University of Rochester

Scientist Elected Fellow of Physics Society

March 7, 2001

Ian Walmsley, professor and director of the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, has been named a fellow of the American Physical Society, an honor that goes to less than one-half of 1 percent of the membership of the organization.

Walmsley heads the Center for Quantum Information at the University, which is internationally regarded for developing new ways to store, manipulate and transfer information using atoms, photons, molecules and superconducting quantum interference devices.

Most recently, Walmsley discovered that a single photon, or particle of light, is capable of holding more information than has been thought possible. By "entangling" a pair of photons, meaning that they share traits that are dependent on one another, Walmsley determined a way to place more information into the pair than anyone before. The entanglement procedure could also be used to send encrypted information in a way that would be impossible to crack.

He also has developed a new way to take sensitive measurements of the fastest lasers in the world. A device called a Spectral Phase Interferometry for Direct Electric-field Reconstruction (SPIDER) reveals both the intensity and shape of a laser blast almost instantly, allowing scientists to tune their lasers "on-the-fly" rather than using the laborious method of constant firing and recalibrating. The ultrafast lasers are potentially useful as surgical tools, for precise machining of metals and other materials, as well as for studying some aspects of energy generation using fusion. A perfectly tuned laser may also be able to alter chemical reactions, creating new drugs and therapies.

Walmsley earned his doctorate from the University in 1986, and has been a member of the faculty since 1988. Among his many honors, Walmsley received a 1999 Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Teaching from the University.

He joins three others at Rochester-physicists John H. Thomas, Stephen Teitel and Stephen Craxton-who also were recently elected to fellowship positions in the society.