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Listen or download interview (mp3, 57 minutes, 55MB)
Growing up in the woods of rural Oregon, Carl Wieman spent much time alone, pursuing interests that might have led him into a career as a writer or a professional chess player rather than a scientist. But as an undergraduate at MIT, he discovered his life-long love of building things, answering real questions, and solving real problems in the laboratory.
Wieman’s career has benefited from his ability to focus on the right topic at the right time. When color-adjustable lasers became available, Wieman envisioned the advances these less complicated and less expensive lasers could facilitate in physics and used the new lasers to study parity violation in atoms. This work eventually led to the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics "for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates."
Carl Wieman is the Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Aside from his landmark work in the laboratory, Wieman has been very involved in science education. He recently launched the Physics Education Technology Project, or PhET, which was funded in part with his Nobel Prize winnings.
Last Updated: 06-14-2011
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The audio files linked above are part of the National Academy of Sciences InterViews series. Opinions and statements included in these audio files are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academy of Sciences.