Physics Spotlight

November 2022
Physics Spotlight

Utkarsh Agrawal

Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Amherst

Recent Ph.D. graduate Utkarsh Agrawal was nominated by the Physics Department due to his significant contributions to not only the UMass Amherst campus, but also within the Condensed Matter Theory and Quantum Information and Computation fields. His research focuses on understanding the dynamics of quantum systems, currently focussing on the dynamics of quantum information and it’s robustness to environment. Other interests are in how symmetries and different phases of matter can affect these dynamics of information. Recently, Utkarsh defended his thesis and plans to continue pursuing his research interests as a postdoctoral fellow at KITP, Santa Barbara. The department is very excited to see another physicist graduate embark on their next adventure and wishes Utkarsh luck as he continues his future endeavors and research discoveries. Congratulations!

Where did you do your undergrad? What is your degree in?

I got my undergrad from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB) in Engineering Physics.

Who was your faculty advisor and why did you pick them?

I worked with Professor Romain Vasseur and started working with him during my 2nd semester, mostly to explore and get an idea of what he had been researching. I ended up continuing to work with him and naturally, he became my dissertation advisor.

What has been your favorite Graduate level course?

I took some courses in the Math department which were fun but really liked the course on Advanced Statistical Mechanics by Professor Vasseur the most.

Is there a course, seminar or program that you would like to see here on the UMass Amherst campus?

I would like to see a course on quantum information and computation in the department.

What advice would you give to undergraduates considering Graduate programs?

A Ph.D. can be a great opportunity to explore and seek new things, not necessarily just related to academics. It's a great opportunity for investigative freedom.

What are some of your research interests?

I work on understanding properties of many-body quantum systems. I have worked on a spectrum of problems, but recently I have been focusing on the dynamics of such systems. I have also developed interest in quantum information and computation in the process.

Has any of your research resulted in a published article?

Yes, I have published 8 papers with my advisors and collaborators. You can find them here.

Recently, you defended and are now a Ph.D. recipient. What are your future plans?

I am joining KITP, Santa Barbara as a Postdoc fellow. It is a 3 year contract. I will see how I feel during my time there and decide what my next move will be.

What are you looking forward to the most about the position?

I am looking forward to expanding my area of expertise and working on different topics and, if opportunity arises, in different subjects. Also, KITP is a good place to meet new people from diverse backgrounds in physics which is something I am looking forward to.

Is there a trend that you would like to see surface in your field of study?

Not in the field of study but I would like for graduate students to be able to take mini courses on their own, i.e designing, lecturing, etc. 

Last, but not least, do you have any other interests or hobbies that you enjoy that are either physics or non-physics related?

I like to read books, especially related to philosophy and religion. I am not an avid reader but I am on the lookout for good books to read. I like to listen and explore music, mostly Indian classical music. Occasionally, I like to play badminton and squash. A significant part of my free time is also devoted to meditation and the volunteer services I render in this regard. I also have interests in gardening and sky-gazing, but I was not able to pursue those as much.