Claflin News

Claflin University to Welcome 2001 Nobel Laureate Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle to Campus Sept. 26-27

Sep 13, 2013

Claflin will welcome its third Nobel Laureate, Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle, for a special presentation on Thursday, Sept. 26.

Ketterle was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001 along with Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman for their experimental realization of Bose-Einstein condensation, a unique state of matter in which certain types of atoms can exist in temperatures close to absolute zero.

While at Claflin, Ketterle will talk about his groundbreaking experiments during a seminar at 1 p.m. in the W.V. Middleton Fine Arts Center. The event is open to the public. Ketterle will also meet with students from local middle and high schools.

On Friday, Sept. 27, Ketterle will discuss with Claflin graduate and undergraduate students how they can prepare for leadership roles in the sciences. This career development-focused seminar will help students determine how to go about developing their majors, and aid them as they step into jobs or graduate schools upon graduation.

Ketterle was born in 1957 in Heidelberg, West Germany. He is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics, associate director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics and director of the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms.

Ketterle will be the third Nobel Laureate to speak at Claflin in the last three years and was invited by Dr. Nick Panasik of the University’s biology and chemistry departments.

In describing the Bose-Einstein condensate, Panasik said Ketterle and his team used lasers to “supercool” certain types of atoms to a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero.

“This allowed them to observe a fourth state of matter that had been only predicted by (theoretical physicist Albert) Einstein and (mathematical physicist Satyendra Nath)  Bose a half a century ago,” he said. “This fourth state of matter is as different from a solid as a liquid is from a gas – with all of the atoms sharing the same ‘quant state.’ It had never been observed before, and we are still trying to learn its properties.

“This is the most basic of sciences – understanding the universe we live in. Through understanding the basic foundations of reality, matter and energy, we have the potential of stepping into a whole new generation of technology not dreamed of before.”

Ketterle received a diploma (equivalent to a master's degree) from the Technical University of Munich in 1982 and a doctorate in physics from the University of Munich in 1986. After postdoctoral work at the Max-Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, the University of Heidelberg and MIT, he joined the physics faculty at MIT in 1993. Ketterle does experimental research in atomic physics and laser spectroscopy, and focuses currently on Bose-Einstein condensation in diluted atomic gases. He was among the first scientists to observe this phenomenon in 1995, and realized the first atom laser in 1997. His earlier research was in molecular spectroscopy and combustion diagnostics.

In addition to the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics, Ketterle’s awards include a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship (1996), the Rabi Prize of the American Physical Society (1997), the Gustav-Hertz Prize of the German Physical Society (1997), the Discover Magazine Award for Technological Innovation (1998), the Fritz London Prize in Low Temperature Physics (1999), the Dannie-Heineman Prize of the Academy of Sciences, Göttingen, Germany (1999) and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics (2000).

“Dr. Ketterle's work is groundbreaking,” Panasik said. “His leadership in the sciences is just the example we want to show our students in training the next generation of visionary scientists.

“This event highlights the opportunities we give our students to interact with the top most cutting edge of science, and is a testament to the connections Claflin has built over the years.”

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