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Women in Quantum Series: Judith Olson, Head of Atomic Clock Division, Senior Physicist at ColdQuanta

ColdQuanta is one of the big names when it comes to quantum platform companies. “ColdQuanta started more than a decade ago,” explains Senior Physicist Judith Olson. “And it was pretty small. Back in the day, I was actually one of the first people to use a ColdQuanta product. I didn’t fully realize I was one of the original beta testers when I was an undergraduate until years later.” Besides being Senior Physicist, Olson is also the Head of the Atomic Clock Division at the Colorado headquarters. Her work has helped make significant advancements in developing commercial atomic clock technology.

Olson has had a passion for physics since her childhood, “I’ve been a total nerd since I was a kid,” says Olson. “I pestered my mom for books on relativity and photons in elementary school. I think I was doomed to wind up going this route from a very young age, which is lucky, because a lot of people don’t get exposed to those things.” Olson’s mother supported her through her years of learning, as she obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Boulder in Physics, specifically in Atomic Molecular Optics. It was during her time at university that she became more interested in quantum science. “Once I started learning about it, you couldn’t have kicked me out if you wanted to.”

While doing her post-doctoral research, Olson began considering a switch to industry, “I was a postdoc at NIST, and I wanted to have more opportunity for leadership roles.” Olson found an opportunity to switch in 2020, as ColdQuanta needed help with their atomic clock programs. “After being there for less than a year, they promoted me to take charge of a couple different clock programs.” Later, ColdQuanta began to solidify their research divisions, and Olson got the leadership opportunity she had been looking for. “As kind of the atomic clock junkie of the group, it was a pretty natural move to become the leader of the group.” As Head of the Atomic Clock Division, Olson oversees research and production of high-performance clock products that are used all over the world.

Olson found that the shift into the industry culture was beneficial in more ways than one.” The largest improvement from previous, more academic, environments to ColdQuanta was having a network of male colleagues who were supportive of me,” she said. “They were able to show that we’re part of a team. That’s not something I had before. Previously, it felt like there was a target of sorts on my back, and I had higher expectations set for me compared to my male peers. Moving into an industry with a positive work culture was a benefit to me.”  Director of Engagement Brittany Mazin shared a similar experience: “Everyone at ColdQuanta lifts each other up and work together across divisions, which I think is really unique and really fantastic.” Mazin contributes this to active and engaged leadership team that prioritize a healthy culture. Olson too felt comradery with other women working at ColdQuanta: “It’s been great to have a group of women who are all very encouraging and want to help each other. It’s way better than anything I dreamed of.”

ColdQuanta’s supportive and collaborative work culture pertains to all its employees, not just the women. “Our company culture has evolved to better support a work-life balance, and our employees are excited to work here, “Olson stated. “ColdQuanta prioritizes finding the interests of individual employees and then facilitating a way to make that work with the company through upward mobility opportunities.” With a more customized career, it’s no wonder employees like Olson and Mazin feel supported. “It’s been great to see so many different people from different walks of life show up and be successful,” added Olson.

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As ColdQuanta continues to expand in its quantum research, it is offering several job opportunities at its many locations. Not only does ColdQuanta offer a supportive company culture, but it is pushing the boundaries of new technology. “ColdQuanta is one of the few companies I’ve seen that is using the same core of technology to explore different application avenues,” Olson said. “Any time there’s a success in our clocks group, it also helps the RF sensing group, or the quantum computing group. It builds a synergy of all of us working toward our personal goals and common goals at the same time.”

Learn more about career opportunities in quantum technology and view ColdQuanta’s open roles.

If you found this article to be informative, you can explore more current quantum news here, exclusives, interviews, and podcasts.

Kenna Hughes-Castleberry

Science Communicator at JILA

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