New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Valentin Walther
The Departments of Chemistry and Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University welcomed a new member to the faculty in the fall of 2023, Dr. Valentin Walther. Walther is an assistant professor of both Physical Chemistry and Physics and Astronomy. He uses his extensive knowledge of quantum physics to teach advanced Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Optics, graduate level courses, at Purdue University.
“My research focuses on the science of light, called quantum optics,” explains Walther. “A long-term dream is to manipulate individual particles of light or photons. To make this happen, we investigate how we can interface light in novel ways with atoms and semiconductors. We devise schemes for how we can create correlations between photons and how photons form quantum mechanical superposition states with atoms and semiconductor excitations, called polaritons. We also develop theoretical tools to describe the interaction of light and matter on the level of a few and many photons, and what we can learn about matter when we look at light that it emits.”
Walther is originally from central Germany. He completed his BS in Frankfurt, Germany before moving to Stony Brook University for a year on a Fulbright grant. He received his PhD in theoretical physics at the Max-Planck-Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden and also the University of Aarhus, Denmark. He then spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP) at Harvard University. He says that his new home at the Purdue University West Lafayette campus stands out as the first smaller-town or rural environment he has lived in.
“I'm excited about the vibrant research in quantum science at Purdue,” he says. “I really like the strong collaborative atmosphere among senior colleagues and the many starting research groups. The active participation of faculty and graduate students at the AMO seminars is a great example of this. My work is in AMO Theory, which is a traditional physics domain but it has more recently developed exciting overlap with Chemistry. I collaborate with chemistry colleagues on organic molecules that emit light, on semiconductors and giant Rydberg molecules.”
When he’s not teaching or conducting research, he enjoys the great outdoors. “I love being outdoors and I can be seen riding my bike to campus, almost every day. I've already explored some of the local places to hike but am currently expanding my horizon,” he says.
Walther welcomes students, graduate and undergraduate, to reach out to him by email and join his weekly group meetings. They can learn more about him at his research website.
Writer: Cheryl Pierce, Communications Specialist