Chad Hoyt Professor Chad Hoyt

Laser Light and Lab Coats

Physics Professor Chad Hoyt reflects on notable student research, fiber lasers, and what keeps him at Bethel.


Research interests:

AMO—Atomic, molecular, and optical physics. That’s what I’m interested in.

It’s basically the interaction of laser light and atoms and molecules.

Breaking new ground in undergrad physics research:

This summer we got some really fun results. We cooled and trapped lithium atoms using laser light.

It’s a significant accomplishment. We’re certainly among the very few undergraduate institutions that have cold lithium atoms. We could be the only one.

Our students started building this laser for lithium in 2009, so it’s been a few summers now that we’ve been after it. Technically it’s called a magneto-optical trap or MOT. About 12 students have been involved and each person has contributed something significant.

Falling in love with optics:

I had a pretty crazy high school physics teacher. He wore a white lab coat every day, which is unusual for a physicist.

He did a demonstration with optics, shining a laser through a diffraction grating. On the wall were spots of light; it was a little bit like looking at the bottom of a CD.

He turned out all the lights, and I thought that was pretty amazing.

What I’ve learned from students:

I’ve learned what songs Katy Perry sings.

I’ve learned that everybody’s different. Everybody has their own story and their own potential.

I’ve learned that the Bethel physics department has some really smart people—really talented, thoughtful, smart students.

Any success we’ve had in that lab is through the student research that’s going on in there. And I’m just happy I get to be a part of it.

Weaving faith into lab work:

I’m grateful to God for lots of things, and so I approach my work in the lab from that perspective.

I’m grateful for the students, the cool physics we get to see, the interesting experiments we get to build. I’m grateful for the support from colleagues and the institution—and I’m thankful for the funding from outside donors.

So that’s a big part of my spirituality. I hope the students pick up on that.

How I spent last summer:

We bought a canoe from Jay and Barb Barnes. So it’s got a very royal lineage, this tank of a canoe. We went out on that quite a bit.

What I’m reading right now:

I’ve liked Sherlock Holmes recently.

There’s another book that I’m reading called The Emperor of all Maladies, it’s about cancer. And I just started one, called I Am a Strange Loop, about the mysteries of consciousness.

I also read Time magazine as sort of my tabloid. I read it for entertainment.

Taking the Bethel physics lab to the next level:

One thing I want to bring to the lab is fiber lasers. They’ve come on the scene relatively recently and they’re cheap, versatile, and they show up in lots of areas in physics and engineering.

Chad Hoyt

Professor Chad Hoyt works with summer research students in the physics lab.

Chad Hoyt

Summer research students overlooking the mess of lasers, mirrors, and beam splitters that enable the cooling of lithium. Bethel is among few undergraduate intuitions to have cold lithium atoms.

Chad Hoyt

Physics students Dan Klemme, Sara Venditto, and Jack Houlton—part of the student team who led to the successful cooling and trapping of lithium atoms.