Campus & Community

Lene Hau wins major teaching award:

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Professor who stops light honored for ‘exciting lectures’

Lene V.
Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics Lene Vestergaard Hau

Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics Lene Vestergaard Hau has won the 2003 Richtmyer Memorial Lecture Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers. According to the teachers association, Hau won the award for her “dedication to teaching and research” and her “ability to give an exciting and informative lecture.”

A professor of physics, Hau won world acclaim for first slowing light to 38 miles an hour, then bringing it to a complete stop. Before these experiments, it was not believed possible that light, which travels 186,282 miles a second in space, could be manipulated this way. Hau’s team was also able to restart the stopped light beam without affecting its characteristics, raising the possibility of using her system to create optical and quantum computers that are much more versatile than today’s machines, and security codes that are virtually impossible to break.

The Richtmyer Award, which includes a certificate and $3,000, will be presented to Hau this January in Miami. Hau will also deliver a keynote address at the ceremony. Previous award winners include a number of Nobel laureates, including Harvard physicists Sheldon Glashow, Steven Weinberg, Edward Purcell, John Van Vleck, and Michael Tinkham, Rumford Professor of Physics and Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, who won a Richtmyer Award in 1977.