The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has awarded a 2003 Fellows Award to Dr. Deborah Shiu-lan Jin of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and an ONR "Young Investigator."
Jin, who was received a Young Investigator award in the Office of Naval Research's Electronics Division, says that "Support from the Office of Naval Research was instrumental in enabling me to build up my research program. This support was especially important because it came very early in my career."
ONR's Young Investigator Program (YIP) aims to attract to naval research outstanding new faculty members at institutions of higher education, to support their research, and to encourage their teaching and research careers. The awards are for up to $100,000 per year for three years, with the possibility of additional support for capital equipment or collaborative research with a Navy laboratory.
The 24 MacArthur Fellowships, called the "genius" awards, each year recognize scholars, professionals, and artists in many fields. The award is accompanied by an unrestricted cash prize of $500,000. In 2002 the Foundation named as a MacArthur Fellow ONR-funded researcher Dr. Bonnie Bassler, a molecular ecobiologist at Princeton.
Jin, a physicist working at JILA, a joint institute of NIST and the University of Colorado-Boulder, was recognized for her work in ultracold quantum gases. She achieved a major breakthrough in the cooling of a dilute gas of Fermionic atoms (potassium-40) to a temperature below the so-called "Fermi temperature," which is where the effects of quantum mechanics come to dominate the properties of the gas.
ONR officials say that Jin's work contributes significantly to improving navigation and precision timekeeping for Navy systems by supporting the development of more accurate and compact atomic clocks, accelerometers, and gravitation sensors.
ONR basic research in this field, which began about 20 years ago, now is delivering new devices of unparalleled functionality. Six Nobel Prizes have been awarded in the field of ultracold atomic and molecular physics since 1997, four of them to ONR grantees.
Jin's work promises to help unravel the mysteries of superconductivity. It is possible in theory to induce in an ultracold Fermi gas the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) phase transition, which is believed to be responsible for most forms of superconductivity known in metals and alloys. Jin's work offers the possibility of exploring the BCS state with unprecedented accuracy and flexibility—considered a "holy grail" of ultracold atomic and molecular physics.
Jin earned her A.B. from Princeton University and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She was a research associate with NIST and now holds the positions of NIST Physicist, Fellow of JILA, and Assistant Professor Adjoint with the University of Colorado/Boulder.