepted,” said Elger. “Andrei has been a wonderful mentor. I am learning so much about quantum physics, astrophysics, and how collaborative research works. I will be sad to leave the Lab when the program ends in April.”

During the SULI program, Elger lives on the Lab’s site and she has made many new friends. When this “scientist-on-the-horizon” isn’t capturing and studying data, she enjoys playing video games, weight lifting, and listening to music. During her time on Long Island, she was able to experience New York City for the first time. “The entire experience has been wonderful,” she added.

“Abbi will be a fine scientist someday. I’m happy to be her mentor and have the opportunity to help ‘kick-start’ her career,” said Nomerotski.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

This article is a share of the original on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory website here.


Last edited 3/20/2019 3:19:20 PM

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