University of Rochester

Quantum Physicist Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society

January 18, 2005

Nicholas P. Bigelow, Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Physics and professor of optics, has been elected fellow of the American Physical Society, the world’s largest and most prestigious association of physicists. Less than one-half of one percent of the society’s 40,000 members become fellows each year.

“Nick’s work is of a caliber we have all come to respect,” says Arie Bodek, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “It’s very fitting for him to gain this honor in recognition of his pioneering studies.”

Bigelow was elected for his research on ultra-cold atomic vapors in which individual atoms interact with others in unusual ways, the control of atomic motion using the pressure of light, and for his pioneering studies into the creation and manipulation of ultra-cold mixtures. By cooling gasses to more than 450 degrees below zero, Bigelow can tease out hidden properties of matter by watching how atoms interact. His current projects include the creation of a Bose-Einstein condensate comprised of two different types of atoms. The condensate is a state of matter achieved when a cloud of gas is cooled to near absolute zero, and the atoms of the gas take on the peculiar characteristic of behaving as if they were a single, giant atom. So far, this bizarre state has only been achieved with atoms of a single kind of gas, but Bigelow is attempting to learn if two different kinds of gas can still create the single-atom state of a Bose-Einstein condensate. The results shed light on how atoms behave at some of the most basic levels.

Bigelow received his doctorate in physics from Cornell University in 1989 before joining the technical staff of AT&T Bell Laboratories where he remained until 1991. Early in 1991, he moved to the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, France, where he worked in the Laboratoire Kastler-Brossel. He joined the University in 1992 where he presently holds the position of Lee A. DuBridge professor of physics and of optics. That same year, he was also appointed as a scientist at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

Bigelow has been the recipient of a Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship, and a Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. He is the chair of the Fundamental Physics Discipline Working Group in the NASA Microgravity Physics Program, and has served as an invited researcher in the laser cooling groups at the Laboratoire Kastler-Brossel in Paris, the Institude d’Optique in Orsay, France, and at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Bigelow is a member of the Rochester Quantum Information Center and the University of Rochester’s Materials Science Program and is a cohort of the Rochester Theory Center for Optical Science and Engineering.

The APS Fellowship Program was created to recognize members who have made advances in knowledge through original research and publication, or made significant and innovative contributions in the application of physics to science and technology, and significant contributions to the teaching of physics or service and participation in the activities of the society.