William D. Phillips of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, will be awarded the 1998 APS Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science during the 19th annual Interdisciplinary Laser Science (ILS) conference, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Optical Society of America, to be held 4-9 October 1998 in Baltimore, Maryland. Sponsored by the NEC Corporation, the Schawlow prize is intended to recognize outstanding contributions to basic research that uses lasers to advance our knowledge of the fundamental physical properties of materials and their interaction with light.
Phillips was cited "For pioneering experiments in laser cooling and trapping, including the first demonstrations of Zeeman cooling, the magnetic trapping of neutral atoms and the extension of laser cooling below the Doppler limit." He received his BS in physics from Juniata College in Huntington, Pennsylvania, in 1970 and his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1976. After two years as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT, he joined the staff of NIST (then known as the National Bureau of Standards) in 1978. He is the leader of the Laser Cooling and Trapping Group in the Atomic Physics Division of NIST's Physics Laboratory.
Phillips has received many awards and honors, most recently the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in laser cooling and trapping, which he shared with Steven Chu of Stanford University and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji of the Ecol Normale Superieure in France. The scientists were recognized for their development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. With his laser set-up, Phillips can create "optical lattices," crystal-like arrays of atoms held in place by light waves. He is continuing his research on ultra-cold atoms with spin-off applications for improved accuracy in atomic clocks, and in the fabrication of nanostructures.