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Professional returns to college to pursue love for science

June 10, 2014


Cal State L.A. student to graduate, head to MIT doctorate program in physics this fall

Clare AbreuClare Abreu got her bachelor’s degree in English from another university and set out to join the workforce.  After a few years, however, she realized that a whole new world was opening up to her and decided to become a Cal State L.A. graduate student to pursue her love for science.

“As a news producer for a daily newspaper website,” she said, “I learned to build interactive features that let readers delve deeper into a news story. The online news setting offered a bridge between my English degree and technical problem-solving--an area that had always interested me but that I had never pursued. I decided to return to school full-time to develop my lifelong fascination with science."

At Cal State L.A., Clare took advantage of the opportunity to participate in the RISE M.S. to Ph.D. Program, which is part of the MORE Programs designed for talented and motivated Cal State L.A. students interested in developing professional careers as research scientists.

That opportunity led to her ground-breaking research on quantum entanglement.  She has applied the Quantum Monte-Carlo method of calculating entanglement, developed previously in other areas of condensed matter physics, to important quantum states in the fractional quantum Hall effect. 

“The fractional quantum Hall effect is a new state of matter. It can't be described as a solid, liquid, or gas. It is a quantum state, in which a large number of electrons unite in a common dance. The steps of this dance are controlled by entanglement, a phenomenon where many particles share the same state, even if they are separated by large distances. This type of quantum state may be used one day in a quantum computer, because the global phase can store information and memory without being destroyed by local defects,” Clare explained.

She recently presented a talk on the results of her research at the American Physical Society’s meeting in Denver, where she received compliments from a number of established and well-regarded physicists.

“While at Cal State L.A., I have also been active in the physics club as the academic coordinator,” she shared. “I organized homework tutoring sessions, where graduate students and physics majors help beginning students. Additionally, I am working with other students on campus to form a bicycle club that will petition the university and the city for more bike lanes near campus.”

A Dean’s List student, she has been a recipient of the Roland L. Carpenter Memorial Scholarship, was twice recognized for “excellence in graduate studies,” and has received research and travel grants from Cal State L.A.’s Office of Graduate Studies.

This June, Clare will graduate with honors from the Physics M.S. program at Cal State L.A. She was admitted to 12 graduate schools with fellowships, and chose to start the Ph.D. program in physics at MIT this fall.  

According to Physics Professor Edward Rezayi, “She scored a very impressive 90th percentile in the advanced physics portion of the Graduate Record Examination, one of the highest recorded here in the past 30 years.”  

Links of interest:

Department of Physics at Cal State L.A.:

RISE M.S. to Ph.D. Program at Cal State L.A.:

MORE Programs at Cal State L.A.:

College of Natural and Social Sciences at Cal State L.A.:

Cal State L.A. Commencement: