Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology RLE at MIT
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Issue Topics

2003 May Issue 3

RLE Pursues the Optical Clock
Erich P. Ippen at the New Limits of Precision

Multidisciplinary Initiative
the DoD MURI program and RLE

Rising Stars
Oxenham and Sugiyama

Students at the Forefront
The Helen Carr Peake Research Prize

Computational Prototyping
an interview with Jacob K. White

Introducing a New Professor
Luca Daniel joins RLE

Download PDF of Issue 3


Life With The Nobel Prize—
catching up with Wolfgang Ketterle
2002 December Issue 1

Wolfgang Ketterle

Wolfgang Ketterle
2001 Nobel Laureate, Physics

RLE: What is your earliest memory of science?
Ketterle: I recall growing seeds in high school biology, and early experiments with motors and electrical circuits.

Whenever I attend an interdisciplinary conference, I get very excited about many other fields—especially the remarkable developments today in different branches of biology and brain sciences. —KetterleRLE: It has been one year since you won the Nobel Prize in Physics. What is the most significant difference that the Prize has made in the way that you conduct your scientific research?
Ketterle: My way of doing research has not fundamentally changed, except that I now have less time to do it. I often try to learn things directly from my collaborators these days rather than read papers myself.

RLE: What are the primary scientific investigations of your research group at the current time?
Ketterle: All my four labs in RLE are studying aspects of ultracold gases. One is exploring ultracold fermions, one is pursuing condensed matter physics and many-body physics with Bose-Einstein condensates, and the remaining two labs transport condensates with optical tweezers and load them close to surfaces and on atom chips.

RLE: The achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) by your colleagues and you in 1995 unlocked a wide variety of new opportunities in physics to investigate phenomena beyond previous experimental reach. What do you see as the most important conceptual problem in physics today for which similar experimental breakthrough would yield equal or greater opportunities?
Ketterle: Areas like cosmology and particle physics eagerly wait for new experimental results to constrain models. However, in our case, nobody expected that BECs would be connected to such rich physics - so it was like a solution looking for a problem. Fortunately, as it turned out, there were many problems.


Additional Links
Wolgang Ketterle, John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics, is a principal investigator in the RLE Atomic Physics Group and RLE's affiliated MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms (CUA). He joined RLE in 1990 as a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of David E. Pritchard, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics. He became a member of the MIT faculty in 1993. In addition to being one of the first scientists to realize Bose-Einstein condensation in 1995, he invented the atom laser in 1997. Ketterle shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2001 with Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman, both of whom were past members of RLE's Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics Group. Today, Ketterle's research group continues to pioneer important new areas of physics in close collaboration with his RLE and CUA colleagues.
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