The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2001 jointly to
"for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates".
An interesting local connection: Neil Claussen, class of '96, is currently working with Cornell and Wieman on Bose-Einstein condensation. As an undergraduate at Wake Forest, Neil worked in Keith Bonin's lab to build a tunable diode laser that could be used to cool and trap atoms. He designed, built, and tested the diode laser, checking its operation and its laser output with sophisticated spectroscopic tools. To effectively cool atoms, a laser that can produce significant energy at two distinct frequencies (or colors) must be produced. These two frequencies are determined by the quantum structure of the atoms you plan to cool and trap (in our case, rubidium). The laser needs to be 'locked' to these two frequencies so that its output is always at the correct trapping frequency. Neil made an electronic feedback circuit to monitor the laser output and to continuously adjust the angle of a small grating (an optical element) to keep the laser tuned to the proper atomic resonances in rubidium. He also put a great deal of effort into the careful design and construction of a stable optical system for the laser optics, consisting of a laser diode, a lens, a feedback grating, and a pick-off window. He presented his work at a NCUR conference in Asheville, NC in April, 1996. This work formed the basis of Neil's honors thesis in Physics . Neil won the Speas Award for his exemplary record and effort over all four years in the Physics Department at Wake. In addition, Neil was a Goldwater Fellow his senior year at Wake.
Read the press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.