CU Junior Worked With Physics Nobel Winner
BY JULIE ANDERSON
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
A Creighton University junior now can tell a physics student’s ultimate “how I spent my summer vacation” story.
In a call from her mom in Clarion, Iowa, on Wednesday, Jennifer Sebby learned, that William Phillips, the researcher she worked with last summer, at the National Institute for Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., was one of three scientists awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for physics.
Phillips won the prize for his contribution in developing a method of trapping atoms, nearly stopping their motion and thereby cooling them close to absolute zero, the theoretical point at which all atomic motion stops.
The advances in trapping and cooling atoms already have led to the development of a new super-accurate atomic clock and to the discovery of a new form of matter known as the Bose-Einstein condensate.
Ms. Sebby, 20, said she worked with Phillips this summer on developing a better atomic clock. A working model is operating in France. Ms. Sebby worked on one of 10 other improved atomic clocks.
While the kind of precision atomic clocks doesn’t mean much to the everyday person whose watch runs five minutes late, the clocks are important for precision military communications, mainly coding frequencies. And with global positioning, the more accurate the clock in the satellite the more precisely operators can locate things, such as submarines.
Ms. Sebby, who plans to become an atomic physicist, sent Phillips an e-mail Wednesday to congratulate him. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I knew he was great, but I was so amazed when she told me.”