Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics & Astronomy

Document Type



It can be said that all of humanity's efforts can be understood as a problem of optimization. We each have a natural sense of what is ``good'' or ``bad'' and thus our actions tend towards maximizing -- or optimizing -- some notion of good and minimizing those things we perceive as bad or undesirable.

Within the sciences, the greatest form of good is knowledge. It is this pursuit of knowledge that leads to not only life-saving innovations and technology, but also to furthering our understanding of our natural world and driving our philosophical pursuits.

The principle method of obtaining knowledge in the sciences is by performing measurements; the simple act of comparing one attribute of a system to a known standard and recording the observed value is how all scientific progress is made. The act of performing measurements is in fact so important that there is an entire field of study surrounding it: metrology.

One critical component of metrology is the development of new techniques to perform measurements, or alternative measurement schemes that are more optimal in some way. This is where there is room to exploit quantum physics to improve our techniques \--- we can perform quantum metrology. In quantum mechanics we routinely deal with the smallest, weakest, most delicate of systems. Quantum properties are inherently very sensitive to their environment; this of course makes them highly intolerant of noise but also makes them great resources to perform sensitive measurements. Quantum metrology concerns itself with utilizing quantum phenomena to extract more information from the natural world than is possible by conventional, or classical, means.

To perform optimal measurements, these quantum systems must of course be optimal by some metric. Performing the ``optimal'' measurement requires several ingredients. First, we need the optimal tools or instrumentation. In quantum mechanical language, this means we need the optimal probe state. Then, we need to optimize the interaction of our instrumentation with the system we which to interrogate so that we can extract the desired information. This translates to needing the best possible interaction between the probe state and the system in question -- in other words, we need to optimize the evolution of the probe. Finally, we must take care to extract the most information as possible at the output; we must not neglect any information present in the evolved probe state.

The entire quantum metrology process can be summarized as thus: probe state preparation, probe state evolution, and evolved state detection. These elements make up the basis of this thesis. Within, I will discuss several works in which I optimize the performance of systems that implement these metrology elements. Specifically, I will first discuss one such system in which I optimize the probe interrogation of the phase, i.e. perform phase-estimation, in a Boson-sampling device. Then, I will show some strategies to progressively build up highly-useful Fock states starting from single photons as a resource. Lastly, I show how to utilize quantum properties of quantum light (specifically, squeezed light) to accurately calibrate a single-photon detector without need for a reference detector.



Committee Chair

Dowling, Jonathan