Randy Hulet elected fellow of the Optical Society

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October 23, 2017

David Ruth
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Jade Boyd
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Randy Hulet elected fellow of the Optical Society

Rice physicist recognized for pioneering work with ultracold atomic gases

HOUSTON — (Oct. 23, 2017) — Randy Hulet, Rice’s Fayez Sarofim Professor of Physics and Astronomy, has been elected a fellow of the Optical Society, the leading U.S.-based professional society dedicated to advancing the study of light in both theory and application.

Hulet is one of 101 newly elected 2018 fellows announced by the society this month. He was honored “for pioneering achievements in the field of ultracold atomic gases, including the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation with attractive interactions and groundbreaking studies of atomic fermions.”

Randy Hulet

Being elected a fellow is one of the society’s most prestigious honors. The number of newly elected fellows each year is limited to about 0.5 percent of the society’s membership.

Hulet, who joined Rice’s faculty in 1987, uses lasers to both trap and cool clouds of lithium gas to less than a millionth of a degree above absolute zero — a temperature far colder than anything found in nature. At such extreme temperatures, the behavior of matter is dictated by the laws of quantum mechanics. For example, in 1995, Hulet’s group was among the first to make a Bose-Einstein condensate, a cloud of thousands of atoms that march in lockstep as if they are a single entity, or “matter wave.”

In an April study in Science, Hulet’s team showed that matter-wave solitons — a specific type of Bose-Einstein condensate — could provide clues about the underlying physics of the creation of oceanic rogue waves, 100-foot walls of water that can threaten even the largest ships. In 2014 his group reported a quantum disappearing act when it showed that two solitons seemed to wink out of existence briefly rather than share space as they passed through one each other. And in 2015, Hulet’s lab finished a six year quest to use ultracold atoms as stand-ins for electrons to simulate the magnetic behavior of high-temperature superconductors. The lab is working to cool its condensates even more — to billionths of a degree above absolute zero — to further probe the mysteries of high-temperature superconductors.

Hulet’s prior awards and honors include the American Physical Society’s I.I. Rabi Prize and Davisson-Germer Prize in Atomic Physics, the Herbert Walther Award, which is awarded jointly by the Optical Society and the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, and the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Young Investigators Award. Hulet is also a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Founded in 1916, the Optical Society has more than 20,000 members from over 100 countries and is dedicated to both promoting the generation, application and archiving of knowledge in optics and photonics and to disseminating that knowledge worldwide.

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High-resolution IMAGES are available for download at:

http://news.rice.edu/files/2017/10/1016_HULET-OSAfellow-fit29-lg-qg25kt.jpg
CAPTION: Randy Hulet (Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Related research stories from Rice:

Ultracold atom waves may shed light on rogue ocean killers — April 28, 2017
http://news.rice.edu/2017/04/28/ultracold-atom-waves-may-shed-light-on-rogue-ocean-killers/

Hulet wins Walther physics prize — Dec. 5, 2016
http://news.rice.edu/2016/12/05/hulet-wins-walther-physics-prize/

Simulating superconducting materials with ultracold atoms — Feb. 23, 2015
http://news.rice.edu/2015/02/23/simulating-superconducting-materials-with-ultracold-atoms/

Ultracold disappearing act — Nov. 2, 2014
http://news.rice.edu/2014/11/02/ultracold-disappearing-act/

One-dimensional window on superconductivity, magnetism — Sept. 29, 2010
http://news.rice.edu/2010/09/29/one-dimensional-window-on-superconductivity-magnetism-2/

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,879 undergraduates and 2,861 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction and No. 2 for happiest students by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to http://tinyurl.com/RiceUniversityoverview.

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.
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