Eric Allin Cornell

Eric Allin Cornell

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Eric Allin Cornell is an American physicist who, along with Carl E. Wieman, was able to synthesize the first Bose–Einstein condensate
Bose–Einstein condensate
A Bose–Einstein condensate is a state of matter of a dilute gas of weakly interacting bosons confined in an external potential and cooled to temperatures very near absolute zero . Under such conditions, a large fraction of the bosons occupy the lowest quantum state of the external potential, at...

 in 1995. For their efforts, Cornell, Wieman, and Wolfgang Ketterle
Wolfgang Ketterle
Wolfgang Ketterle is a German physicist and professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . His research has focused on experiments that trap and cool atoms to temperatures close to absolute zero, and he led one of the first groups to realize Bose-Einstein condensation in these...

 shared the Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

 in 2001.

Biography


Cornell was born in Palo Alto, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, where his parents were completing graduate degrees at nearby Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

. Two years later he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, where his father was a professor of civil engineering
Civil engineering
Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including works like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings...

 at MIT. Here he grew up with his younger brother and sister, with yearlong intermezzos in Berkeley, California
Berkeley, California
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...

 and Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, where his father spent sabbatical years.

In Cambridge he attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. The year before his graduation he moved back to California with his mother and finished high school at San Francisco's Lowell High School
Lowell High School (San Francisco)
Lowell High School is a public magnet school in San Francisco, California. The school opened in 1856 as the Union Grammar School and attained its current name in 1896. Lowell moved to its current location in the Merced Manor neighborhood in 1962....

, a local magnet school
Magnet school
In education in the United States, magnet schools are public schools with specialized courses or curricula. "Magnet" refers to how the schools draw students from across the normal boundaries defined by authorities as school zones that feed into certain schools.There are magnet schools at the...

 for academically talented kids.

After high school he enrolled at Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

, where he was to meet his future wife, Celeste Landry. As an undergraduate he earned money as an assistant in the various low-temperature physics groups on campus. He was doing well both in his courses and his jobs in the labs and seemed set for a career in physics. He however doubted whether he wished to pursue such a career, or rather a different one in literature or politics. Halfway through his undergraduate years he went to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 for nine months as volunteer teaching conversational English and to study Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

. He learned that this was not where his talents lay, and returned to Stanford with renewed resolve to pursue his true talent, physics. He graduated with honors and distinction in 1985.

For graduate school he returned to Cambridge, where he attended MIT. There he joined Dave Pritchard's group, which had a running experiment that tried to measure the mass of the electron neutrino
Electron neutrino
The electron neutrino is a subatomic lepton elementary particle which has no net electric charge. Together with the electron it forms the first generation of leptons, hence its name electron neutrino...

 from the beta decay
Beta decay
In nuclear physics, beta decay is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle is emitted from an atom. There are two types of beta decay: beta minus and beta plus. In the case of beta decay that produces an electron emission, it is referred to as beta minus , while in the case of a...

 of tritium
Tritium
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium contains one proton and no neutrons...

. Although he was unable to determine the mass of the neutrino, Cornell did obtain his PhD in 1990.

After obtaining his doctorate, he joined Carl Wieman
Carl Wieman
Carl Edwin Wieman is an American physicist at the University of British Columbia and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics for the production, in 1995 with Eric Allin Cornell, of the first true Bose–Einstein condensate.-Biography:...

 at the University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Colorado at Boulder
The University of Colorado Boulder is a public research university located in Boulder, Colorado...

 as a postdoctoral researcher on a small laser cooling
Laser cooling
Laser cooling refers to the number of techniques in which atomic and molecular samples are cooled through the interaction with one or more laser light fields...

 experiment. During his two years as a postdoc he came up with a plan to combine laser cooling and evaporative cooling in a magnetic trap to create a Bose–Einstein condensate
Bose–Einstein condensate
A Bose–Einstein condensate is a state of matter of a dilute gas of weakly interacting bosons confined in an external potential and cooled to temperatures very near absolute zero . Under such conditions, a large fraction of the bosons occupy the lowest quantum state of the external potential, at...

 (BEC). Based on his proposal he was offered a permanent position at JILA/NIST in Boulder. For synthesizing the first Bose–Einstein condensate in 1995, Cornell, Wieman, and Wolfgang Ketterle
Wolfgang Ketterle
Wolfgang Ketterle is a German physicist and professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . His research has focused on experiments that trap and cool atoms to temperatures close to absolute zero, and he led one of the first groups to realize Bose-Einstein condensation in these...

 shared the Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

 in 2001.

He is currently a professor at the University of Colorado
University of Colorado at Boulder
The University of Colorado Boulder is a public research university located in Boulder, Colorado...

 and a physicist at the United States Department of Commerce
United States Department of Commerce
The United States Department of Commerce is the Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with promoting economic growth. It was originally created as the United States Department of Commerce and Labor on February 14, 1903...

 National Institute of Standards and Technology
National Institute of Standards and Technology
The National Institute of Standards and Technology , known between 1901 and 1988 as the National Bureau of Standards , is a measurement standards laboratory, otherwise known as a National Metrological Institute , which is a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce...

. His lab is located at JILA. He was awarded the Lorentz Medal
Lorentz Medal
Lorentz Medal is a prize awarded every four years by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. It was established in 1925 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the doctorate of Hendrik Lorentz. This solid gold medal is given for important contributions to theoretical physics, though...

 in 1998 and is a Fellow
Fellow of the AAAS
Fellow of the AAAS is an honor accorded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to distinguished persons who are members of the Association. Fellows are elected annually by the AAAS Council for "efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications [which] are...

 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association for the Advancement of Science
The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the...

.

He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 in 2005.

Personal Life


Cornell married his wife Celeste Landry in 1995 mere months before the BEC experiment succeeded. Their first daughter, Eliza, was born in 1996, and their second daughter, Sophia, in 1998.

In October 2004, his left arm and shoulder were amputated in an attempt to stop the spread of necrotizing fasciitis
Necrotizing fasciitis
Necrotizing fasciitis , commonly known as flesh-eating disease or Flesh-eating bacteria syndrome, is a rare infection of the deeper layers of skin and subcutaneous tissues, easily spreading across the fascial plane within the subcutaneous tissue.Necrotizing fasciitis is a quickly progressing and...

. He was discharged from the hospital in mid-December, having recovered from the infection, and returned to work part-time in April 2005.

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