Project Descriptions

1. Quantum sensing with Nitrogen-Vacancy centers in diamond

Supervisor: Prof. Victor Acosta (Physics & Astronomy), Lab Webpage.

 Acosta Lab

Research Overview. The Quantum Nanophotonics and Biosensing lab does research at the intersection of condensed-matter physics, quantum optics, and biomedical imaging. The group specializes in using color centers in diamond as quantum sensors to study nanoscale magnetic phenomena in physical, chemical, and biological systems. Their model qubit system is the Nitrogen Vacancy (NV) center in diamond which offers a unique combination of high-fidelity optical detection and long spin coherence times at room temperature. The group currently consists of 7 graduate students and two postdocs.

QU-REACH Project. Two QU-REACH students will work on an ongoing quantum sensing project aimed at performing quantum control on single NV centers and using them to detect magnetic fields. These experiments present a number of impressive spectroscopy, imaging, and nanomaterials challenges, which make for an exciting learning opportunity for undergraduate students working within a broader team.

What the Students Will Do. The students will develop methods for performing quantum control on single NV centers (confocal microscopy, Rabi/Ramsey/Hahn-echo spectroscopy) and use these methods to detect magnetic fields. Together with graduate students, they will optimize the performance of the diamond magnetic microscope and work towards detecting magnetic phenomena in superconductors, 2D magnetic materials, and magnetic nanoparticles. The students will gain experience in quantum sensing and spin physics theory, optical breadboarding, experimental control (LabVIEW), data analysis (Mathematica, MatLab, and/or Python), and communicating results (presentations at group meetings). The students will present their work at an external conference and may be involved as a co-author in a subsequent journal publication.

Supervision. The students will be supervised through weekly 1:1 meetings as well as daily interactions in the lab with Acosta. They will also work closely with graduate students working on the project.

Questions? Email: 


2. Quantum chemistry

Supervisor: Prof. Susan Atlas (Chemistry & Chemical Biology), Lab Webpage.


Research Overview. Prof. Atlas’ lab conducts research in theoretical and computational chemical physics, aimed at understanding complex systems through a combination of formal theory, novel algorithms, and multiscale modeling.   Ongoing research projects include the development of ensemble charge-transfer potentials for atomistic simulation; density functional theory (DFT) electronic structure calculations and machine learning methods for modeling high-entropy materials; kinetic modeling of proteins; and the application of DFT-based atom-in-molecule methods for encapsulating electron correlation effects in molecules.

QU-REACH Project. QU-REACH students will work on an ongoing project to implement density functional theory (DFT) electronic structure calculations on current-generation “noisy intermediate scale quantum” [NISQ] computers such as the IBM Quantum System One.  DFT bypasses the need to solve the Schrödinger equation for the complicated many-electron wavefunction Ψ, by re-expressing the electronic structure problem in terms of a much simpler set of coupled one-electron equations for the electron density ρ.  All of the underlying complexity of the quantum mechanical interactions between electrons is encoded within a “universal exchange-correlation functional”, Exc[ρ] entering the single-particle equations.  The goal of this project is to explore alternative models of Exc[ρ], and determine whether the DFT formulation of quantum mechanics can provide both improved accuracy and greater robustness to noise in computing the ground state energies of molecules on quantum computers.

What the Students Will Do. Students will perform reference electronic structure calculations using different families of exchange-correlation functionals and Schrödinger equation-based quantum chemistry methods on the Xena GPU supercomputing cluster at the UNM Center for Advanced Research Computing (CARC).   Corresponding computational experiments with the same functionals and quantum chemistry methods will be performed on quantum computers.  The calculations will utilize existing variational quantum eigensolver (VQE) routines written in the Python-based Qiskit and PySCF electronic structure codes.  The objective is to compare classical and quantum computer performance for NISQ systems with varying topologies and noise characteristics.

Supervision. The students will be supervised through frequent 1-1 and weekly group meetings with Prof. Atlas, and real-time interactions over the project Slack channel.

Questions? Email:


3. Optical resonances in nanostructures for quantum sensors and simulators

Supervisor: Prof. Viktoriia Babicheva (Electrical & Computer Engineering), Lab Webpage.


Research Overview. Prof. Babicheva's research interests cover both fundamental and applied aspects of optics and photonics. The research program focuses on resonant nanostructures to achieve efficient light control and dynamic tuning of nanophotonic elements. Recent projects include developing hybrid metal-semiconductor designs with layered transition metal dichalcogenides, graphene, and other van der Waals materials. The nanostructures are designed to be applied in visible, infrared, and terahertz ultra-compact devices for sensing and imaging.

QU-REACH Project. The student will work on an ongoing project on developing material processes and realizing nanostructures for systems with quantum sensors and simulators. The quantum sensors will be designed to facilitate accurate measurements of physical quantities, including electromagnetic fields and oscillation frequencies. To open new possibilities for quantum sensing, two-dimensional materials will be combined with other materials to engineer multifunctional heterostructures.

What the Student Will Do. The project activities include designing, fabrication, and/or characterization of photonic nanostructures for quantum computing. Design and numerical analysis of nanostructures will be performed using simulations packages for full-wave modeling, such as CST Studio Suite and COMSOL Multiphysics. Nanostructure electron-beam lithography tools include AutoCAD and KLayout. Data analysis and visualization will be performed in MATLAB. Nanostructure fabrication and optimization will be performed in cleanroom facilities at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology, Sandia National Labs. It includes material deposition, thermal annealing, light and electron-beam exposures, as well as chemical processing with solvents, bases, and acids. Nanostructures will be analyzed with ellipsometry and scanning electron microscopes.

Supervision.  Daily supervision will be provided by Prof. Babicheva and the graduate students working in the lab. The student will participate in weekly group meetings, during which the research progress of lab members is discussed. The student working at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies will be trained by CINT staff and Prof. Babicheva until they can use facilities and operate tools independently.

Questions? Email:


4. Quantum dot single photon sources at telecom wavelengths

Supervisor: Prof. Ganesh Balakrishnan (Electrical & Computer Engineering), Lab Webpage.


Research Overview. Balakrishnan’s research involves the epitaxial growth of III-V compound semiconductor materials and devices. This includes the development of InAs based quantum dots using molecular beam epitaxy. In particular, the group is currently working on low density quantum dots in the near IR that can be used as single dot emitters. This work also includes strategies to extend the emission wavelength of the dots to reach 1.3 and 1.55 µm on GaAs substrates.

QU-REACH Project. The project as mentioned above will target the growth of long wavelength InAs quantum dots. This will be done through the incorporation of antimony in the dots to realize InAsSb quantum dots. The project will involve the growth of such dots on state of the art MBE reactors and subsequent characterization using X-Ray diffraction, atomic force microscopy and photoluminescence studies.

What the Student Will Do. The student will gain experience in optics, vacuum science, cryogenics and material science. The student will be able to work with a highly experience epitaxial scientist to grow samples. These samples will then be characterized using photoluminescence and microscopy to establish quantum dot parameters such as photoluminescence, dots size and shape and antimony incorporation values.

Supervision. The student will work with a highly skilled team of epitaxial scientists including faculty, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students. There will be regular meetings for the group which the student will also attend.

Questions? Email:


5. Precision measurements of simulated gravitational waves using optical interferometry

Supervisor: Prof. Elohim Becerra (Physics & Astronomy), Lab Webpage.

Becerra lab

Research Overview. Becerra’s lab performs research in quantum information with atoms and photons, with a focus on the study of quantum properties of light and matter for optimal methods of measurement, information transfer and communications. Their interests include the study of measurements with sensitivities beyond conventional limits of detection, and the study of quantum-state superpositions from the interaction of light and matter for quantum information and communication protocols. They are interested in studying technologies that can be enabled by these quantum systems and understanding the limits of such quantum technologies. Applications of these studies include quantum and coherent communications, metrology, and quantum information processing.

QU-REACH Project. This project seeks to construct and test an interferometric setup to use interference as an optical approach to precise measurements for undergraduate laboratories. In this laboratory, students will use interference for precise measurements of distance and signals coming from variations of optical paths, which is the principle of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

What the Student Will Do. The student(s) will build a Michelson interferometer to measure aberrations in optical flats and small displacements, and they will study the interference signal when predefined traveling waves that mimic signatures of gravitational waves from different sources drive a mechanical perturbation on the table.

Supervision. The student(s) will participate in weekly group meetings, during which progress of each group member is discussed. Daily supervision will be provided by the Prof. Becerra and graduate students in his lab.

Questions? Email:


6. Microresonator Optical Frequency Combs

Supervisor: Prof. Tara Drake (Physics & Astronomy), Lab Webpage.


Research Overview. The Drake Lab researches nonlinear optics in microscopic waveguides. Our current focus is on "microcombs" -- optical frequency combs formed in dielectric microring resonators via cascaded four-wave mixing. Microcombs are key components in compact optical atomic clocks and optical synthesizers, on-chip spectrometers, and integrated quantum systems.

QU-REACH Project. The Qu-REACH student will work on a newly funded research project that pushes microcomb devices to shorter wavelengths using a variety of novel materials and geometries.

What the Student Will Do. The student will work on building and using a new experimental setup. With this new setup, we will begin testing microcomb devices that are designed for previously unexplored spectral regions. Working alongside the PI and graduate student researchers, the student will learn basic techniques important to all optics labs, as well as how to characterize photonic waveguides and resonators.

Supervision. Student will be supervised by Dr. Drake and will work directly with two graduate student RAs.

Questions? Email:


7. Quantum effects in plasmonic nanocavities

Supervisor: Prof. Terefe Habteyes (Chemistry & Chemical Biology), Lab Webpage.

 Habteyes lab

Research Overview. The research in Habteyes group includes plasmon enhanced photocatalysis, gap and charge transfer plasmons, interparticle near-field interaction, and nanoscale infrared imaging of chemical heterogeneity. Currently, one postdoc, two graduate students and four undergraduate students are involved in the group’s research activities.

QU-REACH Project. The student will work on the optical and chemical properties of molecular and semiconductor systems embedded in plasmonic nanocavity to enhance and observe quantum mechanical interactions and entanglement.

What the Student Will Do. The experimental tasks include layer by layer assembly of metallic film, dielectric materials, molecules or semiconductors and plasmonic nanoparticles. Working with graduate students, the undergraduate student will be responsible to optimize the material thickness with angstrom accuracy, and to characterize the light scattering properties of the plasmonic nanocavity with embedded emitters by analyzing the spectral properties of elastically and inelastically scattered photons at single nanoparticle level. For material fabrication, students will develop innovative approaches using the facility in Habteyes lab as well the advanced clean room facility at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology, Sandia National Lab.

Supervision. The undergraduate student will be fully trained by the PI Habteyes and the graduate students until they can operate tools independently. This will be followed by supervision through daily interactions and weekly group meetings.

Questions? Email: 


8. Ultrasensitive lateral displacement microresonator for quantum sensing

Supervisor: Prof. Nathan Jackson (Mechanical Engineering), Lab Webpage.

 Nathan Jackson

Research Overview. Jackson's research focuses on development of microsystems-based sensors and actuators for numerous applications. His team conducts research into the development of new functional thin film materials, development of new microfabrication methods, and development of micro-scale devices.  The group has a special interest in developing ultrasensitive sensors for biosensors, quantum sensors, wearable sensors, and sensors for Internet of things. Jackson also has a strong interest in developing micro-scale vibration energy harvesters and developing novel atomization technology. His group currently consists of 1- Post Doctoral researcher, 6- Phd Students, 4- MS students, and 2- undergraduate students. The group has diverse STEM disciplines with students in ME, ECE, CBE, and NSME.

QU-REACH Project. The project involves designing a novel high frequency ultrasensitive microresonator based on electrostatic actuation. The goal is to create a micro-resonator with proof mass that can have high precision lateral displacement and high frequency. The project will focus on developing the flexural arms and comb-drive needed to meet performance specifications. Positions are available for two students working together.

What the Students Will Do. Initially the students will be focused on using Finite Element Modelling (FEM) to design the device. The displacement and frequency of the FEM will be optimized by altering the device structural materials and optimization of the flexural mechanics. This project has potential to lead to a graduate level research project which would then focus on fabrication of the device and developing a process flow.

Supervision. The students will be supervised through weekly updates and interactions from Dr. Jackson. The students will also have interaction with graduate students to help with FEM analysis. The students will meet with collaborator Victor Acosta (Physics & Astronomy) once per month to define project goals and update on progress.

Questions? Email:


9. Silicon quantum photonic integrated circuits (SiQuPICs)

Supervisor: Prof. Marek Osinski (Electrical & Computer Engineering), Lab Webpage.

 Osinski Lab

Research Overview. Osinski’s research spans a broad range of disciplines, from optoelectronics, nanotechnology, superconductors, and nuclear radiation detection to biomedical applications of colloidal quantum dots, neuromorphic computing, and quantum information processing. His group is highly interdisciplinary, providing unique opportunities for students studying physics, electrical and computer engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, optics, nanoscience, etc. to contribute and learn from each other in a research team environment. High-school, undergraduate, and graduate students are working of various projects, with multilevel mentoring up to postdoctoral. The group currently consists of 8 high-school students, 10 undergraduate students, 11 graduate students, one postdoc, and one senior research faculty.

QU-REACH Project. Under this project, the undergraduate student(s) will participate in development and integration of novel devices for the generation, manipulation, propagation, and detection of single- and entangled photons for quantum information processing as part of a larger team. The quantum photonic integrated circuits are implemented in a silicon photonics platform that can be used in future large-scale quantum communication networks. This project brings together expertise in materials science and engineering; semiconductor fabrication, processing, and devices; superconducting device physics; classical nonlinear and quantum optics; and optical communications to solve technical challenges for the development and realization of a scalable integrated quantum communication platform. Most of the fabrication will be conducted at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT), a user facility located in Albuquerque and operated jointly by Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

What the Student Will Do. The activities under this project include design, fabrication, and characterization of single-photon and entangled photon pair sources, gate-defined quantum dots, superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors (SNSPDs), and integrated waveguide channels to manipulate photons. The student(s) will gain experience in device simulation (Rsoft, Comsol, and Fortran), mask design for photolithography and e-beam lithography (AutoCAD), process development for SiQuPIC fabrication, use of various processing and characterization tools, conducting experiments in cryogenic environment (LabVIEW), data analysis and visualization (Mathematica, MatLab, Fortran, C/C++, Python, Origin), preparation of papers for publication, and presentation or results at group meeting.

Supervision. The student(s) will participate in weekly group meetings, during which progress of each group member is discussed. Daily supervision will be provided by the graduate students and the postdoc working on the project. Students working at CINT will be trained in the use of facility and specific fabrication tools.

Questions? Email: