Working as a Chief Investigator for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science is the perfect opportunity for theoretical physicist Jared Cole to combine his passion for computing with a strong desire to address the challenges facing the world in the 21st century.
Jared, who leads RMIT University’s Theoretical Chemical and Quantum Physics research group and also contributes to the ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET), uses his knowledge of modelling electron transport to enhance our understanding of how to control and manipulate excitons.
And unlike some of his peers elsewhere in the daunting field of theoretical physics, Jared’s research is closely linked to real-world applications.
A hands-on approach
“For a quantum physicist I have an unusual approach,” he said.
“I’m actually far more interested in quantum physics because it allows us to build technology we didn’t have before. It’s this inventor streak that actually drives me more than trying to understand the universe really.
“The other thing is I like playing with computers. My exact specialty is doing computational modelling of quantum systems, and that’s just an excuse for me to play with computers all day and do cool maths with quantum systems.
“A lot of my fellow students and the academics I work with now think very deeply about the philosophical ramifications of quantum mechanics and I kind of honestly don’t care. These are the rules of the game and I just like playing the game.
“So many of our modern technologies came from just asking deep questions. But when I actually choose the problems I want to work on, it’s all just pragmatism. We can do something there, we can invent something here, we can build something new. I’m just trying to do that.”
For Jared, working within Exciton Science and supporting research that aims to address pressing renewable energy issues is the perfect excuse to continue exploring one of his favourite interests.
Wrestling with the big questions
He said: “One of the classic 2am panic moments is ‘am I investing my time and resources in problems that matter for humanity?’
“What I like about Exciton Science is that here is a chance to understand these problems but also make new devices that really matter. I like being in the Centre because I’m around lots of people who have a much closer connection to this great challenge of the current age.
“People printing new types of photovoltaic materials and putting prototypes out there and seeing how they perform. They ask technical questions which I can answer and so it’s ... the connection to devices and machines and inventions that will improve humanity.
“That’s a nice justification for me playing with computers and solving cool problems.”
Conducting ground-breaking research isn’t Jared’s only professional contribution to enhancing our collective knowledge and understanding. He has also embraced a role as a science communicator, taking part in events such as Science in the Pub and Science Says, while drawing on his experience of addressing large groups of students and performing in bands to thrive when the pressure is on.
“I quite like lecturing, I like being on the stage. I’ve been playing music for 20 years or so, so I’m not afraid of an audience,” he said.
“I’m enjoying that more and more.
“Your job is clear. Get across some things people may not know, and get it across in an entertaining way.”
Whether it’s collaborating with expert researchers to solve fundamental questions, or stimulating curious minds with a yarn at the bar, Jared is ready to shed plenty more light on Exciton Science in the years ahead.