Student-faculty research continues to be an essential part of our
program. Under the leadership of Professor Wootters, our department
serves as a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for
Undergraduates (REU) site. This program and other grants allow us to
hire several students to work with us full time on our research in
the summer. During summer 1997, seven Williams students and five
students from other colleges joined our faculty to work on
experimental and theoretical projects. Six of those students
continued their research during the academic year, completing honors
theses. This coming summer 1998 we will have six students from
Williams and five from other colleges. The students meet regularly
for tea and cookies, as well as for more formal talks given by
faculty or students. Those students doing experimental projects take
a short course on machine shop work.
Dr. William Phillips, 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics and Fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg MD. He is standing in his lab in front of an apparatus for producing cold (<1 mK) atoms that was used by Prof. Kevin Jones, Christian Murphy `98 and Peter Nicholas `98. Phillips visited Williams in March 1998 as a colloquium speaker and again in June to receive an honorary degree. Dennis Krause, who has been a visitor in our department for the past three years, will be leaving this summer for a tenure-track position at Wabash College. We will miss his ever cheerful presence (and his annual barbecue-on-the-quad). Eric Kramer, currently a post-doc at Brandeis, will be coming as a visitor for 98-99.
Daniel Aalberts taught electromagnetism at every level: as a tutorial (PHYS 405T), as an introductory course for majors (201), and as an introductory course for pre-med majors (PHYS 132). In each case, along with developing good analytical skills, emphasis was placed on relating electromagnetism to real-world technology, biology, chemistry, and medicine -- areas of Aalberts' research interests. Classical and Fluid Mechanics (for which he won a tutorial development grant) and Science of Sports (a Winter Study to be co-taught with Steve Swoap of the Biology Department) were other new courses planned. He advises the Society of Physics Students.
Aalberts served on a Ph.D. defense committee for a student in Leiden, the Netherlands. He reviewed journal articles for the Journal of Chemical Physics and for the Journal of Polymer Science B (Polymer Physics). He maintains research collaborations with Rockefeller University's Center for Studies in Physics and Biology. His November talk "Mysteries of the Jumping Ring Revealed" based on a famous lecture demonstration, is being prepared as a journal article. He also gave a talk entitled "Soliton Dynamics in Rhodopsin, the Molecule that Makes Us See" at the Bronfman Lunch series.
With summer research students Brian Gerke `99, Qiang Sun `00, and Jonathan Pyle `99 (Swarthmore), Aalberts will try to understand more about the first instants of vision when absorbed light reliably and rapidly alters the shape of a molecule in our eyes.
In the summer of 1997, Assistant Professor Sarah Bolton worked with Allegra Martin `99 to develop Internet videos for PHYS 109,Sound Light and Perception. The recordings they developed allowed students unlimited access to videos of important classroom demonstrations for homework and review. Bolton used this material in teaching PHYS 109 in the fall of 1997. The course was taught in a novel format in which lectures are integrated with hands on experiments. Bolton also taught PHYS 141, Particles and Waves (enriched) and PHYS 202, Waves and Optics.
During 1997-98 Bolton worked with honors students Rob Jenks `98 and Chris Elkinton `98 in studies of an ultrafast titanium sapphire laser. The laser produces pulses of less than 20 femtoseconds in duration (20 x 10-15 seconds) -- short enough to take "snapshots" of electron motions and molecular vibrations. This laser is being used to study dynamics of ultrafast optical systems, including nonlinear dynamics and chaos. Jenks and Elkinton made great progress on this system in the past year, measuring how pulses are shaped in time and space, as well as producing a numerical model for the dynamics.
In May of 1998, Bolton was awarded a Cottrell College Science Grant to support the continuation of her work with students on nonlinear dynamics of ultrafast lasers.
With Daniel Nelson, `99, Professor Stuart Crampton has developed a multimedia introduction to using atomic hydrogen masers to study magnetic resonance. He and Nelson used it in the laboratory part of Physics 301 last fall. Crampton continues to serve on the Board of Directors of Research Corporation, on the National Academy of Sciences Board of Assessment of the Physics Programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and on the National Research Council's Committee on Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Sciences. He is a consultant to the Sherman Fairchild Foundation Scientific Equipment Program. He currently serves as the college's Provost.
Visiting Assistant Professor Dennis Krause continued his research on the physics of open systems, systems whose dynamical behavior is modified by their environment. During the summer of 1997 he and two students, Kathryn Schaffer (`98, Bard College) and Sarah Donnelly (`99, University of Connecticut), investigated the Zel'dovich moment, a quasi-permanent dipole moment arising in open systems with parity violation. Another student, Allegra Martin `99, assisted in developing a new laboratory experiment for PHYS 131 that used video capture tools to record and analyze motion. This lab was used successfully for the first time in the fall of 1997. During the spring semester, Krause taught a new course, Elementary Particle Physics PHYS 404, in which he explored how symmetry principles and quantum field theory underlie our current understanding of the microscopic world.
For the past five years, Prof. Kevin Jones has been conducting research at Dr. Phillips' lab at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, MD. Stuart Crampton has also been a visitor in this lab. Last summer two of our undergraduates, Christian Murphy `98 and Peter Nicholas `98 worked with Jones, Phillips and his associate Dr. Paul Lett, on photoassociation spectroscopy of ultracold atoms. The basic idea is that one can take cold atoms (prepared using the laser cooling techniques for which Phillips and colleagues were awarded the Nobel Prize) and then use another laser to stick two of the atoms together ("photoassociate" them) to make a molecule. One can prepare molecules in states difficult to access by more obvious techniques. Over the summer, the students made a preliminary "map" of the long range portion of a molecular state which is a candidate for a new precise measurement of the atomic radiative lifetime. Back at Williams, Murphy continued the analysis of the data as part of his honors thesis. They also investigated some puzzling behavior observed when the photoassociating laser power is increased. This data was presented by Dr. Lett at an international workshop on "Collisions of Cold, Tapped Atoms" held in Boulder Colorado. Jones also attended and presented a poster on lineshapes observed in photoassociation spectroscopy.
During summer 1999, Jones and Ginel Hill `00 will be at NIST continuing this work. As a result of the Nobel prize, NIST has given Phillips' funding to bring in distinguished senior visitors and Jones will be staying on at NIST for two years as one of these visitors.
On sabbatical leave during the 1997-98 year, Assistant Professor Tiku Majumder worked here at Williams together with two senior thesis students pursuing thallium laser spectroscopy experiments in his atomic physics lab. A better understanding of the structure of this complex atom is essential to be able to interpret recent precise measurements of parity nonconservation in thallium in terms of fundamental physics. In this way, the experiments will contribute to "table-top" tests of elementary particle physics that can provide information as valuable as that currently derived from high-energy physics experiments.
Leo Tsai `98, now in his second year in this research group, continued his work to measure absorption and optical rotation of laser light in a heated thallium vapor cell. He contributed to the final construction of the apparatus, data-acquisition interfacing of the experiment, collection of substantial data and extensive line shape analysis of this data. On a separate project, Peter Nicholas `98 followed the initial construction and design work of Julie Rapoport `97 to help create a working atomic beam vacuum system, source oven, and interaction region. He also wrote an extensive data-acquisition program for use in current and future experiments that includes reliable and precise on-line analysis of Fabry-Perot cavity transmission spectra. Incoming thesis student Rob Lyman `99 will complete testing of the atomic beam system and will use a new frequency-doubled laser system at 378 nm to perform initial spectroscopy experiments using the atomic beam.
In June `98, Professor Majumder was awarded a 3-year, $198,721 grant from the National Science Foundation RUI program that will provide equipment funds as well as salaries for students and a postdoctoral research associate to be hired soon.
Associate Professor Jefferson Strait and his students have built an optical fiber laser designed to produce pulses of light about 10-12 seconds long. Unlike most lasers which use mirrors to confine light to the laser cavity, an optical fiber laser uses a loop of fiber as its cavity. A section of fiber doped with erbium serves as the gain medium. Strait and his students pump the gain medium with 1.06 µm light and it lases at 1.55 µm, conveniently the same wavelength at which optical fiber is most transparent and therefore most suitable for telecommunications. During the summer of 1997, Aaron Kammerer `98 and David Cooper (Haverford College `99) worked with the laser and investigated the polarization properties of bent optical fiber. Continuing during the academic year as an honors thesis student, Kammerer mode-locked the laser, causing it to produce pulses of light shorter than can be resolved with conventional photodetectors and electronics. The eventual goal is to study how these short pulses propagate in optical fiber.
Along with his colleagues Sarah Bolton, Kevin Jones, Tiku Majumder, and Jay Thoman, Strait received a grant from the National Science Foundation for shared equipment for the Williams College Laser Facility. He attended both the fall and the spring meetings of the American Physical Society New England Section and was elected to a three-year term on the Executive Board of the APS/NES. He also serves as the pre-engineering advisor at Williams.
Professor William Wootters was on sabbatical for the 1997-98 academic year, during which he did research in quantum information theory in collaboration with a group at IBM's Watson Research Center. The primary focus of their research is the phenomenon known as quantum entanglement, which Schrodinger identified many decades ago as the distinguishing feature of quantum mechanics.
In the summer of 1997, Professor Wootters supervised two undergraduates from other institutions, Valerie Coffman of Johns Hopkins and Joydip Kundu of Harvard, as part of the department's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. The three of them studied limitations on the degree to which a single quantum object can be simultaneously entangled with several other objects, a problem of interest for quantum cryptography and quantum computation.
Though he taught no courses this year, Professor Wootters has been developing, with Professor Susan Loepp of the math department, a new winter study course on coding and cryptography that will explore coding systems currently in wide use as well as more futuristic quantum ideas.
Staff Physicist and BSC Coordinator Bryce Babcock participated in observations of Neptune's moon Triton from Australia (July 1997) and Hawaii (October 1997) with Prof. Jay Pasachoff and Tim McConnochie `98. They are included as co-authors on a subsequent article in Nature, with James Elliot of MIT as the first author. Babcock also collaborated with Pasachoff in carrying out observations at the February 1998 total solar eclipse in Aruba. Preparations are in progress for an August 1999 eclipse in Romania. (For further details regarding these experiments, see the astronomy departmental section.) In addition to his work developing research and instructional laboratory apparatus for the sciences, he taught the reading course, Advanced Electronics, PHYS 456, in the spring semester. He continued to maintain the Bronfman Web Site at http://www.williams.edu/BSC. This site provides information about the sciences at Williams including html versions of recent copies of the Report of Science at Williams, a calendar of science activities and recent information on the Science Building Project.
Emeritus Professor David Park's recent book, The Fire Within the Eye (Princeton U.P.), which he describes as a history of light, was favorably reviewed in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and other places. At present he is trying to decide not to write another one.
Christopher Elkinton `98, Peter Nicholas `98, Brian Gerke `99, Robert Jenks `98, MacGregor Stocco `98, Robert Lyman `99, Aaron Kammerer `98, Leo Tsai `98, Craig Westerland `99, Timothy McConnochie `98
Brian Gerke `99
Andrew Stortz `98
Prof. Daniel Mittleman
Prof. Margaret Murnane
Prof. Bob Hallock
Prof. Tiku Majumder
Prof. William Wootters
Prof. Charlie Holbrow
Dr. Alan Palevsky
Dr. William D. Phillips, 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Dr. Catherine H. Crouch `90
Dr. Mary-Ann Mycek
Prof. Robert Mawhinney
Dr. Eric M. Kramer
Prof. Daniel Aalberts
Prof. Sarah Bolton
Prof. Protik (Tiku) Majumder
Prof. William Wootters