Dr. Shulei Zhang teaches something that is not only difficult to describe but challenges our natural understanding of the physical nature of the universe: quantum mechanics. He relies on equations and abstractions to describe quantum behavior such as orbital motion and spin, but he imagined a tool that would allow his students to “see” them for themselves.
In the app developed during his fellowship along with collaborator Sonia Robinson (Hathaway Brown School), Quantum Realm for Immersive Education (QuRIE), there are multiple modules for building quantum understanding. Students first practice and predict symmetry operations (e.g., translation, mirror reflection, inversion, and rotation.) Then they can apply this understanding to an interactive Bloch sphere that illustrates the superposition of quantum states: when a student rotates the spin, the respective equation changes in real time. Students can then watch this play out through an MR simulation of the Stern-Gerlach experiment of 1922.