News from Montgomery College

900 Hungerford Drive, Suite 200, Rockville, MD 20850 

Date: September 5, 2003 (03-65)
Contact: Elizabeth Homan, 240-567-7970;
Steve Simon, 240-567-7952

Nobel Laureate to Speak at Montgomery College-Germantown on Sept. 25
Dr. William Phillips to Present Research on Laser Cooling and Trapping 

Nobel Laureate Dr. William Phillips will speak at Montgomery College’s Germantown Campus on Thursday, September 25 as part of the 2003-2004 Spectrum Lecture Series.    His lecture, an adaptation of his Nobel Lecture entitled “Almost Absolute Zero: the Story of Laser Cooling and Trapping,” will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Globe Hall, which is located in the High Technology and Science Center.

Like all Spectrum Lectures, Dr. Phillips’ lecture is designed for a non-scientific audience, enabling scientists, students, and the community to learn about the ground-breaking advancements in science.  Dr. Phillips’ visit to Montgomery College coincides with its 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Germantown Campus. 

Dr. Phillips is a National Institute of Standards and Technology Fellow and a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.  At NIST, he leads the Laser Cooling and Trapping Group in the Atomic Physics Division of the Physics Laboratory.  In 1997, Dr. Phillips shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with two scientists, one from California and one from France.  According to The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, these three men were recognized for the “development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.”  

“When one studies atoms in a gas, they are typically moving very rapidly,” said Dr. Phillips in his 1997 Nobel Lecture.  “The molecules and atoms in air at room temperature are moving with speeds on the order of 300 meters per second, the speed of sound.” 

At those speeds, accurate measurements are difficult.  Using laser light, Dr. Phillips and NIST researchers found a way to cool a gas of atoms “to less than a millionth of a degree above zero – the coldest temperatures in the universe.”  These temperatures slow the atoms greatly, and then, trapping the atoms allows for detailed study and measurement of individual atoms.  This research can lead to the creation of super-accurate atomic clocks and atomic lasers. 

            For more information on the Spectrum Lecture at Montgomery College’s Germantown Campus, contact Dr. Bob Coley, Professor of Chemistry, at 240-567-7798 or visit Click on “Directories” for maps and directions to the Germantown Campus.

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