Completing this doctoral work has been a wonderful and often overwhelming experience. It is hard to know whether it has been grappling with the physics itself which has been the real learning experience, or grappling with how to write a paper, give a coherent talk, work in a group, teach section, code intelligibly, recover a crashed hard drive, stay up until the birds start singing, and... stay, um... focussed.
I have been very privileged to have undoubtedly the most intuitive, smart and supportive advisor anyone could ask for, namely Rick Heller. Ever since I learned from him what an avoided crossing was (animated in full colour, naturally), I have been stimulated and excited by his constant flow of good ideas. Rick has an ability to cut through reams of algebra with a single visual explanation that I will always admire, and I have learned a great deal of physics from him. He has fostered certainly the most open, friendly, collaborative and least competitive research group in the theory wing of this Department. He has also known when (and how) to give me a little push in the forward direction when I needed it.
Throughout my six years, I was supported for many semesters by the National Science Foundation, and the Institute for Theoretical Atomic and Molecular Physics (ITAMP), through the generosity of my advisor. During my first year I thank the Kennedy Memorial Trust in London for providing my funding.
Rick's other students and post-docs, both past and present, comprise a superb research group. The ability to bounce ideas off so many excellent minds has been priceless. My most intense collaboration has been with Doron Cohen, whose clarity, persistence, ability to create new models, and ability to write a new publication every month, has taught me a lot. (I am still working on the publication per month aspect.) Michael Haggerty has similiarly influenced me, and I think I can safely say that everyone in the group has benefitted from his generosity and collaboration. In my first couple of years in the Heller group, Adam Lupu-Sax and I swapped many thoughts on numerical methods, while Lev Kaplan prevented me from getting too scarred by the new realm of quantum chaos. Jesse Hersch shared many good times and wacky science experiments with me, and introduced me to a world of electrostatically-levitated chalk particles. Areez Mody has been a companion and goldmine of mathematical knowledge since the year we arrived together. Scot Shaw has been my numerical methods partner-in-crime. Bill Bies was my buddy through thesis formatting hell. It has also been my pleasure to work with (and hang out with) Jirí Vanícek, Axel André, Miriam Blaauboer, Ragnar Fleischmann, Greg Fiete, Allison Kalben, Natasha Lepore, Michael Efroimsky (and his stories), Manny Tannenbaum (and his accents), Sheng Li and Stephan Filipov; also from the earlier days Maurizio Carioli, Allan Tameshtit, Jonathan Edwards, Kazuo Hirai (and his valves), Bill Hoston, Neepa Maitra, Martin Naraschewski and Steve Tomsovic (and his jazz).
Our group's secretary Carol Davis is surely the kindest, coolest and most witty person one could possibly hope to spend a lunch-break gossiping with. She has also helped me out many a time during those pre-presentation panics. I must also thank Mary Lampros for her unique blend of caring and total organisation. She will be sorely missed in this Department.
On the foreign front, I must thank Eduardo Vergini for fascinating email exchanges, and guiding me towards an understanding of the incredible numerical method he invented along with Marcos Saraceno. From the group of Mara Prentiss, Steve Smith and Maxim Ol'shanii were always there to fill me in on the practice and theory of atom optics.
There are countless others who have been there for me throughout my time as a graduate student. From the world of physics, Meredith Betterton, Joseph Thywissen and Rosalba Perna stand out as both good, caring friends and providers of fascinating physics conversations. From other worlds, Erika Evasdottir and my housemates Vitaly Napadow and John Iversen have been wonderful influences and friends; they have lead me from deconstruction to drumming.
My fascination with the physical world is undoubtedly due to the influence of my father, Ross. He showed me the joys of high-dispersion prisms in sunlight at an early age, and let me spend most of my childhood building Tesla coils and playing with BASIC on our 6502 home computer. Even now, he proofreads my papers. My late mother Pat taught me a love of language, of art, of teaching, and of signs, and it is sad to realise that she cannot be present for this moment in my life. The same realisation holds true for my grandfather Oliver, who is highly responsible for my tinkering nature. My courageous sister Jess has kept me sane during my hardest times via the transatlantic phone system.
Finally, Liz Canner has been my guiding light and love over these last two years. She has seen my best and my worst, and provided support, hugs, and taken me places I never imagined. Even when my emotional and research brains became so hopelessly entwined that I dreamt that the two of us were overlapping eigenfunctions, she still loved me. And she even thought it was cute.