On October 9, David J. Wineland, Ph.D., a physicist and researcher at the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics for his work pioneering methods to allow the measurement and manipulation of individual atoms. Dr. Wineland, who works at NIST's laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, and serves as a lecturer in the physics department of the University of Colorado-Boulder, shared the award with Serge Haroche, Ph.D., a professor at the Collège de France and Ecole Normale Supèrieure. Dr. Wineland is the fourth scientist at NIST to receive the Nobel Prize in physics since 1997.
Dr. Wineland, who joined NIST in 1975, has long been internationally recognized for his innovative research on electrically charged atoms known as trapped ions. In 1978, he carried out the first demonstration of laser cooling, in which lasers are used to reduce the temperature of ions trapped in a vacuum to near absolute zero, allowing researchers to study the properties of individual atoms for the first time. His research has led to the development of laser-cooled atomic clocks, which are even more accurate than traditional clocks, as well as to significant advances in quantum computing, an experimental science that holds the potential to vastly outpace the speed and effectiveness of today's computers.
Patrick Gallagher, Ph.D., U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce and director of NIST, praised the Nobel Prize committee's decision. "We're so excited for Dave, along with his many colleagues and friends around the world, for this recognition of decades of world-leading research," Dr. Gallagher said. "Dave's work embodies NIST's mission to pioneer new measurement science that will substantially advance technology and innovation."
Dr. Wineland and Dr. Haroche will receive their prizes at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on December 10. The two men will share equally the nearly $1.2 million monetary award.
The Nobel Committee's official citation honoring Dr. Wineland and Dr. Haroche is available here.