Atlanta hosts DAMOP international physics conference

Last week, the Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (DAMOP) of the American Physical Society (APS) held its 42nd annual meeting in Atlanta. Roughly 1,000 scientists in the field of AMO physics, including professors, researchers and even a handful of Nobel Prize winners, convened at the Marriott Marquis hotel to present their research and discuss topics for future exploration at the event, known as DAMOP 2011.

Several individuals from Tech were in attendance, with many of them giving their own presentations.

The meeting opened Monday with a graduate student symposium on precision measurements in AMO physics, organized by Tech PHYS Professor Alex Kuzmich. The remainder of the week was scheduled with morning and early afternoon presentations, followed by afternoon poster sessions. Presentations were given both by invited speakers and by contributing authors, who were divided into various blocks based on subject material.

The poster sessions were held in a large ballroom where upward of 150 research posters were on display at a time, with the authors stationed nearby to discuss their research and answer questions. Talks concluded late Friday morning with special presentations on hot topics in the field.

To commence with the talks on Tuesday, an event was held in the morning honoring four AMO individuals who received prizes for their work, including Tech PHYS Assistant Professor Shina Tan. Tan was awarded the George E. Valley, Jr. Prize for his derivation of exact relations for Fermi gases with large scattering length. According to the APS website, the prize is awarded “to recognize one individual in the early stages of his or her career for an outstanding scientific contribution to physics that is deemed to have significant potential for a dramatic impact on the field.”

Other invited speakers from Tech included Kuzmich and Carlos Sa de Melo. Kuzmich spoke Wednesday afternoon about advancements in quantum memories for telecom networks, while Sa de Melo presented Thursday morning about his findings on possible quantum phases of dipolar molecules. Thursday afternoon, an event was held for high school teachers in the Atlanta area which was organized by Kenneth Brown of the Institute’s chemistry department. Throughout the week, several graduate students here gave short presentations on contributed papers and displayed their posters during the afternoon session.

Paul Goldbart, who was recently chosen as the new Chair of the School of Physics at Tech, spoke about emergent co-crystallization of atoms and light in multimode cavities Friday morning.

“You go [to conferences like DAMOP] for two reasons. You come to these meetings because a lot of the discussions take place in the hallways… there’s this exchange, this kind of weaving together of the community outside of the talks. And then, inside the talks, you get this example where someone says, ‘Wow, you have a theory. I’m doing experiments on something closely related’…It’s really a vital aspect of how science gets done—a kind of web. You burrow in deep at home and you work hard, but you’ve got to come out and communicate,” Goldbart said.

In addition to the professors who presented during the week, Tech also had another guest speaker invited to the meeting. After the banquet Thursday night, Richart Slusher of GTRI told stories from his days at Bell Laboratories. Bell Labs was responsible for the development of dozens of technologies commonly used today, such as the transistor, the solar cell, C and C++, Unix and the functional MRI.

Slusher detailed the rise and fall of Bell Labs, delivered some personal anecdotes and discussed the future of the relationship between physics and technology. Also at the banquet, Brian Kennedy, another Tech PHYS professor, was recognized as a new APS Fellow based on his work in AMO physics.


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