Daughter of physics teacher creates fifth state of matter. Meet physicist Amruta Gadge

Dr Amruta Gadge

From the middle of her living room, she made a breakthrough, that proved an Einstein-Bose prediction. India-born physicist Dr Amruta Gadge of Sussex University created the fifth state of matter working from home using quantum technology. She successfully created a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) at the University of Sussex facilities despite working remotely from her living room two miles away. This could mean experiments can be run in inaccessible places such as space or underground. The five states of matter are Solids, Liquids, Gases, Plasma and BEC.

In 1924, Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose predicted BEC, which is referred to as the fifth state of matter. In a BEC, matter stops behaving as independent particles, and collapses into a single quantum state that can be described with a single, uniform wave-function.

Daughter of a physics teacher, Amruta Gadge says her mom inspired her to push boundaries. Here’s an exclusive interview with a woman who promises to inspire so many young girls wanting to take up STEM.

1. How does it feel to make true an Einstein- Bose prediction?

I felt really wonderful and the whole team were so excited to have a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) in our experiment. It is important to understand that I am by no means the first person to create a Bose-Einstein-Condensate. The prediction of this fifth state of matter was made by Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein in 1925. It was first achieved in 1995 (over 20 years ago) first time in a laboratory. However we believe that we might be the first to do it remotely in a lab that didn’t have one before.

2. What was the process like for you, how did the at-home breakthrough happen?

The process has been a lot slower than if I had been in the lab, as the experiment is very sensitive. We had set up the experiment in the lab before the lockdown and saw the first signal from our 2D magneto-optical trap the day before! Without this, it wouldn’t have been possible. However, the degree of automation and monitoring we have achieved in our labs enabled me to continue working on the experiment in the lockdown. I spent many hours optimising and running the cooling sequence before the BEC happened. It was a laborious effort but one that was completely worth it. I just wish I wasn’t locked down at home so I had someone to enjoy it with. Of course, the team met over zoom to celebrate!

3. Who would you say have been your biggest support in your journey as a scientist?

I would say that my mother has been my biggest support. She is a physics teacher herself and she has constantly encouraged me to excel throughout my academic life. My grandfather has also played a big role in guiding me to think positively, especially when things got hard. My husband being a scientist himself, understands the hardships of academia and is a true better half. I am very fortunate to have an extremely supportive extended family. My entire family and friends have been super excited about this news and rallied around me.

Dr Amruta Gadge with her mom

Dr Amruta Gadge with her mom. Image Credit: Dr Gadge

Also Read: India’s female physicists who inspire every girl to take up science

4. What’s your message to young women in science?

Keep asking questions and never let your thirst for discovery be curbed. Always believe in yourself. You have the same right as anyone else to be there in the arena you choose.

5. How would you say this breakthrough will change our understanding of science as we know it?

I don’t think at this stage this achievement is meant to change our understanding of science fundamentally, but having the technology and knowing that we have the capability of doing this remotely is significant. This could mean we can run experiments in inaccessible places such as space or underground. We are hoping to start slowly back in the labs over the next week, but it also means that if we are locked down again in the future, I can keep working on my experiments remotely. For that I am very grateful.