University of Rochester

Awards Bring Physicist $1 Million

October 3, 1994

A University of Rochester physicist has received two prestigious national awards.

Nicholas Bigelow, assistant professor of physics and staff scientist at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, is one of twenty scientists and engineers around the country to win a five- year, $500,000 award from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The grants are made to support the research and encourage the careers of young university investigators.

Bigelow was also recently named a national young investigator (NYI) by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NYI award, intended to enhance the research and teaching careers of outstanding young faculty members, will provide Bigelow with $100,000 per year for five years through a combination of federal and private funds.

Bigelow uses laser light to cool and trap atoms. In one experiment he focuses laser beams on a tiny collection of atoms and cools them down to within three millionths of a degree of "absolute zero," -460 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature atoms are brought to a virtual standstill.

Bigelow and other physicists hope to open up a new world of "atom optics," where they can use atoms -- like they now use photons -- to build new types of imaging devices, such as microscopes, or new kinds of transistors, or even atom lasers.

Bigelow holds bachelor's degrees in physics and in electrical engineering from Lehigh University, and his master's and Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University. He worked at AT&T for two years before joining the University in 1991. Last year he received an Alfred P. Sloan fellowship. tr