Nobel Prize-winner David Wineland praised as mentor to CU-Boulder graduate students

October 9, 2012 •

David J. Wineland, a lecturer in the University of Colorado Boulder physics department who today won the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics, was described as both “brilliant and humble” by one of his former graduate students.

Wineland is a physicist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder and internationally recognized for developing the technique of using lasers to cool ions to near absolute zero. His experiments have been used to test theories in quantum physics and may lead to the development of quantum computers. He shared the prize with Serge Haroche of France.

Wineland joined the CU-Boulder physics faculty as a lecturer in 2000 and currently works with four CU-Boulder graduate students pursuing doctorates, said physics department chair Paul Beale.

“It would be difficult to find a more brilliant and humble scientist,” said John Jost, who worked in Wineland’s group for about 10 years as a CU-Boulder doctoral student and postdoctoral researcher. “I feel lucky to have worked in his lab for my Ph.D. regardless of whether or not he won the Nobel Prize. He was always available when we had questions and problems in the lab and usually had some great idea about what to try next. At the same time, he gave us the freedom to figure things out on our own.”

In August, Jost began a Marie Curie fellowship as a postdoctoral researcher in the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland. 

Wineland’s first demonstration of laser cooling in 1978 led many other scientists to pursue the laser cooling and trapping of atoms. His research helped make possible the creation of the world’s first Bose-Einstein condensate, for which Carl Wieman of CU and JILA and Eric Cornell of NIST and JILA and CU were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 2001. JILA is a joint institute of CU-Boulder and NIST.

Five CU-Boulder faculty members have now won individual Nobel Prizes. The other two winners are Tom Cech in chemistry and John “Jan” Hall in physics.

Following are statements from University of Colorado officials on the winning of the Nobel Prize today by David Wineland, lecturer in the CU-Boulder Department of Physics:

“On behalf of the CU Board of Regents and the entire university community, congratulations to Dr. Wineland and his colleagues. This distinct honor demonstrates the exceedingly high quality of the work being done at CU and in collaboration with our federal partners. We are very proud of our fifth Nobel Laureate.”

-- Michael Carrigan, chair, University of Colorado Board of Regents

“David Wineland's Nobel Prize is testament to the quality of the discovery and innovation that makes the University of Colorado one of the top research universities in the world. It also highlights the value of our collaboration with federal laboratory partners such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as the tremendous opportunities for our students to work alongside the world's best scientists.”

-- CU President Bruce D. Benson

“This is an honor for our friends, colleagues and partners at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the University of Colorado Boulder, and for the world. That our university today has five Nobel Laureates walking our halls and interacting with our students is proof positive that the University of Colorado is a world-class institution.”

-- CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano

“David Wineland’s Nobel Prize underscores the strong relationships and quality of work among the research laboratories in Boulder, nearly all of which have strong ties to the University of Colorado. Our ability to share researchers and conduct research together has enormous benefits for new generations of CU students and young scientists, and has made Boulder a global center for cutting-edge research.”

--  CU-Boulder Provost Russell Moore

“CU-Boulder physics lecturer David Wineland’s work with our graduate students at the National Institute of Standards and Technology has placed him among a special group of scientists at NIST and CU who are changing the face of atomic, molecular and optical physics. We congratulate him, NIST  and the CU-Boulder physics department.”

-- CU-Boulder Vice Chancellor for Research Stein Sture

“The department of physics is thrilled about David's Nobel Prize. His research using trapped ions to study quantum entanglement, now recognized for the groundbreaking work it is by a Nobel Prize, acknowledges his great successes. David is an important member of our graduate faculty who has been both a key graduate adviser for our students and a strong member of our graduate student recruiting team. His laboratory at NIST has allowed our graduate students to engage in world-class research, and it's an honor for our department to be associated with him.”

-- Paul Beale, chair of the CU-Boulder Department of Physics