Hulet wins Walther physics prize

Randall Hulet

Randall Hulet

Randall Hulet, Rice University’s Fayez Sarofim Professor of Physics and Astronomy, has won the prestigious 2017 Herbert Walther Award from the German Physical Society and the Optical Society of America. This annual award was established in 2007 and recognizes distinguished contributions in quantum optics and atomic physics as well as leadership in the international scientific community.

The society cited Hulet for pioneering achievements in the field of ultracold atomic gases, including the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation with attractive interactions, and groundbreaking studies of atomic fermions.

Hulet’s lab studies the behavior of atoms at temperatures as low as a few nano-kelvins, at which quantum mechanics dominate their interactions. The lab uses sophisticated laser cooling and atom-trapping techniques to make the exploration of these interactions possible.

“Randall is highly regarded for his pioneering methods in photoassociative spectroscopy,” a method to probe cold, trapped atoms, said Elizabeth Rogan, the Optical Society of America’s chief executive officer. “He was the first to witness Bose-Einstein condensation in an attractive atomic gas, leading to the discovery of matter-wave solitons and soliton-soliton collisions.”

Hulet, a member of the Rice faculty since 1987, has served as a team leader in DARPA’s Optical Lattice Emulator program, in which ultralow temperature atoms simulate the fully quantum mechanical behavior of electronic materials. Under Hulet’s leadership, his team used ultracold atoms and lasers as a quantum emulator to observe the type of magnetic order exhibited by the electrons in high-temperature superconductors.

The award is named for the late Herbert Walther, a founding director of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and former chair of physics at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, for his influence on and innovations in the field and for his contributions to the scientific community.



About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.