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Published on April 21, 2024
MIT Senior Olivia Rosenstein Balances Breakthrough Cold Atom Physics Research with Collegiate Cross-CountrySource: MIT

Olivia Rosenstein is not your typical college senior. When she's not lacing up her sneakers for an enduring cross-country run, she's delving deep into the intricacies of experimental physics, making strides at the interface of physical science and athleticism. According to a recent MIT News article, this driven MIT student has found that her dedication to both fields is opening up new avenues of exploration.

At MIT, Rosenstein takes on the challenge of cold atom research alongside Professor Richard Fletcher in the Emergent Quantum Matter Group. She's at the forefront of building an erbium-lithium trap, fundamental for studies in many-body physics. Rosenstein worked tirelessly to increase the trap's atoms and bring the temperature down in preparation for the experiment's advancements. Her research also extends to laser cooling, with her contributions including the analysis of magnetic fields and atom imaging.

However, it’s not all lab work for Rosenstein. As per the MIT release, cross-country running is a vital part of her life, providing her with joy and a peace that fuels her scientific pursuits. Running has been a consistent thread through Rosenstein's life, accompanying her academic journey and offering balance amid the rigorous demands of her research schedule.

Rosenstein's story began with a broad interest in STEM, spurred by her parents, and eventually evolved into a fascination with physics. Her high school cross-country coach, who doubled as her advanced placement biology teacher, introduced her to the science behind running. But it wasn't until a physics course at MIT that her trajectory took an unexpected turn towards experimental physics; her professor’s elucidation on the complexities and limitations of modern physics drew her deeper into the field.

She honed her skills through various positions, including a summer stint in Professor Brian DeMarco's laboratory and a project on computational cosmology at the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. Her award-winning undergraduate project involved constructing a MOT (magneto-optical trap) for rubidium, which Rosenstein described with obligatory pride. She told MIT News, "Seeing a cloud of rubidium finally appear on our IR TV screen filled us with excitement, pride, and relief."

Not one to be daunted by setbacks, Rosenstein pushed through the pandemic and running injuries by contributing to the cross-country team any way she could. She understands the common threads tying her two passions together: patience, perseverance, and the satisfaction found in incremental progress. "Both running and physics deal a lot with delayed gratification: you’re not going to run a personal record every day, and you’re not going to publish a groundbreaking discovery every day," she remarked in her interview with MIT News.

Rosenstein's ambition is to continue fusing her love for comprehensive physics queries and experimental AMO experiments, potentially contributing to groundbreaking discoveries in the field. As she prepares to graduate and step onto the track of PhD studies, her trajectory seems as focused and precise as the atoms she cools in the lab—steady, relentless, and aimed at a future where every step, every calculation, moves her closer to the finish line.

Boston-Science, Tech & Medicine