ESC, LCRD, optical communications, quantum communications, Profile 

From High School Physics Class to Quantum Research

By Katrina Lee

July 13, 2021

2021 SIP Intern Manon Bart Credit: NASA

Manon Bart was destined to be in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) industry. As a result of having two parents as geology professors, Bart grew up surrounded by scientific investigation and curiosity for the world around her. She has fond memories of her dad picking up rocks everywhere they went and telling her the classification and the properties that each one possessed. Bart was always inspired by her dad’s loyalty to scientific research and it was never in question that she wanted to dedicate her career to the same.

Her interest in physics began in high school. Although many people look back at physics class and have painful memories of Newton’s Laws of Motion, Bart was inspired by the complex concepts her physics teacher opened her eyes to. After high school, Bart attended Louisiana State University and majored in physics and chemical engineering. There, her college advisor encouraged her to sign up for a summer research program focusing on quantum research at New York University in Shanghai, China. “That experience made me fall in love with quantum,” said Bart, “and began my desire to learn everything I could about the field.”

This summer, Bart is expanding her quantum knowledge through an internship with NASA. As a Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Internship Project (SIP) intern, Bart is researching quantum information and utilizing machine learning to improve optical communications in space.

Currently, NASA’s spacecraft use radio frequency communications to send information to and from space. However, as missions collect more data, the use of optical communications will provide significant benefits for missions. Optical communications use infrared light, lasers, and packs data into significantly tighter waves compared to radio frequency, meaning ground stations can receive more data at once.

Using her research, Bart will be participating in the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) experiment program, which allows partners to test optical capabilities with the payload. LCRD is NASA’s first two-way optical communications relay, and Bart will be analyzing data after it is sent to LCRD during varying weather conditions, such as cloud coverage or turbulence, to better the communication schemes using machine learning. This will allow Bart and her mentors to understand the implications of weather on optical communications and to further refine laser communications technology. Her work will not only have an impact on space communications now but will ensure success of future missions at NASA, such as the Artemis II mission, which will use optical communications.

Currently, Bart is a student at Tulane University working toward her graduates’ degree. Her goal for this internship is to learn everything she can about satellite communications and quantum physics from her mentors and co-interns. In the future, Bart would love to continue to work at NASA and is committed to following any opportunity that allows her to apply her passion for quantum physics.

“There's new results and information coming out all the time,” said Bart. “Our generation is part of a quantum revolution and it is inspiring to be part of it.”