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Otterbein Science Lecture Series Presents Nobel Prize Winner William D. Phillips

Otterbein Science Lecture Series Presents Nobel Prize Winner William D. Phillips


At the beginning of the 20th century, Einstein changed the way we think about time. One Nobel Prize winner is helping us more easily understand how.

Near the end of the 20th century, scientists learned how to cool a gas of atoms to temperatures billions of times lower than anything else in the universe. Now, in the 21st century, Einstein’s thinking and ultracold atoms are shaping one of the key scientific and technological wonders of contemporary life: atomic clocks, the best timekeepers ever made. Such super-accurate clocks are essential to industry, commerce, and science; they are the heart of the Global Positioning System (GPS), which guides cars, airplanes, and hikers to their destinations. 

The George W. and Mildred K. White Science Lecture Series at Otterbein University will present a free public lecture by Nobel Prize winner William D. Phillips at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18, in the Battelle Fine Arts Center. His presentation Time, Einstein and the coolest stuff in the universe” be a lively, multimedia presentation, including experimental demonstrations and down-to-earth explanations about some of today’s most exciting science.

“William Phillips is an exciting and engaging speaker who makes difficult concepts accessible,” said Otterbein Assistant Professor of Physics Aaron Reinhard. “He is also a good choice because his education is similar to the training of current Otterbein students.”

Phillips earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Juniata College and doctorate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After two years as a Chaim Weizmann postdoctoral fellow at MIT, he joined the staff of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 1978. He is currently a NIST fellow, the leader of the Laser Cooling and Trapping Group in the Quantum Measurement Division of NIST’s Physical Measurement Laboratory and a distinguished university professor at the University of Maryland. He is a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), a cooperative research organization of NIST and the University of Maryland that is devoted to the study of quantum coherent phenomena. At the JQI he is the co-director of a National Science Foundation-funded Physics Frontier Center focusing on quantum phenomena that span different subfields of physics. Phillips’s research group studies the physics of ultracold atomic gases.  In 1997, Phillips shared the Nobel Prize in Physics “for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.”

“Phillips is a pioneer in the field of laser cooling and trapping, one of the fastest growing areas of modern physics research. We hope he will inspire enthusiasm for science in our students, both because it allows a deeper understanding of our universe and because it enables progress which can improve people's lives,” said Reinhard.

The George W. and Mildred K. White Science Lecture Series at Otterbein University was established in 1987. The George W. and Mildred K. White Science Seminar Fund sponsors the annual scientific seminars. Through these seminars, national leaders in science and technology share their insights about the future of scientific endeavor. For more information, visit www.otterbein.edu/sciencelectureseries.


Photo copyright and courtesy of Robert Rathe.