Humans of TU Delft: Nandini Bhattacharya

Although she admits it’s nerdy, Dr Nandini Bhattacharya (TNW) loves working in the field of laser physics. Her work involves measuring long distances with incredible accuracy.

“I work with long distance measurement, so basically we use a very special kind of laser which is called a frequency comb. The colours of a laser are like the comb which is used to comb your hair. They are separated equally and they are always at the same place so it’s an extremely stable laser. We use it to measure long distances, like fifty to 100 meters. We can do this with the reproducibility of one micrometer. I know this is extremely nerdy, but I just love it because it’s laser physics.

One of the applications is with geo-monitoring. We’re working with geophysicists who are monitoring land masses. They look at things like if the distance of a glacier has changed by one millimeter because that means there is something happening. They need extremely stable measurements.

‘A big thing that inspires me is my colleagues’

It’s a very nice area and there are very few people working on it. For a long time, there were only five groups in the world working on the exact technique that we work on. Now there are lots of Chinese groups that have jumped in.

One time we shot a laser in our building and measured a fifty meter corridor to an accuracy smaller than the thickness of a hair. It was funny because you can’t shout from one end to the other so we were using cell phones to align the whole setup. The beam goes down one way and comes back using a mirror. It was great fun.

I really love my work. A big thing that inspires me is my colleagues. You get to work with young people and it’s great fun. I really love working in a team and when you get an awesome result on something it feels amazing. Each paper feels like a story, like a story where you inform your colleagues of your adventure.”

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Heather Montague / Freelance writer

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