Schleier-Smith's research career began an opportunity to do nanotechnology research at the MITRE Corporation while she was a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. She went on to attend Harvard University as an undergraduate, receiving a B.A. in Chemistry and Physics and (secondarily) Mathematics in 2005. Afterwards, Schleier-Smith pursued graduate studies with the supervision of Vladan Vuletić at MIT on a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Her Ph.D. thesis introduced a quantum-enhanced atomic clock and was recognized by the Hertz Foundation with a Doctoral Thesis Prize. During her time in Boston, Schleier-Smith also completed the Boston Marathon six times. Subsequently, Schleier-Smith conducted postdoctoral research at LMU Munich and Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics.
In the fall of 2013, Schleier-Smith joined the Stanford faculty as an Assistant Professor of Physics. The Schleier-Smith Lab exploits precise hybrid light-matter interactions to demonstrate engineered dynamics in cold atom systems. According to Schleier-Smith, "Hybrid systems are likely to harbor surprises that will fuel quantum science for decades to come". An important regime under investigation is the entanglement frontier.
She is a recipient of the 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. In 2020, Schleier was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of her work. In 2021, Schleier received the I.I Rabi Prize in Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics for her work in quantum optics.
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