Cornell and Wieman share 2001 Nobel Prize in physics

October 10, 2001

Eric A. Cornell of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Carl E. Wieman of the University of Colorado at Boulder today were awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics. They shared the prize with Wolfgang Ketterle, a German citizen residing in the United States and professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

Cornell, 39, is a senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Commerce's NIST and an adjoint professor of physics at CU-Boulder. Wieman, 50, is a distinguished professor of physics and has taught at CU-Boulder since 1984. Both are fellows of JILA, a joint institute of CU-Boulder and NIST.

The three winners will share the $943,000 prize for research leading to the landmark 1995 creation of the Bose-Einstein condensate and early studies of its properties. The BEC is a new form of matter that occurs at just a few hundred billionths of a degree above absolute zero.

The 2001 Nobel laureates will receive their awards in Stockholm, Sweden, on Dec. 10.

Cornell and Wieman become the second and third Nobel Prize winners at CU-Boulder, while Cornell is the second for NIST. Thomas Cech, a CU-Boulder professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was a co-winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry. William Phillips, a NIST fellow, shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics.

Cornell said, "I was thrilled to hear the news. It is really very gratifying to be recognized for this work. It is a wonderful thing for NIST and the University of Colorado, and it is very appropriate and an honor to share this award with my good friends Carl [Wieman] and Wolfgang [Ketterle]."

Wieman said he heard about the award from his brother at about 4 a.m. "I have an unlisted number, as does Eric, and so my brother saw it on the Internet and called me up and that's how I found out." "This is a tremendous thrill because this is the highest award that a scientist can achieve for his or her work," Wieman said. "Interestingly, I discovered that I wasn't as excited about this as when we actually achieved Bose-Einstein condensate. That was the ultimate thrill."

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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