Miriam Deutsch Highlights

Physicist Miriam Deutsch’s field is the optics of metals – investigating and manipulating the interaction of light with metallic systems. One area of her work involves shaping metals in ways that give them new physical properties, aiming to (among other things) enhance the performance of solar cells.
Another part of her work involves the creation of ultra-sensitive sensors utilizing thin films of metal. As Deutsch defines them, sensors are tools to “detect change in the environment” — such as thermometers. The sensors that Deutsch’s lab creates “can detect very, very thin layers of atoms or molecules […] by sending a light wave straight at the surface” of an object. She compares the light wave to a swimmer, and the object’s surface to a pool: if the pool has “floaters” – layers of molecules or atoms on its surface – the swimmer will move differently through the water. This difference in movement signals the presence of the molecules or atoms. Deutsch enjoys being able to “push the envelope” with her work on sensors, and aims to one day develop a sensor capable of detecting a single molecule.
Working at the intersection of the physics of metals and optics, Deutsch says that her field can feel unfamiliar to students entering her lab. She recommends that they not be “intimidated by the unknown,” and instead focus on how their knowledge from previous courses applies. She also emphasizes to students that they must pursue research questions that are important to many people in or beyond the scientific community. In addition to her research and teaching, Deutsch is passionate about “increasing the participation of women in the sciences in any way possible.”