Taking Physics Beyond the Classroom

By Lauren Boyle

November 10, 2009 — If you asked a room full of Drexel students why they chose to attend the University, ranking high on their list of motivations would undoubtedly be the co-op opportunity. However, students who come to Drexel find the chance to gain experience in their given field extends beyond co-op. University faculty members often enlist the aid of graduate and undergraduate students in various research projects throughout the year. One of these faculty members is Dr. Roberto Ramos, professor in the department of physics. His determination to advance the field of quantum computing, his devotion to working with Drexel’s S-STEM Scholars, and his hope of spreading physics to the masses, makes working with Ramos a worthwhile endeavor.

physics beyond the classroom

Engaging in unique, world-class research, Dr. Ramos is a pioneer researcher in the field of quantum computing and low-temperature devices. He is a member of the Low-Temperature Quantum Device Group, which builds devices and uses materials to discover new physics at extremely low temperatures. Their research involves building superconducting quantum devices which can be used as elements of a future quantum computer. They use quibits, which can be thought of as artificial atoms. These artificial atoms have quantized energy levels like real atoms. They’re fabricated on a chip, just like semiconductor chips, except these are superconducting. Dr. Ramos and his team are figuring out how to connect the artificial atoms in such a way that they can transfer information using quantum devices. Ultimately, figuring out how to transfer information this way could lead to technologies of the imagination such as quantum teleportation – things you only see in comic books and films.

Dr. Ramos recently presented three papers on his work with quibits and quantum computing in Japan. One of these papers described the work of an undergraduate physics student, Anthony Tyler. With encouragement from Dr. Ramos, Tyler presented his work at multiple conferences, including the March meeting of the APS (American Physical Society), the largest annual assembly of physicists in the country. He completed summer research as a Ph.D. student in quantum physics at Purdue University. Alyssa Wilson, also a member of the Low-Temperature Device Group at Drexel, worked on simulating lasers based on artificial atoms, and became Drexel’s first Barry Goldwater Scholar and Cambridge-Gates scholar. She will continue to study quantum mechanics as a graduate student at Harvard.

Another way Dr. Ramos helps provide undergrads with the opportunity to gain some real world experience is through his involvement with the S-STEM Scholars. The scholarship arose from a proposal he and his co-director, Chemistry Department Head Dr. Lynn Penn submitted to the National Science foundation requesting help for financially needy students who are interested in studying physics and chemistry at Drexel. They received funding of $460,000 for ten students, most of who engage in summer research projects. Beginning with basic tasks like building circuits, the scholars are given the opportunity to gain a truly broad range of experience when working in the lab. As Dr. Ramos enthusiastically explained, “We have a lot of bright students, and we need to help them by providing research opportunities and practical experience. The classroom can only go so far.”

For more information on what Dr. Ramos and his students are up to, visit their research website at

Lauren Boyle graduated in June of 2010 with a B.A. in English.