Breaking the Peierls-Nabarro Energy Barrier

The first research project I worked on was in the Applied Mathematics department at CU Boulder. I worked as a research assistant with Professor Mark Ablowitz and Justin Cole when he was still a postdoctoral researcher at CU Boulder. The paper, which was submitted to Physical Review E and is currently under review, investigates how topological invariance interacts with the Peierls-Nabarro energy barrier, two forces that seem to be at odds in a topological insulator system. For the research, I modified and ran simulation code in MATLAB written by Justin Cole, managed and analyzed the data, and assisted in the writing of the paper.

Professor Mark Ablowitz’s websiteProfessor Justin Cole’s Website

3D Interactive Visualization

During my second research position, the Tilted Tropical Cyclones project, I had the chance to explore the field of creative data visualization. For school projects I had gotten significantly comfortable with using game engines. So recently I decided to revisit the data from this project to be used in my first adventure into combining science and games.

Just like the Tilted Tropical Cyclones visualization, I wanted the visualization to represent the actual physical experiment that we were numerically simulating, so I named this sub-project the Honey Visualizer after the honeycomb lattice structure of the experiment. In physical experiments of the type of topological insulators we’re simulating, waveguides are etched into a block of acrylic in a honeycomb pattern. These waveguides act like fiber optic cables when light is shone into them. A highly localized wave of light -- meaning very bright in one waveguide, and much much less bright in the surrounding waveguides -- is shone into one end of the acrylic block. As the wave of light travels down the block of acrylic, the center of the wave jumps up one waveguide, and then another waveguide, and it keeps moving from waveguide to waveguide in one direction only; it never stops or changes direction.

I tried my hardest to recreate the visual look of doing that experiment in real life via the Godot game engine. I used the data we got from the simulations, and the first prototype turned out really good. I hope to have the time in the future to add more robust data-set selection and other features to the visualizer to take it beyond the prototype stage!