This is the story of how a young girl’s interest in physics took her from Bogotá to the United States. Read on to discover more about the life, passion, and work of Colombian scientist Ana María Rey.
Ana María Rey: a life-long passion for physics
Ana María Rey stands out among Colombian females in science. She is an assistant professor at the physics department of the University of Colorado in Boulder. Additionally, she serves as a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, 2019).
Moreover, she is an honorary member and researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the leading research institute JILA (Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, 2019).
Prestigious institutions have recognized Rey’s contributions to physics. The American Physical Society deemed her doctoral thesis outstanding in the Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics. She also received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Furthermore, she recently became the first Hispanic woman to win at the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists (Garzón, 2019).
How it all started
So, how does a Colombian beauty end up researching quantum physics in the United States? Ana María Rey was born in 1977 in Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá. Her passion for physics began as a high school student. To her, the fact an equation could explain how things move in the world was fascinating (Miranda, 2019).
As a result, she went on to pursue a physics degree. During this time, she met professors who nurtured her interest in quantum properties. Her turning point toward cold atoms as a research field came when she attended a U.S. conference from physics Nobel Prize laureate William Daniel Philips. It would seem almost a matter of fate in time, as Philips would become one of her mentors later on (Miranda, 2019).
“At that moment, I knew that was what I wanted to do,” she says. While seeking her doctorate in the United States, she accepted academic invitations to stay in the country and dive into quantum investigations. “Since then, I have followed this path of utilizing cold atoms in different applications,” she adds (Miranda, 2019).
Such an impressive career inspires not only admiration but also curiosity. What exactly is Ana María researching?
The world of quantum physics
Today, women remain underrepresented in science. But scientists like Ana Maríaare changing the scene as real-life role models for young girls everywhere.
During her career, Rey has authored and published over 70 scientific articles (Garzón, 2019). Most of her work focuses on quantum mechanics –a branch of physics that zooms in matter’s atomic and subatomic levels (Miranda, 2019).
This field of research has given us modern communications, lasers, optic fiber, and other technological breakthroughs. Today, it could hold the key for the world’s next great leap into the future: the quantum computer (Hernández, 2019).
Nowadays, Rey is contributing to this goal by researching how to improve our control of the smallest levels of matter. Her work on cold atoms aims to help develop technologies with the power to create synthetic materials that surpass what we can find in nature today (Miranda, 2019).
Rey’s field of research is the intermediate stage toward the final target of the quantum computer. Experts say it could revolutionize telecommunications, transportation, medicine, and even the economy (Miranda, 2019). Undoubtedly, Ana María Rey shines among Colombia and Bogotá women as a beacon of success and empowerment. Her drive and dedication have taken her to the heights of her field and made her fellow Colombians proud.
Garzón, M. C. (2019). Ana María Rey Ayala. Banrepcultural. https://enciclopedia.banrepcultural.org/index.php/Ana_Mar%C3%ADa_Rey_Ayala
Hernández, I. (2019). “El futuro será cuántico o no será”: preguntas para entender qué es la física cuántica y cómo afecta nuestras vidas. BBC Mundo. https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-46833112
Miranda, B. (2019). Ana María Rey, la colombiana a cargo de una investigación en física cuántica en uno de los institutos más prestigiosos de Estados Unidos. BBC News Mundo. https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-48457940
Ministerio de Ciencia Tecnología e Innovación. (2019). Ana María Rey. https://www.minciencias.gov.co/sites/default/files/ana_maria_rey.pdf