Krister Shalm

Krister Shalm

A quantum physicist who loves to dance



My research uses light to study the quantum world. I am currently a Research Associate at the National Institute of Standards and Technologies where I am working on developing tools to test foundational issues in quantum mechanics. In my spare time I can be found dancing up a storm to the tunes of the twenties, thirties and forties.

I love to learn about the world around me, and am continually surprised about how nature works at the quantum level. Nothing is obvious or can be taken for granted. What inspires me is being able to experimentally test some of these quantum ideas in the lab. Quantum systems can be extremely fragile, and a great deal of technological sophistication is required in order to accurately control and manipulate them. We have finally reached the point where we have tools sensitive enough to study the world of single atoms and photons. The insights we gain from probing atoms and photons may be the key to future quantum technologies, and has already played a critical role in our understanding of foundational issues in physics.

As physicists, we are weaving a compelling narrative about how nature works. I feel it is important that we share this story with others. Communicating my research to the general public forces me to distill ideas to their essence–a process that is difficult, but provides me with a deeper understanding of my own work.

Some people want to change the world. I want to explain it.

At the intersection between art and science there is a great opportunity for unique collaborations. This intersection is something that I am exploring in order to find new ways of communicating science. To help make some of the mind-boggling concepts in quantum mechanics more approachable I have teamed up with a magician, musicians, and dancers. I am working on a number of exciting projects, so stay tuned.