Geoffrey M. Diederich, Ph.D., wanted to learn everything and saw physics as a way to get at least halfway there. After high school, Diederich went right into physics at Bowling Green State University, where they graduated with both their bachelor’s and master’s degree.
“As I started my research career, I realized that I truly loved the process of doing research. The excitement of new data became a constant source of joy for me in graduate school,” said Diederich. “The feeling of accomplishment after seeing years of work come to fruition really reset my perspective on what a job could be.”
After earning a physics doctoral degree from the University of Denver, Diederich submitted a proposal to continue doing research as part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI) Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program (IC Postdoc) through the Oak Ridge institute for Science and Education (ORISE) and was accepted. The IC Postdoc Program offers scientists and engineers from a wide variety of disciplines unique opportunities to conduct research relevant to the Intelligence Community.
Diederich became a fellow under their mentor professor Xiaodong Xu as a part of Xu’s group at the University of Washington, where their focus is on quantum materials and optics. Here, Diederich is researching magnetic processes within novel materials and how to manipulate these processes using ultrafast lasers, and then how to use these newly discovered properties in future quantum devices.
Diederich and the team measure and generate magnetic fluctuations, called magnons, by focusing a laser on an atomically thin, two-dimensional material, called CrSBr. This material is composed of chromium, sulfur and bromine and can be used to control the behavior and properties of the magnons. This technique has proven efficient because it does not require specialized or complicated equipment to run the experiments.
For Diederich, the process involves using automation, collecting data derived from automation and then further fine-tuning the automation closer to the precisely measured properties that would meet the team’s goals. . Diederich combs through the data searching for irregularities or details of interest, and frequently consults their mentor, advisor and colleagues during the process. As the data comes together cohesively, Diederich drafts manuscripts on the results to share any findings, helping to communicate the importance of the work to a broader audience.
Diederich believes discovering new ways to improve quantum computing are crucial for the next generation of quantum devices. Additionally, they believe it could solve real world problems by uncovering the quantum-based properties of new materials like CrSBr and its possible applications in quantum devices.
“I hope that my work kicks off interest in a material that holds great promise to help bring new information technologies to people, allowing them to tackle larger problems in the future,” said Diederich. “Additionally, magnons themselves are a promising host for new quantum information processing. Our discoveries give researchers a new tool with which they can overcome some of the hurdles facing implementations of quantum information.”
The research has been published in research journals, for example, Nature and Nature Nanotechnology, among other journals. Diederich has given talks at multiple conferences, such as Frontiers on Quantum Materials and Devices, and is also scheduled to talk at the International Conference on Electronic Properties of Two-Dimensional Systems.
When asked if they would recommend the IC Postdoc Program Diederich’s answer was crystal clear. “Absolutely. The program gave me an opportunity to explore difficult problems, attend fascinating conferences and purchase equipment that my experiments needed. I don’t think I would have been as successful in my postdoc without it.”
After the fellowship ends, Diederich is expecting a tenure track position at a university. They also hope to form a laboratory where experiments and discoveries into the complexities of quantum materials can continue being made.
The Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program is funded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and managed by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) under an agreement between the IC and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ORISE is managed for DOE by ORAU.