For Immediate Release – March 1, 2004



Will Meet with Students, Faculty; Will Deliver Public Lecture

GENESEO, N.Y. — Dr. Eric Cornell, a winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics, will speak at the State University of New York at Geneseo on March 18 and 19 as part of the American Physical Society’s Division of Laser Sciences Distinguished Traveling Lecture Program and the SUNY Geneseo Robert Sells Lecture Series.

Cornell will speak on "Stone Cold Science: Bose Einstein Condensation and the Weird World of Physics a Millionth of a Degree from Absolute Zero" on March 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 202 of the George D. Newton Lecture Hall on the Geneseo campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

During Cornell’s two-day visit with the SUNY Geneseo Department of Physics and Astronomy, he will also meet with students and faculty, teach a sophomore-level physics class, and present a technical talk on his research.

Cornell and two other physicists received the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates," according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which issued a news release about the prize at the time. As Cornell describes, "As atoms get colder and colder, they become more and more like waves and less and less like particles. When a gas of atoms gets so cold that the ‘waviness’ of one atom overlaps the waviness of another, the result is a sort of quantum mechanical identity crisis, a ‘condensation’ predicted 70 years ago by Albert Einstein." Experimental work by Cornell and his colleagues demonstrated that Einstein’s prediction is correct and that this new state of matter actually exists at extremely low temperatures.

According to the Academy’s news release, "A laser beam differs from the light from an ordinary light bulb in several ways. In the laser the light particles all have the same energy and oscillate together. To cause matter also to behave in this controlled way has long been a challenge for researchers. This year's Nobel Laureates have succeeded – they have caused atoms to ‘sing in unison’ – thus discovering a new state of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC)."

The academy noted that "it is interesting to speculate on areas for the application of BEC. The new ‘control’ of matter which this technology involves is going to bring revolutionary applications in such fields as precision measurement and nanotechnology."

Eric Cornell is a senior scientist at the National Institute for Standards and Technology and a professor in the Department of Physics at University of Colorado at Boulder.

According to Kurt Fletcher, professor and chair of the department of physics and astronomy at Geneseo, the college is particularly pleased to host Dr. Cornell. "A number of our recent physics graduates have gone on to study physics at the graduate level at Colorado, including Sarah Thompson, who graduated from Geneseo in 2000, and Michele Olsen, from the class of 2001," he said. "Both have taken classes from Dr. Cornell, and regularly consult with him on their Ph.D. research. In addition, Brian DeMarco, from the 1996 class at Geneseo, completed his Ph.D. degree at Colorado in 2001, and Dr. Cornell served on DeMarco’s Ph.D. thesis committee."

As a Distinguished Traveling Lecturer with the Division of Laser Science, Dr. Cornell visits selected academic institutions for two days, and gives a public lecture open to the entire academic community and meets informally with students and faculty. According to the American Physical Society, the purpose of the traveling lecturer program is to bring distinguished scientists to colleges and universities in order to convey the excitement of Laser Science to undergraduate and graduate students.

Born in 1961 in Palo Alto, Calif., Cornell earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Stanford University, and his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to earning the Nobel Prize, he was named a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2000. He has also been awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, the Lorentz Medal from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, and the Samuel Wesley Stratton Award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

For more information on Dr. Cornell’s visit, contact Dr. Kurt Fletcher ( or call the SUNY Geneseo Department of Physics and Astronomy at (585) 245-5281.

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