Sergio H. Cantu's

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About ME

"Hi, I'm Sergio. Thanks for stopping by."

I am a NSF Graduate Fellow and Physics PhD student in the Vuletic group at the MIT. My interests include experimental atomic physics and quantum optics as it pertains to quantum information processing. The focus of my PhD so far has focused on studying photon-photon interactions. In vacuum, the interaction between individual photons is completely negligible: laser or light beams simply pass through one another. However, we have recently created a new optical medium with an exquisitely strong nonlinearity, so strong in fact, that two photons bind together and form a bound state, a molecule consisting of two photons. We are working towards expanding this effect towards larger clusters of photons, and hope to be able to create matter analogues with light, e.g., a crystal consisting of photons.
While at MIT I have also developed a strong sense of community and education. I have volunteered in different educational initiatives, from science-communication to science education in latin america.
Outside of lab my interests include Cooking, Brewing Beer, Raspberry Pi, Machine Learning and all their possible combinations.

My Resume and Social Media

My Interests


I am studying my PhD in experimental atomic physics at The Masachussetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, MA. I graduated Magna Cum Laude at The University of Texas at Brownsville (now The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) where I obtained dual Bachelors of Science in physics and mathematics.


PhD in Experimental Quantum Physics

During my PhD in the Vuletic Group at the Center for Ultracold Atoms (CUA) I have been focused on studying photon-photon interactions. Realizing robust quantum phenomena in strongly interacting systems is one of the central challenges in modern physical science. Although photon−photon interactions are typically negligible in conventional optical media, hybridizing light with ensembles of strongly interacting particles has emerged as a promising route toward achieving few-photon nonlinearities. Our approach is to interface light with highly excited atomic Rydberg states by means of electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT), an approach which allows to induce strong long-range interactions between freely propagating photons in the form of polaritons. Recently, these interactions have enabled the observation of photon blockade and bound states of attractive photons, as well as the implementation of single-photon transistors with robust phase shifts.


Bridge Student in Physics

As a Bridge Student at MIT in the Vuletic Group, I spent most of my time learning atomic physics techniques to complement my strong background in optics. I succesfully implemented an optical lattice-assisted trapping and cooling technique known as Resolved Raman Sideband Cooling. RSC removes the vibrational quanta of motion of atoms by confining them into a tightly confined periodic potential so that their vibrational energy levels in combination with optical pumping lead to a population transfer to a low energy eigenstate. This technique has allowed us to reach the lowest temperature yet in the laboratory of 3 microKelvin.


Dual Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics

I received a dual Bachelor of Science at UTB in Physics and Mathematics, were I graduated Magna Cum Laude. As an undergraduate I worked extensively at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Hanford, WA. LIGO is a large-scale detector capable of direct observation of gravitational waves from various astrophysical sources. Besides that, I was fortunate to be involved in the following research projects:

  • Optical Resonator Fabrication and Design - Advisor : Malik Rakhmanov (UTB/LIGO)
  • Development of an electrochemistry-free ionic liquid ion source (ILIS) - Advisor : Paulo C. Lozano (MIT)
  • Interferometric displacement sensor - Advisor : Nergis Mavalvala (MIT)
  • Characterization and fabrication of triangular Fabry-Perot resonators - Advisor : Rick Savage (LIGO)
  • Pulsar Timing - Advisor : Fredrick Jenet (Arecibo Remote Center)


Observation of three-photon bound states in a quantum nonlinear medium

Science 359 (6377), 783-786

Symmetry-protected collisions between strongly interacting photons

Nature 542 (7640), 206

Clubes de Ciencia Mexico

Instructor 2016

MLK Luncheon Graduate Speaker


President MITMEX

Mexican Student Association at MIT

El Mundo Boston

2018 Latino 30 under 30


During my research I have learned, among other things:


Nth-Order Correlation Functions, Statistical Methods, Monte-Carlo Simulations.


Electromegnetism, Quantum Mechanics, Waves and Optics, Non-linear Physics

Data Analysis

Non-linear Fitting, Principle Component Analysis, Machine Learning

Laser Skills

Lasers and optics equipment, Feedback, Optimization and Control

Experimental Research Skills

Circuit Design, Machining, Lab Conditioning.

Simulations and Coding

Matlab, Mathematica, Python, Numerical Methods.

Public Speaking

Lectures, Teaching Assitanships, Public Engagement.


Bachata, Salsa, Cumbia.


Physics Tutor, 8.422

Taught course in contemporary Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics. I had a great experience designing the curriculum for both online and in situ students.


President MITMEX

I became the president of MITMEX in 2017. The mission of MITMEX is to create community among the Mexican and Mexican American MIT students and MIT affiliates. We also very actively connect with other students across the greater Boston Area.


Clubes de Ciencia Instructor

Taught a one-week hands on worhshop on laser communication, laser science and basic encryption techniques. The Science Club’s primary purpose is to help increase the representation of Latinos in the sciences. Their approach is to bring scientists and engineers from all over the world to Mexico for one week where they get to teach a workshop to undergraduate students. These workshops teach research/laboratory techniques that students wouldn’t be able to learn otherwise.

2014 and 2015


I was awarded an NSF Fellowship to pursue my PhD studies in the summer of 2016. As per the NSF website :"The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforces its diversity. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions."


Entered PhD Program @ MIT

Decided to join the Vuletic group for my graduate studies.


Science Communication

Joined the communicating science conference, COMSCICON as a volunteer. In this conference, there is a strong emphasis for scientists (primarily graduate students) to strenghten their communication skills for all different levels of audience.


MIT Space Propulsion- Summer Intern

Development of an electrochemistry-free ionic liquid ion source (ILIS) for applications in space propulsion devices. The project approach entailed the introduction of silica colloid-based materials, specifically silica aerogel and a silica foam ceramic into a bipolar ILIS and the characterization of the emissions of the modified structures for future optimization.


MIT LIGO - Summer Intern

Constructed a prototype interferometric displacement sensor using frequency and intensity stabilization techniques. Optical feedback design of the experiment as well as the control system of opto-mechanical components to achieve the desired stabilization results.


LIGO Hanford, WA - Summer Intern

Characterization and fabrication of triangular Fabry-Perot resonators. Design of optical mechanical components for optical setup. Characterization of 500 mW 1064nm Nd:YAG laser. Studied and Implemented the Pound-Drever-Hall technique for phase stabilization in a laser system.


UTB - CGWA Undergraduate Research Fellow

At the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy, I conditioned a classroom into a optics lab, setup a computer cluster for theoretical experiments. Simulated the resonance stability of triangular ring resonators using novel ray tracing and Gaussian propagation techniques. Studied and modeled photonic crystal structures and related phenomena (i.e. Negative Index of refraction, Perfect mirrors, and silicon ring resonators).