I'm a post-doc in Physics at the University of Chicago, working with professors William Irvine and Sid Nagel. My current focus is on the effects of geometry and topology on soft matter and fluid systems.
Knotted fields appear in many contexts: fluids, super-fluids, plasmas, electro-magnetic fields, etc. In each case the topology, or "knottedness," of field lines is conserved under the right circumstances, providing suprising connections between otherwise unrelated fields. Recently, we have succeeded in generating knotted fluid vortices in the laboratory for the first time. Although the idea of tying a knot in a vortex ring (like a smoke or bubble ring) originated with Lord Kelvin over a century ago, experimental difficulties had previously limited physicists to theoretical studies. We have overcome these limitations by using cutting edge technology—3D printers and high speed cameras—to generate vortices with arbitrary topology and to follow their geometric and topological evolution. Due to their simplicity and accessibility, knotted vortices are an ideal model system for, e.g., allowing us to study the precise way in which knots untie themselves in a real physical field.
Popular descriptions of my work on knotted vortices were recently featured on NPR's Science Friday [audio, video], and the UChicago News site. An image from our research also appeared on the cover of Nature Physics.
Before coming to the University of Chicago, I worked in the field of Quantum Optics in Dirk Bouwmeester's group at UCSB. My PhD thesis was an experimental and theoretical study of micro-optomechanical systems.