Prize Recipient

Mickey McDonald

Mickey McDonald
Columbia University


"For outstanding contributions to high precision optical spectroscopy and quantum state selected photodissociation of ultracold 88Sr2 molecules in an optical lattice."


Mickey McDonald grew up in Fairport, New York, where in the eleventh grade, he discovered his love for physics. He went on to earn his B.A. at Cornell University, assisting the research of Julia Thom and Jim Alexander through testing and development of new particle detector architectures. After graduating in 2010, he enrolled at Columbia University to study under Tanya Zelevinsky, who was building Columbia’s first modern atomic, molecular, and optical physics laboratory. While developing tools to construct a molecular lattice clock, Mickey helped redefine the state-of-the-art in ultracold molecule manipulation. Early results included the development of an accurate technique for extracting the in situ temperature of harmonically trapped particles, and the discovery of ultra-narrow transitions whose natural quality factors represented the highest ever observed in molecules. From late 2014 to 2016, he led experimental efforts to study the angular distributions of fragments produced by the dissociation of molecules placed in single quantum states. Images of these multi-lobed molecular explosions reflect dramatic interference between output channels, and represent the first time a simple photochemical reaction could be observed with all quantum mechanical degrees of freedom completely controlled. Mickey is now a postdoctoral scholar in Cheng Chin’s group at the University of Chicago, working to build a Cs quantum gas microscope which can be deterministically loaded with arbitrary initial atom arrays.