Center News

Can the Denver, Boulder area be an epicenter for the next great tech boom?
Published: 02-15-2021

JILA Fellow Heather Lewandowski has been awarded the 2021 Boulder Faculty Excellence Award. This award was given specifically for Lewandowski's excellence in teaching and pedagogy. The Boulder Faculty Excellence Awards strive to recognize advances within the university. Candidates are nominated based on innovative practices and classroom teaching. Letters from students and colleagues testify to a candidate's success and allow the selection committee to award a candidate fairly and accurately. 

Heather Lewandowski's group focuses on experimental cold molecular physics and physics education research. Lewandowski not only has dedication in her laboratory, but studies how students learn experimental physics. With both research topics having interdisciplinary approaches, it's no wonder Lewandowski was selected for this award.  Congratulations!

Margaret Murnane is awarded Honorary Doctorate from the University of Limerick
Published: 12-31-2020

JILA Fellow Margaret Murnane has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Limerick this year - her 6th Honorary Doctorate.

"I hadn't even known I was being considered for it," Murnane says of the award. Murnane, a native of Ireland, is excited to add another excuse to return to the country. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in Ireland, only 10% of high school graduates at that time had the opportunity to attend university. It wasn't until the 1980s and 1990s that Ireland had the resources to invest in higher education by expanding their university system, later followed by flourishing science research. Murnane grew up very close to the University of Limerick, which became a university in 1980. She is excited to hopefully be attending the awards ceremony in person in August of 2021. When speaking of her future trip, Murnane stated: "It'll be great to be able to be with family and friends again."

Murnane's group at JILA focuses on ultrafast laser and X-ray science. This year Murnane was also awarded the Franklin Medal in Physics for her work. She shared the award with JILA Fellow Dr. Henry Kapteyn.  

Jun Ye wins 2020 Micius Quantum Prize
Published: 12-10-2020

Fellow Jun Ye has been awarded the 2020 Micius Quantim Prize, which recognizes significant scientific advances ranging from the early conceptual contributions to the recent experimental breakthroughs. The Micius Quantum Prize 2020 focuses on the broadly defined field of quantum metrology, recognizing scientific advances ranging from early conceptual contributions to experimental breakthroughs. 

The past recipients are people who pioneered quantum information science, such as Peter Shor on Shor algorithm, Ignacio Cirac, Peter Zoller and David Wineland on the first quantum logic gate, and Anton Zeilinger for quantum communication, etc.  Jun is sharing this year's prize on quantum sensing with Prof. Hidetoshi Katori (Univ. Tokyo) on optical atomic clocks and Carl Caves (UNM) who first proposed quantum light for LIGO (in 1980).

Quantum mechanics, discovered at the beginning of the last century, has been an enormously successful theory of nature and has led to the development of many of today’s most widely used technologies that completely changed the landscape of our society. In past decades, profound progress, made both in our understanding of exploiting quantum superposition and entanglement for new ways of information processing and in the experimental methods of coherent control and interaction of individual quantum particles, has given birth to an emerging field of quantum technologies, also known as the second quantum revolution, which moved beyond the first quantum revolution that simply exploited naturally occurring quantum effects. The second quantum revolution has been driving and enabling a new generation of classically impossible tasks ranging from unconditionally secure quantum communications, breathtakingly powerful quantum simulation, and quantum computation, to extremely sensitive measurements.

To promote the second quantum revolution, a new science foundation, the "Micius Quantum Foundation" has been established in 2018 thanks to generous donations from private entrepreneurs. This Foundation is named after Micius, an ancient Chinese philosopher who lived in a similar period to the Western philosopher Democritus. Micius strongly stood for peace, put forward the concept of "universal love", and performed original scientific work such as the pinhole experiment that proved light traveled straight. His book contained some preliminary idea of Newton's first law of motion, which wrote: "The stop of motion is due to the opposing force... If there is no opposing force... the motion will never stop." Micius also held a belief that objects can infinitely be divided into small pieces, but there is a smallest fundamental unit of particles, a concept with coincidence to our modern quantum physics.

One of the important missions of the Micius Quantum Foundation is to establish the “Micius Quantum Prize” to recognize the scientists who have made outstanding contributions in the field of quantum communications, quantum simulation, quantum computation, and quantum metrology. The revenue of the Micius Quantum Foundation is distributed in the form of prizes. Each honoree will receive a prize of 1.25 million Chinese yuan (after-tax about 150,000 US dollars) and a gold medal.

More information is provided in the official website

Department of Defense Awards Konrad Lehnert Prestigious Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship
Published: 05-12-2020

JILA Fellow Konrad Lehnert has been awarded the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship, the Department of Defense’s most prestigious single-investigator award. With up to $3 million in funding, the VBFF is a five-year fellowship which supports basic research with the potential for transformative impact.

Formerly known as the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship, the program changed its name in 2016 to commemorate the late Dr. Vannevar Bush, who was the director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development during WWII and the author of “Science, The Endless Frontier.” Bush was an ardent advocate for basic research who made innovative contributions to the national security. JILA Fellow Margaret Murnane won this Fellowship in its inaugural competition in 2008.

Lehnert’s proposed research aims to understand and quantum control phonons, the quantum packets of sound. While physicists have explored quantum control of light for new computers and electronics, sound waves behave quite differently than light waves, and in ways that could advance quantum information science.  Sound is a hundred thousand times slower than light, so it can be used to create multiple modes in a smaller cavity—which could be used to store and process information on a smaller chip. Lehnert’s research group explores phonons’ potential for quantum computing, information processing, information security, and sensing.

Congratulations to Dr. Lehnert!

JILA Fellow Adam Kaufman wins Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award
Published: 04-08-2020

The Office of Naval Research has awarded JILA Fellow Adam Kaufman one of its prestigious 2020 Young Investigator Awards. The ONR program rewards early career scientists “who show exceptional promise for doing creative research”—and Kaufman is a most deserving recipient.

“This selection recognizes both his past accomplishments and his vision for developing optical tweezer arrays for demonstrating useful quantum computing,” said Tom Perkins, acting NIST Quantum Physics Division Chief. “Congratulations to Adam for his selection as a ONR 2020 Young Investigator.”

"JILA is delighted that Adam's accomplishments and exciting future project plans are being recognized by this award,” said JILA Chair Andreas Becker. “Congratulations to Adam."

Kaufman and his team specialize in optical tweezers—tightly focused beams of light which manipulate and precisely control individual atoms. Optical tweezers have transformed quantum science research, and the Kaufman Group at JILA has explored new frontiers with this technology.

“A key development that came out of our group was to apply this technology, for the first time, to an alkaline-earth atom, like strontium or ytterbium—atoms which are famous for their use in atomic clocks and quantum science broadly. We focus on how to combine these favorable properties of alkaline-earth atoms with the capabilities afforded by optical tweezer technology to, for instance, build large quantum entangled systems,” Kaufman said.

The ONR Young Investigator award includes $510,000 over a three-year period. Kaufman plans to use quantum information entangling protocols to assemble entangled states that could impact enhanced atomic clock architectures. This research could extend beyond atomic clocks, including quantum computing and many-body physics.

JILA Fellows Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn Win the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Physics
Published: 01-27-2020

A husband-and-wife team at the forefront of laser science at the University of Colorado Boulder has followed in the footsteps of the Curies, winning a prestigious Benjamin Franklin Medal.

The Franklin Institute announced today that Henry Kapteyn and Margaret Murnane would receive this year’s medal in physics—one of several awards handed out annually by the center named after the scientist and founding father.

Kapteyn and Murnane are fellows at JILA, a joint research institute between CU Boulder and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). They have pioneered new advancements in X-ray lasers, devices that shoot out incredibly fast pulses of X-ray radiation.

The researchers, also professors in the Department of Physics, are only the third married couple to receive a Benjamin Franklin Medal. The first were Marie and Pierre Curie who took home the prize for chemistry in 1909.

“We are quite excited and humbled to be so recognized by the Franklin Institute,” Kapteyn said. “Margaret and I have been exploring science together for many years now, so it is especially delightful to be following the path of the Curies—a personal inspiration for us—in being recognized by such a longstanding, prestigious organization.”

“Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn are highly-acclaimed, international leaders in laser science,” said John Cumalat, chair of physics at CU Boulder. “The Department of Physics takes great pride in their recognition as 2020 Franklin Institute Award Winners. They are remarkable scientists, professors and mentors of our students.”

Setting records

When Kapteyn and Murnane first earned their PhDs from the University of California, Berkeley, in the late 1980s, most X-ray lasers could fill a building the size of a warehouse. They wanted to go smaller and less expensive.

The researchers, who joined the CU Boulder faculty in 1999, developed the first “tabletop” X-ray laser in research spanning more than 20 years. They’ve since pushed the field even further. Kapteyn and Murnane’s latest designs can send out busts of light at speeds of roughly a billionth of a billionth of a second—and with more precise control than any other lab has been able to achieve.

The Franklin Institute honored Kapteyn and Murnane for making these devices “accessible to a new generation of researchers and applications in fields ranging from electronics to medicine.”

To do just that, the physicists founded the company KMLabs in the 1990s. For their efforts, they received a Colorado Governor’s Award for High-Impact Research in 2018.  

“JILA is excited that Margaret and Henry are again recognized for their decades-long advancement of ultrafast lasers and laser-based X-ray investigation of materials,” said Thomas Perkins, former chair of JILA. “In additional to their scholarly publications, they have educated scores of students and postdocs that continue to push the frontier. Moreover, they founded KMLabs that facilities a broader user base of accessing their advancements and enhance our regional economy.”

New feats of imaging

Kapteyn and Murnane have also dug deep into what is possible with these new, fast devices.

They explained that their tools allow scientists to view phenomena that were previously too tiny and quick-moving to observe. These lasers can, for example, spy on the energy flowing through ultrathin semiconductors, follow chemical reactions in real time and probe the behavior of animal neurons.

In 2016, the duo helped to launch the Science and Technology Center on Real-Time Functional Imaging (STROBE), a $24 million initiative funded by the National Science Foundation. Among other goals, this partnership with several other universities seeks to develop “the microscopes of tomorrow”. Such devices could one day combine a wide range of imaging approaches into a single device, allowing scientists to observe phenomena that have been beyond their reach to date. Murnane currently directs STROBE, and Kapteyn is its Knowledge Transfer Director.

Kapteyn and Murnane join six other researchers receiving Benjamin Franklin Medals in various fields in 2020. They will officially receive their awards at a gala ceremony in Philadelphia in April.

Both Kapteyn and Murnane are fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Optical Society of America, the American Physical Society, and members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Murnane was named a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow in 2000. Originally from Limerick, Ireland, she received the St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal for Academia from the Science Foundation Ireland.

Written by Daniel Strain

Fellows Jun Ye and Deborah Jin named Most Highly Cited Researchers for 2019
Published: 11-19-2019

JILA Fellows Deborah Jin and Jun Ye have been named Most Highly Cited Researchers for 2019 by Clarivate Analytics. This is the sixth year in a row that Jin and Ye have been given this honor.

Clarivate operates Web of Science and the Science Citation Index. Their list of Highly Cited Researchers recognizes scientists across the world who have demonstrated significant influence through publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade. Researchers on this list have multiple papers whose citations rank in the top 1% in the Web of Science collection of journals. The 2019 list encompasses 6,216 researchers from around the world, 194 of whom are published in the field of physics.

Jin passed away in September 2016 following a courageous battle with cancer, but she remains on the list covering publications from the period 2008 through 2018. Jin and Ye were close collaborators and friends; together they published many key scientific papers on the production, characterization and applications of quantum degenerate gases of polar molecules. 

"The fact that Debbie Jin passed away in 2016, but continues to appear on the list indicates the enormous impact her papers and research have had, and continue to have," said JILA Fellow Thomas O'Brian, chief of the NIST quantum physics division.

Ye leads a diverse research group at JILA which has, among other things, developed the most precise and accurate clock in the world. His group also delves into quantum many-body research, ultracold degenerate gases, femtosecond laser frequency combs, ultrastable lasers and precision measurement.

Quantum physics: Atomic research discoveries show there’s much more to learn
Published: 11-11-2019

From: CU on the Air Podcast

This month on CU on the Air we welcomed CU Boulder Professor Ana Maria Rey, a theoretical physicist and fellow at JILA. Professor Rey has earned multiple awards for her groundbreaking research, including the coveted MacArthur Genius Fellowship and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. She earned the Alexander Cruickshank Award in 2017 and 2019, and became the first Hispanic woman to win the Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists. Professor Rey studies the interface between atomic, molecular and optical physics, condensed matter physics, and quantum informational science.

Listen to the podcast:

JILA team demonstrates model system for distribution of more accurate time signals
Published: 10-21-2019

JILA physicists and collaborators have demonstrated the first next-generation "time scale" - a system that incorporates data from multiple atomic clocks to produce a single highly accurate timekeeping signal for distribution. The JILA time scale outperforms the best existing hubs for disseminating official time worldwide and offers the possibility of providing more accurate time to millions of customers such as financial markets and computer and phone networks.

The novel time scale architecture combines a super-reliable, advanced atomic clock with an ultrastable device for storing time signals and is a "blueprint for the upgrade of time scales worldwide," as described in the journal Physical Review Letters.

JILA is jointly operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado Boulder.

"I think this new time scale demonstration will be very important for the redefinition of time in the future," said Jun Ye, NIST/JILA fellow and project leader.

The recent redefinition of the International System of Units (SI) did not update the way time is measured. The standard unit of time, the second, has been based on properties of the cesium atom since 1967. In the coming years, the international scientific community is expected to redefine the second, selecting a new atom as the basis for standard atomic clocks and official timekeeping.

To prepare for this change, researchers need to upgrade systems for distributing time. NIST operates the nation's civilian time scales, arrays of hydrogen masers - microwave versions of lasers - that provide reliable oscillating signals to maintain stable "ticking" for the official U.S. civilian time of day, which is linked to international time (coordinated universal time or UTC). Two atomic clocks based on the cesium standard, called NIST-F1 and NIST-F2, are used to calibrate and ensure the accuracy of the time scales. Like next-generation atomic clocks, JILA's experimental time scale operates entirely at optical frequencies, which are much higher than the microwave frequencies of cesium time standards. Optical frequencies divide time into smaller units and thus can offer greater accuracy. 

Efforts to incorporate the latest optical atomic clocks into older microwave time scales have run into limits on long-term stability, due to the inherent properties of masers and the fluctuations associated with linking them to experimental clocks that operate intermittently.

The JILA team solved these problems by optimizing a more stable type of oscillator and tightly controlling operating conditions such as temperature so their highly stable and precise strontium lattice clock can be operated regularly on demand.

The oscillator is formed by a laser beam aimed into a hollow cavity made of a single crystal of silicon, inside of which laser light of a specific color, or frequency, bounces back and forth regularly for a long time, like a metronome. These devices have been around for years, but a long-term JILA collaboration with Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), the German national metrology institute, came up with a new way of building them, greatly improving the stability of the light. Recently, the JILA team further boosted the long-term stability of their cavity, which is 21 centimeters long and operates at cryogenic temperatures of 124 K (minus 149.15 C), by using superpolished optics and improved heat control, among other tweaks.

In the JILA time scale, an optical frequency comb (a ruler for light) transfers the stable optical signal from this cavity to another, very stable laser that is shined on the clock's atoms and synchronizes the light's frequency with their ticking. Two additional lasers are stabilized to independent cavities. The multiple lasers and cavities provide redundancy in case anything malfunctions.

The stability of the oscillator was compared continuously to that of the NIST microwave time scale by a preexisting underground fiber-optic link between JILA, on the university's campus, and NIST, a mile or so away. Over a month of measurements, the frequency stability of the optical oscillator consistently surpassed that of the masers in the microwave time scale.

The experimental results show that the JILA time scale architecture outperforms microwave time scales, even when the masers are calibrated by next-generation atomic clocks. The team's analysis indicates that by running the JILA optical clock 50% of the time, the all-optical time scale could reach a stability level about 10 times better than the standard microwave time scale, or 1x10-17, after a few months of averaging.

A further practical advantage is that the oscillator frequency can be predicted using conventional microwave analysis techniques, enabling the team to estimate a timing error of only 48 ± 94 picoseconds (trillionths of a second) after 34 days of operation.

Additional technical upgrades are planned, including automation that should allow the clock to be operated more than 50% of the time. Researchers also plan to incorporate the optical time scale signal into the NIST time scale using the underground fiber network.

Co-authors of the paper include researchers from the NIST Time and Frequency Division as well as from PTB.

The work is supported by NIST, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Science Foundation, PTB, and the Cluster of Excellence (Quantum Frontiers).

For more information about the research of the Ye Group, please see the Ye Labs website.

Australian fellowship named for late JILA Fellow Deborah Jin
Published: 07-26-2019

JILA Fellow Deborah Jin’s research was literally the coolest. She created the first fermionic condensate and the first quantum degenerate molecular gases, expanding our knowledge of how atomic and molecular behavior changes at ultracold temperatures. Jin was not only a prominent physicist, she was a role model and mentor for young scientists, particularly women.

“She was a physics giant. Her research on fermionic gases helped us advance our field in an impressive way,” said JILA Fellow Ana Maria Rey, who worked with Jin. “Besides being one of the most prominent physicists in our field, she was a caring mother, a fantastic wife and a supportive colleague and friend."

Although Jin passed away in 2016, her research continues to influence physicists around the world. The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) is now offering Deborah Jin Fellowships to two early career female scientists.

“This prestigious fellowship is a great testimony to Debbie’s continuing international impact in research and training,” JILA Fellow Tom O’Brian said.

EQUS is Australia’s national quantum research and development initiative, similar to the United States' National Quantum Initiative or Europe’s Quantum Flagship Initiative. The Deborah Jin Fellowships are three-year appointments at either the University of Queensland, University of Sydney, Macquarie University and University of Western Australia. Applications are due August 5, 2019 at 8:00 AM AEST.

JILA's Ana Maria Rey wins Blavatnik Award
Published: 06-26-2019

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences named theoretical physicist and JILA Fellow Ana Maria Rey one of three Laureates for the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. Each year these awards honor three scientists in life sciences, physical sciences and engineering, and chemistry. The other caveat: all laureates are 42 years old or younger.

“We like to think of them as our young Nobels,” Brooke Grindlinger, chief scientific officer of scientific programs and Blavatnik Awards at the academy told the Boulder Daily Camera. 

Nominated by 169 research institutions from across 44 states, the Blavatnik National Awards received 343 nominees – the largest pool of nominees ever received by the program. For the first time in the awards' 13-year history, all of the laureates are women; as a U.S. citizen who is a native Colombian, Rey is the first Hispanic woman to win this award.

"It is such a huge honor for me to receive this recognition. I could not believe it was given to me," Rey said. "I am really grateful."

“These three women are leading scientists and inventive trailblazers with stellar accomplishments in their respective fields,” said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation and member of the President’s Council of the New York Academy of Sciences. “Their groundbreaking research leads the way for future discoveries that will improve the world and benefit humankind. It’s exciting to see these three brilliant scientists chosen as the 2019 Blavatnik National Laureates.”

Rey said she would be honored to be seen as a role model for other young women pursuing physics.

"In my point of view, having role models to inspire women is key. It is very important for women to realize that to have a scientific career it is not incompatible with having a family. Facilitating ways that help women to be a successful scientists and mothers at the same time is crucial," she said. Rey added that she was fortunate to have some great women role models in her early career, including the late Deborah Jin, a fellow JILA physicist.

"She was a physics giant. Her research on fermionic gases helped us advance our field in an impressive way. Besides being one of the most prominent physicists in our field, she was a caring mother, a fantastic wife and a supportive colleague and friend," Rey said.

Rey is a top young theorist in quantum information science and technology (QIST) and atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics. Her pioneering work has earned her a MacArthur Fellow Award in 2013 and an American Physical Society Fellow Award in 2015, among many other scientific awards and honors. Rey's theories on atomic collisions led to the development of the world's most accurate atomic clock. That clock is in use at JILA and has been critical in experiments across research groups at the organization.

In addition to being a JILA Fellow, Rey is a Professor Adjoint of Physics at the University of Colorado, and a Fellow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), that partners with the University of Colorado to form JILA. Rey is also a leading member of the University of Colorado CUbit Quantum Initiative.

“JILA is thrilled to congratulate Ana Maria for her selection as the Blavatnik National Laureate Award in Physical Sciences & Engineering.  We also thank the Blavatnik Family Foundation for celebrating the successes of young scientists and engineers in the US and worldwide,” said JILA Fellow and Chair Thomas Perkins.

All Blavatnik National laureates and finalists are invited to the Blavatnik National Awards ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in September. The award comes with an unrestricted $250,000 prize for each winner. Rey says she doesn't have an immediate plans for the winnings, but she couldn't have achieved this honor without her colleagues at JILA, NIST and the University of Colorado Boulder.

"All my research has been inspired by a close collaboration with experimental groups. In particular, the work done at Jun Ye's, James Thompson's and John Bollinger's labs have been the driving force for my research," Rey said. "Also all the successful developments in my group have been possible thanks to the fantastic group of postdocs and graduate students who have worked very hard to accomplish our research goals. They are responsible for all the milestones achieved in my group. I owe all of them so much. I am really grateful and hope that they consider this award as a recognition to their work."

JILA Fellow Murray Holland wins Marinus Smith Award
Published: 05-14-2019

JILA's greatest achievement is training the next generation of scientists and researchers. Recently JILA Fellow Murray Holland was recognized for his role in shaping that future generation with a Marinus Smith Award.

In addition to his research at JILA on quantum gases and optomechanics, Holland teaches undergraduate physics classes at CU from introductory physics to the principles of electricity and magnetism. Each spring CU students and their families nominate faculty and staff who have inspired, mentored, and supported them. This year more than 80 nominations were made, and Holland was one of 16 CU staff and faculty who received an award on April 18.

“It is remarkable to be able to share the incredible stories from students and their families on how current faculty, staff and administrators positively influence the lives of our students during their time at CU Boulder. We are so proud and honored to host these annual awards and recognize the outstanding contributions of our campus community members,” Amber Cardamone, director of New Student & Family Programs, said in a press release.

Thomas Perkins wins Gears of Government Award
Published: 05-13-2019

Sometimes, focusing on the little things can gain you recognition. Dr. Thomas Perkins won a Gears of Government Award for his work in atomic force microscopy. The President's Office gives the Gears of Government Awards to honor those in the federal workforce who have made a profound difference in American lives. 

“Whether they are defending the homeland, inspecting our food, making scientific discoveries, or managing cyber risks, Federal employees underpin all the operations of our government and touch nearly every aspect of our lives,” Office of Management and Budget’s Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert said in a press release. “These awards recognize not just the front-line mission employees, but also those teams and individuals that are strengthening our country to be a more modern, effective government to better serve their fellow citizens.”

As a JILA Fellow and NIST physicist, Perkins' lab falls under the Department of Commerce. His lab has focused on single molecule measurements of biological systems, like proteins, DNA and RNA. To get those measurements, his team has advanced atomic force microscopy in the last decade. Their advances in AFM technology have led to better understanding of biology, such as completely mapping the energy landscape of a hairpin-shaped bend in HIV RNA, and understanding illnesses from cancer to brain disease. With this knowledge, scientists can develop better drugs and therapies. Perkins emphasized that their work is a team effort. 

“I am delighted to receive this award that reflects a decade of innovation by members of my lab,” Perkins said.


CUBit meets with Congress
Published: 04-29-2019

On April 17-18, 2019, the University of Colorado Boulder met with leadership at the White House, federal research agencies and in Congress to discuss the university's unique strengths in quantum information sciences, as well as its support for fully funding federal quantum activities authorized in the National Quantum Initiative enacted last year.

Quantum information science and technology is a top priority for United States' research investment dollars. CU Boulder launched its CUbit Quantum Initiative earlier this year to synergize quantum efforts on campus, at NIST and with industry partners. The CU Boulder delegation highlighted this effort and discussed not only the university's research strengths in quantum and rich history of collaboration with NIST, but also new efforts to improve workforce development, convene regional and national stakeholders and accelerate commercialization of new quantum technologies. 

The CU Boulder delegation—which included Terri Fiez, Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, and Jun Ye, Director of CU Boulder's CUbit Quantum Initiative and a Fellow at JILA—met with Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and his policy team, leadership at the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense, and several Colorado congressional offices, including U.S. Senator Cory Gardner and U.S. Representatives Joe Neguse and Ed Perlmutter. Gardner and Perlmutter each serve on their chamber's respective science committees, which have jurisdiction over federal science policy, and Neguse represents CU Boulder in Congress. The visit was supported by CU's Government Relations Office. Engagement with lawmakers and government officials will continue as quantum research advances.

JILA’s PISEC High School Poster Symposium brings real science to students
Published: 04-19-2019

From enrichment tools for otters and ocean clean up to recycled computer monitor light displays, high school students got a chance to show off their scientific research this week at the PISEC High School Poster Symposium. Students from Englewood High School, Northglenn High School, and Skyline High School proudly displayed their research posters at JILA on Friday, giving their presentations to JILAns and other students. 

PISEC was founded as part of the JILA NSF Physics Frontier Center in 2008. Graduate and undergraduate students at JILA volunteer to work with students throughout the semester. They focus on giving the students real scientific experience, from designing an experiment to presenting their research on a poster. 


Marit Fiechter wins SPIN prize for best undergraduate physics thesis
Published: 04-17-2019

One of JILA’s former students was awarded high honors at Netherland’s Physical Society’s annual FYSICA conference this April. Marit Fiechter, an undergraduate student at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, won the Students of Physics In the Netherlands (SPIN) prize for her bachelor’s project, which included a 500 Euro cash prize from the Dutch Society of Physics.

Most undergraduate students in the Netherlands complete a three-month project at the end of his or her degree. Fiechter’s prize-winning thesis on narrow-line cooling of yttrium monoxide grew out of her work in Jun Ye’s lab at JILA. She says JILA’s collaborative spirit not only helped her research, it helped her grow as a scientist.

“I'm very grateful Jun gave me the opportunity to join his group; I really enjoyed my time at JILA,” she said in an email. “Not only did I like the project, I also got along with my coworkers (Ian Finneran, Yewei Wu and Shiqian Ding) really well. They are the reason I've learned as much as I have now, by always answering my questions and then enthusiastically explaining even more!”

She added, “I feel like I was surrounded by talented and hard-working people, who are eager to push their experiment forward while at the same time not stressing out about it.”

Fiechter will start her master’s degree in physics at ETH Zürich this September.

Jun Ye and Deborah Jin named 2018 Highly Cited Researchers
Published: 12-03-2018

JILA Fellows Jun Ye and Deborah Jin (1968 to 2016) have been named Highly Cited Researchers for 2018 by Clarivate Analytics.

The list of Highly Cited Researchers, published annually since 2014, recognizes scientists across the world who have demonstrated significant influence through publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade.

Clarivate’s list of Highly Cited Researchers is determined by production of multiple papers whose citations rank in the top 1% in Web of Science. The 2018 list surveys papers published from 2006 through 2016, across 21 fields of science and social science. Approximately 6,000 researchers were named Highly Cited Researchers in 2018. Ye and Jin are among 211 physicists across the world included in the list.

Although Debbie Jin passed away in September 2016, she remains on the list covering publications from the period 2006 through 2016, reflecting her enormous impact on science even during her courageous battle with cancer. Jin and Ye were close collaborators and friends, jointly publishing many of the key scientific papers on the production, characterization and applications of quantum degenerate gases of polar molecules. 

“It is humbling to see the impact that both Jun and Debbie continue to have on worldwide physics research, even two years after Debbie’s passing,” said Thomas O’Brian, a JILA Fellow and chief of the Time and Frequency Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The Ye group conducts a particularly broad and deep program in quantum science, including ultracold lattices of strontium atoms for world-leading atomic clocks and quantum many-body research, ultrastable lasers and femtosecond laser frequency combs, quantum degenerate molecular gases, and precision measurements.

Learn more about the methodology for determining top citations and access the full list of 2018 Highly Cited Researchers on the Clarivate Analytics website

Perkins and Lehnert Awarded Department of Commerce Medals
Published: 09-26-2018

26th September 2018 — JILA Fellows Dr. Tom Perkins and Dr. Konrad Lehnert both received medals from the Department of Commerce last night at the Ronald Reagan Amphitheater in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Perkins received the Gold Medal, which is the highest honorary award given by the United States Department of Commerce, or DOC. Perkins was recognized for creating the world’s best atomic force microscope tailored to biological measurements. This device can “grab” onto biological molecules, such as proteins, and measure the tiny forces involved in their folding and unfolding.

Perkins was also recognized for using this technology to study the structure and dynamics of key membrane proteins, which are proteins that control the exchange of chemicals into and out of cells. His techniques revealed the structure and dynamics of these proteins in ten times greater detail than previously possible. This research will lead to better understanding, and subsequently diagnosis and treatment, of the diseases developed through protein misfoldings, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cystic fibrosis.

 “I am honored to receive this award,” said Perkins. “It reflects a decade of efforts by my students and post-docs as we sequentially addressed a set of metrological limitations to bioAFM, including a key advance by an undergraduate. We then successfully demonstrated our metrological improvements by resolving a multitude of hidden dynamics of bacteriorhodopsin, a result that biologist and biochemists cared about.”

Dr. Lehnert received the Silver Medal as part of a team of NIST scientists building the components of a quantum communications network. In addition to Lehnert, the team included Dr. Jose Aumentado, Dr. Raymond Simmonds and Dr. John Teufel. Aumentado, Simmonds and Teuful are scientists in the Applied Physics Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, CO.

The team was recognized for the first realization of the complex components needed for future quantum networks. Quantum networks, or the ability to connect multiple quantum nodes, will advance quantum computing and the rapid, secure exchange of quantum information. The components realized by the team include techniques to store, exchange, transmit, amplify, and readout quantum information using quantum-based superconducting circuits and quantum-controlled micromechanical resonators. The team’s accomplishments represent multiple first and best advances in technologies for quantum networks.

“It was exhilarating to get out in front of this highly competitive new research area,” said Lehnert. “By working together, John, Ray, Jose and I were able to quickly make great progress.”

The awarding of DOC gold and silver medals is an annual traditional established in 1949. The awards are presented to individuals, groups, or organizations in the Department of Commerce for extraordinary, noble, or prestigious contributions.

Previous recipients of DOC awards include 14 JILA Fellows. The most recent JILA Fellow awardee was Ralph Jimenez, who was part of a NIST team awarded the Gold Medal in 2017 for developing tools to create stop-action X-ray measurements of molecules. One of the earliest JILA Fellow awardees was Jan Hall, who received the Gold Medal individually in 1969, and again as part of a team in 1974 and 2002. 

Jun Ye Stars in Feature Film
Published: 08-22-2018

JILA Jun Ye hit the big screen this summer as he debuted in the feature-length documentary, “The Most Unknown”.

“The Most Unknown” brings together nine scientists from across the globe, all of whom are using science to answer deep philosophical questions, such as how did life begin, and what is time? The scientists are brought together, (“blind-date style,” as the New Yorker’s review accurately describes it) to discuss how their work from various fields might overlap.  

According to a New York Times review, “‘The Most Unknown’ works best as inspiration to delve deeper into these disciplines, and as a celebration of science.”

The full 85-minute film was produced by Motherboard, Vice’s media tech-culture channel, and directed by Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Ian Cheney and advised by world-renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog. The film was made possible by a grant from Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

The film was first released on 18 May 2018 in only select U.S. theatres. As of August, the film is streaming on Netflix.

A live screening with special guests will be held at the University of Colorado Boulder on Monday, October 1st

Watch the trailer below:

Ye wins 2018 Rabi Award for research on optical lattice atomic clocks
Published: 02-22-2018

JILA Fellow Jun Ye was named the 2018 winner of the I. I. Rabi Award by the IEEE Frequency Control Symposium. Ye was recognized “for the development of stabile, reproducible, and accurate atomic clocks based on optical lattices, and the use of those clocks to probe fundamental atomic interactions and quantum many-body systems.”

The award recognizes Ye’s sustained leadership in perfecting optical lattice atomic clocks as the most accurate and precise timekeepers in the world, and Ye’s continual pioneering of new physics, such as his recent first-in-the-world Fermi degenerate gas atomic clock using quantum many-body physical principles to dramatically improve clock accuracy and stability.

The IEEE Frequency Control Symposium is the world’s largest and most important scientific society dealing with atomic timekeeping and related topics. The Rabi Award is the Symposium’s highest award for scientific research in atomic timekeeping. Award namesake Isidor Rabi was the 1944 Nobel Physics Laureate for his invention of the resonance technique in molecular beams. In 1945, Rabi was the first to suggest this method could be used to make atomic clocks, and indeed Rabi’s method was adopted for the best atomic clocks for several decades. More recently, Ye and other scientists perfected the new and more precise method of optical lattice atomic clocks.

Previous Rabi Award winners at JILA have included JILA Fellows Jan Hall and Judah Levine.

The award will be formally presented to Ye at the International Frequency Control Symposium in Squaw Creek, CA, May 21-24, 2018.

Congratulations to Jun!

Ye Elected to Chinese Academy of Sciences
Published: 12-13-2017

The Chinese Academy of Sciences announced on November 29, 2017 the election of JILA Fellow Jun Ye as a Foreign Member, China’s highest honor for foreign scientists:

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) promotes scientific and technological advances across the world. CAS includes a network of more than 100 research and development organizations across the world; three universities; and a traditional merit-based academy analogous to the US National Academy of Sciences to recognize and convene scientific leaders from across the world.

Membership in the CAS is comparable to election to the US National Academy of Sciences, representing a significant honor for international achievement and impact in science. Members are selected to one or more Divisions, including Physics and Mathematics (the Division to which Ye was elected), Chemistry, Life Sciences and Medical Sciences, Earth Sciences, Information Technology Sciences, and Technological Sciences.

The CAS currently has 800 Chinese members and 92 foreign members, including the newest members. Foreign Members are elected from across the world based on their scientific achievements. A few examples of current foreign members of the CAS in addition to Ye include:

·       Richard Zare, Stanford, father of ultrafast laser chemistry and former JILA Fellow.

·       Klaus von Klitzing, Germany, Nobel Physics Laureate for integer quantum Hall effect.

·       Steve Chu, Stanford and Bell Labs, Nobel Physics Laureate for laser cooling and former US Energy Secretary and former JILA Visiting Fellow.

·       Charles Kao, multiple universities and industries in US, UK and Hong Kong, Nobel Physics Laureate for pioneering optical fibers.

Ye is also one of JILA’s several members of the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Similar to the CAS, the US NAS has about 2,000 US Members and about 400 Foreign Members.

Ye’s election to the CAS recognizes his world leadership in ultracold atoms and molecules, in optical lattice atomic clocks, in ultrastable lasers and femtosecond laser frequency combs, and in precision measurements.

Congratulations to Jun Ye on this great honor!

Ye wins NIST Jacob Rabinow Applied Research Award
Published: 12-13-2017

JILA and NIST Fellow Jun Ye was named the 2017 winner of the NIST Jacob Rabinow Applied Research Award, one of the top honors for the more than 1,600 scientific and technical NIST employees.

Jacob Rabinow was a prolific innovator working at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), the predecessor of NIST, receiving more than 200 patents for his inventions of mechanical, electrical and optical devices and systems.

The NIST Rabinow Award for applied science emphasizes the breadth, depth and impact of Ye’s work. Ye’s leading-edge scientific research has resulted in innovations including ultrastable lasers, world-leading atomic clocks, and novel frequency comb applications. Such innovations and are used for a wide range of applications, from medical diagnostics to new ultraprecision chemical measurements.

Ye has received many international and NIST awards for his pioneering fundamental research. Ye is one of the very few people to have won both NIST’s highest award for fundamental research (Samuel Wesley Stratton Award) as well as NIST’s highest award for applied science (Rabinow Award).

Jun will receive his award from the NIST Director at the NIST Annual Awards Ceremony on December 13, 2017.

Ye and Jin, highly cited researchers for fourth consecutive year
Published: 11-16-2017

JILA Fellows Jun Ye and Deborah Jin (1968 to 2016) have been named Highly Cited Researchers for 2017 by Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters). 

The list of Highly Cited Researchers, published annually since 2014, recognizes scientists across the world with the greatest number (top 1%) of highly cited publications. The 2017 list covers the period from 2006 through 2016, and includes all categories of science. Ye and Jin are among 193 physicists across the world included in the list.

 Publishing many papers which are frequently cited by other scientists is a mark of exceptional impact. Clarivate calls the people on the list “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.” Clariviate's list recognizes researchers for their dedication and focus to expanding the sphere of human knowledge. 

Although Debbie Jin passed away in September 2016, she remains on the list covering publications from the period 2006 through 2016, reflecting her enormous impact on science even during her courageous battle with cancer. Jin and Ye were close collaborators and friends, jointly publishing many of the key scientific papers on the production, characterization and applications of quantum degenerate gases of polar molecules. 

The Ye group conducts a particularly broad and deep program in quantum science, including ultracold lattices of strontium atoms for world-leading atomic clocks and quantum many-body research, ultrastable lasers and femtosecond laser frequency combs, quantum degenerate molecular gases, and precision measurements.


Congratulations to Ye and Jin and their group members for their continuing innovations and impact on science.


Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers site

PhET Team Receives 2018 APS Excellence in Physics Education Award
Published: 10-27-2017

The American Physical Society has bestowed its 2018 Excellence in Physics Education Award upon the PhET Interactive Simulations Team. The team includes Stanford University Professor Carl Wieman, PhET’s Founder and senior advisor; PhET Director Kathy Perkins (University of Colorado); Ariel Paul, Director of Development; Michael Dubson, Physics faculty, University of Colorado; Emily B. Moore, Director of Research and Accessibility, University of Colorado; and Sam Reid, Software Developer, University of Colorado, and Wendy K. Adams, Colorado School of Mines.

The award cited the PhET Interactive Simulations Team “for the systematic development, dissemination, and evaluation of the physics education tool, PhET Interactive Simulations project, used world-wide by millions of students and their teachers.”

The Excellence in Physics Education Award is given in recognition of a team that has exhibited a sustained commitment to excellence in physics education. The award, which is presented annually, consists of $5000, a certificate citing the achievements of the group or individual, and an allowance for travel expenses to the 2018 APS April meeting where the award will be presented.

Of the award-winning PhET team, Wieman, Paul, and Perkins have special ties to JILA. Wieman was a University of Colorado Physics Professor and JILA Fellow 1985-2006. During his tenure at JILA, he and Eric Cornell made the world’s first Bose-Einstein condensate, a feat for which they won the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics. Ariel Paul did his Ph.D. thesis work and postdoctoral research at JILA as well as serving as a JILA Instrument Shop apprentice. Paul and Perkins are currently JILA affiliates. Wieman is a Fellow Adjoint.

Congratulations to the PhET Interactive Simulations Team!

PhET Sims wins 2017 WISE Award
Published: 09-26-2017

PhET Interactive Simulations, based at the University of Colorado Boulder, has been named one of six recipients of the 2017 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Awards.

PhET was founded in 2002 by Nobel Laureate and JILA Fellow Adjoint Carl Wieman. It was previously funded by the JILA Physics Frontier Center. PhET creates interactive math and science simulations in game-like environments. The simulations encourage students to learn through interaction and discovery.

The WISE awards recognize projects that take an innovative approach to challenges in global education. The winners are awarded $20,000 and are invited to attended the eighth World Innovation Summit for Education, held Nov 14–16 this year in Doha, Qatar.

“To be selected from the many deserving projects is truly a great honor for our team,” said Kathy Perkins, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, and the Director of PhET since 2010. “This WISE Award affirms the importance of STEM learning and literacy in today’s world and the positive impact high-quality open educational resources can have at scale.”

One of PhET's founding philosophies is to be a flexible tool. Ariel Paul, PhET’s Director of Development, says PhET’s simulations can be both a demo for second-graders, and a relevant teaching tool for college classes. The PhET project hopes to increase its flexibility in a new manner––via increased accessibility. Some PhET simulations are produced in device-agnostic HTML5 and translated into more than 90 languages. In the near future, PhET plans to increase digital accessibility and optimize for mobile devices.

PhET simulations are available for free on the PhET website. The most popular sim, the Circuit Construction Kit, is run more than eight million times a year worldwide. Other popular sims include Energy Skate Park, Build an Atom, and Forces and Motions.



JILA’s NSF Physics Frontier Center follows University of Colorado polices for ensuring harassment-free environments.  For more detailed information please read the whole Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures.