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William D. Phillips

William D. PhillipsAKA William Daniel Phillips

Born: 5-Nov-1948
Birthplace: Wilkes-Barre, PA

Gender: Male
Religion: Methodist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Trapped atoms with laser light

Physicist William D. Phillips has studied and advanced the scientific art of supercooling atoms for trapping and examination. Cooling slows the speed of atoms' movements, and extreme cooling to near absolute zero allows the atomic structure of gases to be slowed and trapped without having the gas condense and liquefy or solidify. Working with the laser-based "atom trap" designed by Steven Chu but modifying its parameters, Phillips was able to obtain temperatures even lower than those predicted and achieved by Chu's team. Phillips' results were so remarkable and far beyond what physicists thought would be feasible, he said that he could not believe it. French physicist Claude Cohen-Tannoudji derived an explanation for Phillips' findings, and Chu, Phillips, and Cohen-Tannoudji shared the Nobel Prize in 1997.

Phillips has worked at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (formerly the National Bureau of Standards) for his entire career, and also taught at the University of Maryland College Park since 1992. In addition to his Nobel Prizewinning work, he has studied atomic-gas Bose-Einstein condensates, atomic physics analogs of condensed matter systems, atoms in coherent deBroglie-wave atom optics, collisions of ultracold atoms, the magnetic moment of the proton in H2O, matter that exists only under extreme cold conditions, optical lattices, optical tweezers, quantum information with single-atom qubits, and ultracold Rydberg atoms and plasmas.

Father: William Cornelius Phillips (b. 1907)
Mother: Mary Catherine Savino (a/k/a Mary Catherine Savine, b. 1913 in Italy)
Brother: Thomas ("Tom", b. 1957)
Sister: Maxine
Wife: Jane Van Wynen (high school sweetheart, m. 1970)
Daughter: Catherine ("Caitlin", b. 1979)
Daughter: Christine (b. 1981)

    High School: Camp Hill High School, Camp Hill, PA (1966)
    Scholar: Physics, University of Delaware (1965-66)
    University: BS Physics, Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA (1970)
    University: PhD Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1976)
    Fellow: Chaim Weizmann Postdoctoral Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1976-78)
    Professor: Physics, University of Maryland College Park (1992-2001)
    Professor: University Professor, University of Maryland College Park (2001-)

    National Institute of Standards and Technology NIST Fellow and Group Leader (1998-)
    National Institute of Standards and Technology NIST Fellow (1996-98)
    National Institute of Standards and Technology Group Leader (1990-96)
    National Institute of Standards and Technology Physicist (1978-90)
    WAS Scientific Achievement Award 1982
    NIST Samuel Wesley Stratton Award 1987
    Michelson Medal of the Franklin Institute 1996
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1997 (with Steven Chu and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji)
    APS Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science 1998
    AAPT Richtmyer Memorial Award 2000
    NIST Edward Uhler Condon Award 2002
    OSA Archie Mahan Prize 2002
    Academy of Achievement 1999
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1995
    American Physical Society
    Argonne National Laboratory Scholarship, 1970
    European Academy of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities 2000
    Korean Academy of Science and Technology Foreign Member
    National Academy of Sciences 1997
    National Science Foundation Fellowship, 1970-73
    Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society
    Optical Society of America 2004
    Pontifical Academy of Sciences 2004
    Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society
    Washington Academy of Sciences
    Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers Foreign Member, 2003
    John Kerry for President
    Italian Ancestry Maternal
    Welsh Ancestry Paternal


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