Charles Conover

Charlie Conover is Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Charlie Conover went to Middlebury College as an undergraduate and then to the University of Virginia for graduate study where he studied very small clusters of atoms. He received his Ph.D. and began teaching at Colby College in 1990.

The overriding question being addressed by Charlie's research is how simple quantum systems behave when driven by strong fields. Charlie looks for answers to this question in experiments on atomic systems. In his experiments at Colby College he uses Rydberg atoms (weakly bound atoms with the electrons in very large orbits) as model systems for understanding high-intensity atom-field interactions, the dynamics of quantum mechanical systems, and the control of quantum mechanical processes. These experiments use strong, precisely shaped, electromagnetic field pulses to manipulate the population of quantum states. Because strong fields can alter the structure of an atom as well as drive transitions between different atomic states, using strong fields has promise as a method to manipulate quantum dynamics in ways that are not possible with weak fields.

His recent work has focused on the effect of pulse shape effects of nonadiabatic transitions. In particular he has been exploring impulsive Raman transitions between fine-structure doublets. He has also measured population transfer in Raman systems using chirped pulses, and using learning algorithms to experimentally find the optimal pulse shapes for strongly driving the same transitions. His current research involves developing and using an apparatus to explore microwave multiphoton transitions using microwave fields in an ultracold gas of potassium Rydberg states. Additionally, he plans to explore how energy transfer between atoms and molecules can be assisted by the presence of light and in the presence of complex many-body interactions.

His research has been funded by the Research Corporation, the Petroleum Research Fund, and currently by the National Science Foundation. He has been a visiting scientist at the Institute for Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, at the Center for Atomic, Molecular and Optical Science at the University of Virginia, the FOCUS Physics Frontier Center at the University of Michigan, and the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland.

Charlie has served as a reviewer and panelist for the National Science Foundation and he has reviewed papers for The Physical Review: Physical Review A, The Physical Review: Physical Review B, The Physical Review: Physical Review Letters, and The American Journal of Physics. From 2006-2008 Charlie was the program director for Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics at the National Science Foundation. Charlie is a member of the American Physical Society, and a member of the Education Committe in the APS's Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics. Charlie also serves on the Apker Award Committee of the APS. Currently Charlie serves on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Atomic, Molecular and Optical Science.

Courses Taught:

  • PH 115 The Shadow of the Bomb

  • PH 116 Chaos and Complexity

  • PH 141 Foundations of Mechanics

  • PH 145 Foundations of Electromagnetism and Optics

  • PH 197j Environmental Physics

  • PH 199 Space, Time, Quanta and the Bomb: 1919-1945 (integrated semester class)

  • PH 241 Modern Physics I

  • PH 254 Essential Electronics

  • PH 311 Classical Mechanics

  • PH 431 Quantum Mechanics

  • PH 432 Advanced Quantum Mechanics

  • PH 493 Senior Seminar