A program of the APS’s Committee on the Status of Women in Physics (CSWP), the Woman Physicist of the Month highlights exceptional female physicists who have positively impacted other individuals’ lives and careers.
Woman Physicist of the Month
Dr. Laura Sinclair is a physicist in the Applied Physics Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). She is recognized for pioneering new robust optical tools based on fiber frequency combs that operate outside well-controlled laboratory environments. Dr. Sinclair’s internationally acclaimed comb research has been applied to time transfer across large distances and precision measurements of airborne contaminants in turbulent environments, dramatically increasing observation periods from hours to weeks. Recently, she was the technical lead of a team that was able to synchronize clocks over kilometers of turbulent air to within femtoseconds. Her comb design serves as the backbone of NIST fiber frequency comb systems. Dr. Sinclair’s invited article is the definitive 'how-to' guide for construction of a compact fiber frequency comb from commercially available off-the-shelf parts. This guide enables universities and small companies to build precision metrology tools at roughly one fifth of the price of larger, less robust commercial systems. Her research encompasses sophisticated theoretical approaches as well. She was the first to apply turbulence theory to explain coherent comb propagation through the atmosphere, leading to a new understanding of the fundamental limits to free-space femtosecond-level time-frequency transfer. Leading publications including Nature, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Physical Society’s Viewpoint have recognized the importance of her work through editorial commentaries.
Dr. Sinclair received a B.S. from the California Institute of Technology in 2004. A California native, she ventured into snowier parts of the country for her Ph.D., graduating from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2011. She was a post-doc at NIST Boulder, including as a National Research Council (NRC) post-doctoral fellow, before joining the staff. When not wrangling optics equipment, Dr. Sinclair organizes a monthly "Awesome Women in Science" coffee hour to connect technical women across the NIST Boulder campus. Since 2008, she has served with the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group. Dr. Sinclair worked tirelessly assisting victims of the 2013 Colorado Front Range Flood where over 1,600 people were evacuated and 262 homes were destroyed in Boulder County alone.