We work among extraordinary people doing extraordinary things; get to know some of them by reading these quick-fire interviews.
Name: Dr Elliot Bentine
Job title: Senior Postdoctoral Research Assistant
What are you currently working on?
I am currently setting up a new cold atom laboratory in Oxford for the Atom Interferometer Observatory Network (AION). The long-term goals of this project are to use atom interferometry of ultracold strontium atoms as a detector for dark matter and gravitational waves at mid-band frequencies. The astrophysical phenomena that give rise to these signals are long-lived, and so measurements taken over many months could be used to pin-point interesting sources for follow-up investigations with traditional telescopes. Our work at Oxford involves building a test instrument and combining many of the required technologies into a single demonstration apparatus. We are working alongside scientists at Cambridge, Imperial, Birmingham and RAL to design and build the full experiment.
I have also been developing a new medical imaging device in collaboration with Dr Lapidaire at the department of Cardiovascular Medicine, which will provide a new way to image small blood vessels in a patient and provide an overview of their cardiovascular health. We are currently taking the device through a pre-clinical trial at the John Radcliffe Hospital.
Describe a typical day
I usually spend the first hour catching up on emails, reading arXiv, and checking tasks and orders (AION is a new experiment and there are lots of pieces to put together). Quite often we have meetings with other collaboration members, where we will discuss vacuum system designs, optics, sequences, and other aspects of the project. I will discuss with students to check on progress and see what problems we are having in the lab and how we plan to solve them. After, there is plenty to keep me busy in the office with CAD and programming work. The remaining time I will spend on experimental work such as optics, electronics and sequence development. I enjoy the lab work most! Once we are out of the design stage and fully into the building and operating stage I hope to be in the lab more.
If you had an entire day at your disposal (not at work), what would be your ideal way to spend it?
I haven’t seen my family and friends much since the pandemic started, so I would take the time to properly catch up with them.
What is your favourite place in Oxford?
Either University Parks (when the weather is good) or the Natural History Museum (when the weather is bad)! Both are near to the department and are good spots to get some inspiration and fresh ideas.
Plan B: what would you be if you weren’t doing the job you are currently doing?
I greatly enjoy video game development (and especially graphics programming), so potentially working as an independent games developer. It is actually not too dissimilar to being an experimental postdoc – there are many different skills you have to learn to get the job done, and the problems are intellectually challenging to solve. I recently launched a plugin to render 3D objects in a stylised manner, ProPixelizer, and I am enjoying working on it in my spare time.