Known as Kiko, for over 20 years he's been teaching the fundamentals of physics to students at Colgate University. More importantly, for over 20 years he's been teaching the fundamentals of why physics is fun and should be enthusiastically pursued as a career. He uses lasers as the conduit. His name is Enrique Galvez, and he's a laser, and education, pioneer.
Galvez loves teaching, and has spent his entire career forging pathways for his pupils to pursue original research using various optical devices. "I like to mentor students to get them curious about physics, about nature," he describes. "I just want to help students become scientists." He's a modest man, but Galvez has much to be proud of: over the years, he has had 35 students co-author papers (including one high school student), seven present at conferences as first-authors, and 71 serve as co-authors on conference papers. His commitment to his students' educational experiences is not confined to journals like Physical Review A, however; APS honored him with the 2010 Prize for a Faculty Member for Research in an Undergraduate Institution, "for his contributions to quantum optics, his enthusiastic inclusion of undergraduates in a significant way in his research, and his contributions to the wider physics community."
Galvez studied physics at the Pontifical Catholic University in his native Peru, and received his PhD in physics at the University of Notre Dame in 1986. His post-doc was spent at Stony Brook University, and he joined Colgate's Physics and Astronomy Department in 1988. While his early research endeavors focused on "experimental atomic physics of ion and atomic beams, measuring the Lamb shift in two-electron ions and studying highly excited Rydberg atoms, more recently he has been studying classical and quantum properties of light, which includes geometric phases, helical modes of light, optical vortices and quantum interference with correlated photons," as articulated in his APS award commendation.
Galvez's foray into focused light began when he "started using lasers to excite atoms," he recalls. "I always liked optics. At some point I changed my research so I would study light, and lasers are an excellent source of light for various purposes." Pretty soon, he began introducing lasers to students in classes, and advising them on appealing research projects. "Lasers have very interesting properties-it's a beam of light that's concentrated and you can see the beam. Experiments that have the most impact with students have physical lasers-then students can set up an optical arrangement." His students have built optical tweezers which they have used to trap particles in a laser beam, analyzed lasers that demonstrate properties of angular momentum, and designed interferometers. Galvez funds his protégés' enterprises through various research grants.
Given the passion and creativity he has demonstrated in his educational methods, it is not surprising that Galvez singles out the achievements of one of his students as the most meaningful moment in his own career. As part of a year-long independent study, he and his pupil, Bryce Gadway, sought to show how a property of single photons violates the Bell Inequalities, which is "a test to see whether nature follows the rules of Quantum Mechanics," says Galvez. Using a blue-wavelength laser and an optical table, the duo measured non-classical properties of photons, which previously had not been demonstrated. They showed an entangled state of momentum and polarization in a single photon, whereas prior to their experiment, only a pair of photons was shown to have this type of entanglement. They published their findings in the Journal of Physics B in 2009. Gadway's "result and performance was so singular," says Galvez, that the department recommended him for an honor which he subsequently won, the APS LeRoy Apker Award for outstanding undergraduate research. Their work could advance the implementation of quantum computers.