CU-Boulder And NIST Physicists

Published: Jan. 15, 1997

Physicists Carl Wieman and Eric Cornell of the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Standards and Technology are the winners of the 1997 King Faisal International Prize in Science and will share a $200,000 award.

The Boulder physicists were honored for their creation of the first Bose-Einstein condensate, a new form of matter predicted by Albert Einstein and expected to shed new light on the strange realm of quantum mechanics.

"This breakthrough opens up an exciting new field of study and is now pursued in many laboratories around the world," according to the prize announcement from the King Faisal Foundation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. "The discovery deepens our under standing of matter in a new phase at the lowest temperature achieved by man."

Wieman and Cornell will receive the award and gold medallions at an official ceremony in March in Riyadh. The prize was one of four awarded by the foundation to recipients in Germany, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Iraq. Winners are selected by a panel of three to five internationally known experts in the field of each prize category.

"I had already arranged for a big fancy banquet this weekend for Eric's and my research group and their spouses in recognition of their tremendous research accomplishments this year." Wieman said. "Now I don't have to worry anymore about how I am going to pay for it."

Wieman, a professor of physics at CU-Boulder, and Cornell, a staff physicist at NIST, are both fellows of JILA, a joint institute of CU-Boulder and NIST. Cornell also is an adjoint professor of physics at CU-Boulder. Both Wieman and Cornell teach graduate and undergraduate classes.

The Bose-Einstein condensate, first formed in a JILA laboratory on June 5, 1995, occurs when individual atoms meld into a "superatom" at about 170 billionths of a degree above absolute zero. It was created by cooling rubidium atoms in a two-step process using laser and magnetic traps.

Wieman and Cornell learned that they had received the award on Jan. 14, just prior to the planned Jan. 16 announcement that they and their research team were co-winners of the prestigious AAAS-Newcomb Cleveland Prize for the best scientific paper published in the journal Science over a 12-month period. Science is the official research journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Sharing that award with them were postdoctoral researcher Michael Anderson and graduate students Jason Ensher and Michael Matthews.

More information on the King Faisal science prize can be found on the World Wide Web at