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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship

Sasha Zhdanova, Physics, 2012-13 WRFF

Sasha ZhdanovaI was born on the steppes of Russia, seventeen years ago. I knew that the only way out of Russia was to study science, and to study it well.

Three years ago, I arrived at the UW as a fresh-faced youngling eager to fulfill my newborn promise. Physics was the most daunting and consequently the most rewarding of my subjects, and so I decided to do it until it got boring. The turning point from "not boring" to "complete devotion" came when I began to work for the Eot-Wash lab (otherwise known as the Gravity Group) in the Fall of 2011. For the last year, I worked on improving and adding to the sensor network that controls the conditions of the lab - constant conditions are important for a lab that does precise measurements of gravity.

I am currently building an autocollimator-type device that takes advantage of weak-value amplification to make ultra-precise (on the order of 10 picoradians) angle measurements. I sincerely thank the Washington Research Foundation for supporting this research, and I look forward to the future!

Mentor: Jens Gundlach, Physics

Project Title: Building an Interferometric Quasi-Autocollimator

Abstract: Pre and post-selection offer a wide variety of research developments, particularly in the area of quantum weak-value measurements. The so-called "weak" measurements provide a way of measuring and hence amplifying the state of a large number of particles; taken in the context of angle measurement, the smallest angular disturbances can be magnified and measured. We propose to build a device that uses the concept of weak-value amplification in a modified Sagnac interferometer to measure angles up to the precision of a picoradian. This instrument will be referred to as a interferometric quasi-autocollimator, or iQuAC for short. A proof-of-concept iQuAC has already been built, but its frequency range is severely limited to be between 10 and 200 Hz, and it was built as a prototype on an optical breadboard. We hope to substantially expand the frequency range and build a stable, working iQuAC that will improve on the old one as much as possible. Achieving this is more than possible; there are many, many ways to reduce noise sources, such as increasing thermal conductivity and reducing the effects of optical resonance. A fully-functioning iQuAC that is precise at both high and low frequencies provides a reliable way to measure angles at a distance - a concept that is useful in a variety of fields, such as vibration analysis of very stiff structures or inertial navigational systems.