Section Navigation

Noted Physicist Steven Chu to Lecture Feb. 18 at Appalachian

011702chu_dl.jpgBOONE–Physicist and Nobel Prize co-winner Dr. Steven Chu will discuss “Laser Cooling and Trapping: From Atomic Clocks to Watching Bio-molecules Move, One Molecule At A Time”

Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. in Appalachian State University’s Farthing Auditorium. The lecture is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Morgan Lecture Series and is free and open to the public.

Chu also will present a physics colloquium Feb. 19 at 11 a.m. titled “Biology at the Single Molecule Level.” The lecture will be in Plemmons Student Union’s Grandfather Ballroom.

Chu is the Theodore and Frances Geballe Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University.

He also is chair of Stanford’s Department of Physics. He has been awarded nine scientific prizes in physics including being named co-winner of the Nobel Prize in 1997 for his work on the laser cooling of atoms.

While at Stanford, Chu explained how atoms can be cooled far below their minimum temperature predicted by the theory of two-level atoms. Later his group developed the first atomic fountain and atomic fountain frequency standard which has the potential for significantly improving atomic clocks.

Also the group developed an atom interferometer which far exceeds the most accurate commercial inertial sensors.

Using optical tweezers, Chu’s group has been able to visualize and manipulate single strands of DNA. His group uses a combination of fluorescence energy transfer, optical tweezers and atomic force microscopy to study the protein, along with RNA folding, translation and enzyme activity at the level of individual bio-molecules.

Chu received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California-Berkeley. His thesis and subsequent postdoctoral studies in atomic physics were an early confirmation of the Weinberg-Salam-Shalow theory that confirms the unification of the Laws of Electromagnetism and the Weak Nuclear Force. These are two of the four fundamental forces in nature.

While at Bell Laboratories he and Allen Mills did the first laser spectroscopy of positronium and measured that atom’s energy transitions to an accuracy of a few parts per billion. They were also able to measure a similar transition in an atom of muonium, an atom consisting of a positive muon, an unstable elementary particle and an electron.

In 1985 he led a group that showed how to cool and then trap atoms with light. The optical trap also was used to trap microscopic particles in water. This “optical tweezers” process is widely used in biology.

The Morgan Lecture Series was created by an endowment from the G. William Morgan Family. Morgan was a 1934 graduate of Appalachian and a health physicist with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The lecture series helps stimulate scientific understanding and research among the sciences by bringing significant researchers to the Appalachian campus.

Previous lecturers include Robert Ballard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute; Carl Djerassi, chemist, Stanford University; Roald Hoffman, chemist, Cornell University and Nobel Laureate; Steven J. Gould, paleontologist, Harvard University; and Walter Alvarez, geologist, University of California, Berkeley.