Sunday, March 20, 2011

A REAL Experimental Physicist - Chad Orzel

Most scientists are Experimentalists. The other type, Theoreticians, are no less important and we need both. The media tends to focus on the Theory side, especially the highly, some would say Wildly, speculative theories. Well, whatever sells, right? Today's focus will be on the Experimental side, and for that I choose to focus on the wildly popular Chad Orzel:

Is this a picture of a real Experimental Physicist, or a former Rugby player? The answer is: yes, both. Also Dad, Husband, Author, Speaker, Professor, Grad Student Mentor, Blogger, Traveling Speaker, Hugo Awards Judge, Dog owner, and certified Sports Nut, his book "How to Teach Physics to Your Dog" passed the critical Peter Woit "This Book Doesn't Suck" Test
Meet Chad Orzel. Professor Orzel works at Union College, NY, when he's not out on the road speaking. He is also working on a follow-up to his popular book, this one on Relativity.

His Wikipedia entry is here.

His Union College profile is  here.

His blog, Uncertain Principles, can be called up by clicking here.

Chad Orzel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Union College specializing in atomic, molecular, and optical physics. He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from the University of Maryland, College Park, under Nobel Laureate William Daniel Phillips.

In Chad's own words:

My research is in the field of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical (AMO) Physics, specifically in using lasers to cool samples of atoms to ultra-cold temperatures (T ~ 1-100 μK, where 1 μK is one one-millionth of a degree above absolute zero) and studying what happens in collisions between ultra-cold atoms. At these low temperatures, the behavior of atoms is much different than at room temperature, and quantum-mechanical effects can dramatically change the collisional properties.

For more on laser cooling and the related field of Bose-Einstein Condensation, check out the BEC Tutorial put together by the University of Colorado. I also teach a two-week module on laser cooling for Physics 14.
I've also become interested in using the technique of Atom Trap Trace Analysis to measure trace amounts of contamination in ultra-pure gases used for exotic particle detectors. The ATTA technique uses laser cooling to measure the abundance of extremely rare isotopes or contaminant atoms by trapping and detecting individual atoms.
It takes a Physicist to know how to take a shower and not get wet. The trick? Dodge the water droplets.

The Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics

The Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (DAMOP) was founded in 1943, and was the first division of the American Physical Society. Its central focus is fundamental research on atoms, simple molecules, electrons and light, and their interactions. It plays an enabling role underlying many areas of science through the development of methods for the control and manipulation of atoms, molecules, charged particles and light, through precision measurements and calculations of their properties, and through the invention of new ways to generate light with specific properties. Students who graduate with a background in AMO physics acquire a broad range of knowledge and skills that enable them to contribute to many areas of science and technology.

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