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PhD candidate Trapped Ions in Optical Microtraps

Faculty of Science – Institute of Physics

PhD candidate Trapped Ions in Optical Microtraps
Publication date 21 January 2019
Closing date 1 March 2019
Level of education Master's degree
Hours 38 hours per week
Salary indication €2,325 to €2,972 gross per month
Vacancy number 19-035

We are looking for a highly motivated student for performing state-of-the-art atomic physics experiments as well as numerical simulations.

The hybrid atom-ion quantum systems lab, headed by Dr Rene Gerritsma, is part of the Quantum Gases and Quantum Information (QGQI) cluster at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The main focus of the group is to study the quantum dynamics in trapped ions while at the same time developing technology for emerging quantum applications, such as quantum computing and simulation. The group of Philippe Corboz is centered around the development and application of computational methods for the simulation of strongly correlated quantum many-body systems, with a particular focus on 2D tensor network algorithms.

Project description

In the project you will work in a team that develops a new quantum simulation and computation platform: trapped ions that are pinned by optical microtraps. Simulating quantum systems on classical computers is extremely hard, as the resources required scale exponentially with system size. This limitation prevents physicists from testing whether microscopic model Hamiltonians of solid-state physics such as the Fermi-Hubbard model correctly predict emergent phenomena in many-body quantum systems (e.g., magnetic phases and phase transitions, superconductivity). Richard Feynman proposed to solve this problem by having well-controlled laboratory quantum systems simulate quantum problems of interest. Such quantum simulators would be the quantum analogue of a wide range of simulators of complex classical physics, ranging from crash test dummies to numerical weather-prediction software. Trapped ions are among the most reliable quantum simulators to date and several groups have shown impressive progress using ions to simulate quantum magnetism.

You will answer two questions: 1) can we scale up the trapped ion quantum simulator by using two-dimensional ion crystals instead of the one-dimensional crystals used up until now? 2) Dan we use optical tweezers to tune the soundwave spectrum in the crystal and use these to simulate quantum magnets?

In the project, we will pin particular ions in the crystal with optical tweezers that derive from spatial light modulators to modify the soundwave spectrum of the ion crystal. In this way, the soundwaves start mediating spin-spin interactions between the ions. Finding the optical tweezer pattern needed for obtaining a certain spin-spin interaction is highly non-trivial. The project therefore involves a strong theoretical component that will be co-supervised by Dr. Philippe Corboz and aims at developing numerical tools for finding realistic optical tweezer settings. Furthermore, we will identify relevant models that are amenable for simulation on our platform as well as experimental observables and phase diagrams.

In the second part of the project, the ideas will be implemented in the laboratory. You will develop experimental tools to detect the soundwave spectrum of the ion crystal, to laser cool away thermally excited soundwaves and to implement soundwave-mediated spin-spin interactions. For this, you will build up a new laser system that can be used to couple the spin of the ions to the soundwaves.

Once we have characterized our quantum simulation platform, you will focus in particular on programming it to simulate models in which competing interactions cause spin frustration. Such complex systems are of key interest to understand emergent phenomena in solid-state physics, but are extremely hard to simulate on classical computers due to the exponential growth of the Hilbert space and because standard numerical approaches (Monte Carlo) fail due to the negative sign problem.

Relevant references:

  • R. Nath, M. Dalmonte, A. W. Glaetzle, P. Zoller, F. Schmidt-Kaler and R. Gerritsma, New J. Phys. 17, 065018 (2015)
  • Zhang, G. Pagano, P. W. Hess, A. Kyprianidis, P. Becker, H. B. Kaplan, A. V. Gorshkov, Z.-X. Gong, and C. Monroe, Nature 551, 601 (2017)


You hold a MSc in (theoretical or experimental) Physics or Physical Chemistry and are requested to motivate why you apply for the position and to supply a CV.

Other skills/experiences/documents that would benefit your application are:

  • previous laboratory experience in an atomic physics lab;
  • solid programming skills (in Python, MATLAB, or equivalent) and previous experience in a numerical project;
  • excellent communication skills (English);
  • scientific publications.

Further information

For informal enquiries about the position please direct your questions to:


The appointment will be on a temporary basis for a period of 4 years (initial appointment will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it can be extended for a total duration of 4 years) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We expect you to assist in teaching of undergraduates.

Based on a full-time appointment (38 hours per week) the gross monthly salary will range from €2,325 in the first year to €2,972 in the last year. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities is applicable. Favourable tax agreements may apply to non-Dutch applicants.

Job application

The UvA is an equal opportunity employer. We celebrate diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees. We value a spirit of enquiry and endurance, provide the space to keep asking questions and cherish a diverse atmosphere of curiosity and creativity.

Applications should be submitted through the link below. All applications should include:

  • a CV;
  • a motivation letter that explains why you have chosen to apply for this specific position with a statement of your research experience and interests and how these relate to this project;
  • transcript of grades;
  • title and summary of your Master thesis and a pdf copy or a link to it in case it is already completed.

Applications will be processed on a rolling basis and the position will remain open until a suitable candidate has been identified (formal closing date: 1 March 2019). #LI-DNP

No agencies please

Apply now