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The 2003 Willis E. Lamb Award for Laser Science and Quantum Optics

Awarded January 8, 2003, at the 33rd Winter Colloquium on the Physics of Quantum Electronics.

Herschel A. Rabitz, Princeton University

For inventing the learning algorithm approach to the coherent control of quantum phenomena with important and wide-ranging applications.


Professor Rabitz obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, with a minor in mathematics, at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1966. He went on to obtain a Ph.D. in chemical physics at Harvard in 1970, in the area of molecular collisions. This was followed by a post-doctoral year at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He joined the faculty at Princeton University in 1971.

Prof. Rabitz’ research branches in a number of directions. A particular hallmark of these studies is the development of a systematic input-output (I-O) perspective to explore fundamental chemical/physical phenomena. This perspective led to the development of analytical techniques for revealing how molecular interactions manifest themselves in a hierarchy of observable phenomena, starting with microscopic atomic-scale processes up through macroscopic bulk properties. Professor Rabitz has also developed a family of inverse tools to systematically extract high quality molecular interactions from laboratory observations.

Starting in the late 1980’s, Professor Rabitz directed his attention towards the control of atomic and molecular dynamics phenomena through tailored laser sources. These developments built on I-O analysis concepts, resulting in the ability to engineer the behavior of quantum dynamical systems. The foundations of optimal control over quantum phenomena were developed ultimately leading to a closed loop algorithm enabling quantum systems to literally teach lasers how to achieve their control. This algorithm is proving to be generically applicable for practically controlling of a broad variety of quantum phenomena. An overall theme in Professor Rabitz’s research is the treatment of molecular-scale phenomena from a systems analysis perspective, effectively drawing together diverse concepts from engineering, physics, and chemistry.

Professor Rabitz has over 585 scientific publications. was an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow from 1975-1979, and a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar from 1974-1979, He received the Alexander von Humboldt Award in 2000, and was named the Charles Phelps Smyth Professor of Chemistry in 2000.

Bio provided by Prof. Rabitz, 2004.

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