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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.

Michael Feld, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

For the first experimental demonstrations of superradiance and the microlaser and for pioneering applications of optics to biological physics.


Professor Michael S. Feld was educated at MIT, where he is now a Professor of Physics and directing the George R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory. Professor Feld is active in various aspects of laser physics, spectroscopy and biomedicine. His optical physics research spans the fields of molecular and atomic spectroscopy, laser-nuclear interactions and the study of dynamical and radiative processes in atoms and molecules. Much of this research has been conducted at the MIT Laser Research Facility, an NSF-supported center for physical science research using lasers that he founded in 1979.

Beginning in 1965, Professor Feld conducted a series of experiments (with Professor Ali Javan) to study the saturation spectroscopy of Doppler-broadened three level systems and the role played by coherent Raman processes. This provided a foundation for two photon Doppler-free spectroscopy, lasers without inversion, and electromagnetically-induced transparency. In 1973, he made the first experimental observation of superradiance, the collective spontaneous emission of an assembly of excited atoms. In 1987, he began a series of experiments to study the radiation of a single, isolated atom in an optical resonator, which led to the first demonstration of enhanced and suppressed spontaneous emission and radiative level shifts in an open optical resonator.

Professor Feld is also active in the field of laser biomedicine. He directs the Laser Biomedical Research Center at MIT, an NIH-supported center that he founded in 1985, where he pursues research on the use of fluorescence, reflectance, elastic light scattering and Raman spectroscopy to characterize biological tissues and image disease via endoscopy and optical tomography. In 1985, he showed that fluorescence could be used for diagnosis of atherosclerosis, laying the basis for the field of spectral diagnosis of disease. In 1991, he demonstrated that Raman spectroscopy can be used for histochemical analysis. In 1998, his group developed the technique of light scattering spectroscopy for measuring the size distribution of epithelial cell nuclei to characterize pre-cancerous change, and in 2001, the method of tri-modal spectroscopy, a clinical technique which combines fluorescence and reflectance for spectral diagnosis. He and his colleagues are currently developing methods of low-coherence optical interferometry to measure nanometer length changes and small-scale dynamical processes in biological systems, with the aim of studying fractal structure and nonlinear dynamics in tissues, cells and nuclei.

Professor Feld was selected as an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in 1973. In June 1989, he chaired the Ninth International Conference on Laser Spectroscopy at Bretton Woods, NH, and in July 1992 he co-chaired the Gordon Conference in Lasers in Biology and Medicine. He received the Thompson Award in 1991 for the development of biomedical Raman spectroscopy and the Vinci of Excellence (France) in 1995 for development of the single atom laser. In 1992, he was the Wolk Visitor and Lecturer at Colgate University. He was 1996 distinguished Baetjer Colloquium speaker, Princeton University. He has been named the 2003 recipient of the Lamb Award of the Physics of Quantum Electronics Society, which cites his work in biological physics that involves the close interplay between fundamental and applied science.

Professor Feld is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, the Society of Sigma Xi, the American Society for Laser Surgery and Medicine, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a Research Member of the Joint Faculty of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health, Science and Technology, and an Adjunct Staff Member in the Department of Cardiovascular Research of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. He is chairman of Newton Laboratories (Woburn, MA), and serves on the advisory boards of the Rowland Institute for Science and the Center for Functional Neuroimaging Technologies at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Professor Feld has deeply held beliefs in the importance of affirmative action in science and has received several awards for his activities in this area. His 1979 article in Scientific American on the physics of karate broke new ground, and you can see photos of him there breaking boards and concrete blocks.

Bio provided by Prof. Feld, 2004.

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