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Views of the NIST Nobel Laureates on Science Policy

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - 12:00am
Washington, D.C.

Opening Statement By Hon. David Wu

I want to welcome everyone to this morning’s hearing and I want to congratulate the NIST Nobel prize winners before us today.

I want to take a few minutes to make two points.  While the researchers before us today are outstanding in their fields, it is my experience that all the researchers at NIST are first rate.

NIST’s work in metrology and standards has put the agency at the forefront of many fields of scientific research.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Debbie Jin, the 2002 MacArthur genius grant winner, is named NIST’s fourth Nobel Prize recipient.

In reading through the summaries of the work of these three individuas, I was struck by how their work represents a forty-year commitment by NIST to cutting-edge research in related fields.  This is a tribute to the vision and foresight of past NIST directors.

I welcome the opportunity to learn about our panelists’ research efforts and their potential impact.  However, I am especially interested in their thoughts on Federal support for scientific research.

We hear many reports that the U.S. is losing its research edge and that China, India and Mexico are outpacing us in the graduation of scientists and engineers.

There has also been great concern that the quality of our K-12 science education is putting us behind other countries.  So I intend to use today’s opportunity to ask them about their opinions and recommendations on these topics as well.

Again, my congratulations to all our witnesses on their accomplishments.

Download the opening statement text.



1 - Dr. William Phillips
Nobel Laureate, Physics, 1997 Group Leader, Atomic Physics Division National Institute of Standards and Technology Group Leader, Atomic Physics Division Nationa
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2 - Dr. Eric Cornell
Nobel Laureate, Physics, 2001 Research Physicist National Institute of Standards and Technology Research Physicist National Institute of Standards and Technolog
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3 - Dr. John Hall
Nobel Laureate, Physics, 2005 Fellow, Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics Fellow, Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics
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(L-R) Dr. John Hall, Rep. Mark Udall and Dr. Eric Cornell
(L-R) Dr. John Hall, Rep. Mark Udall and Dr. Eric Cornell

Members regularly introduce particularly distinguished constituents testifying before the Committee.  Rep. Mark Udall, kept away by business in another Committee, was unable to deliver personally the remarks he had intended to welcome Dr. Hall and Dr. Cornell:

First, I would like to welcome all of our witnesses here today.

The awards and accolades the three of you have received are a testament to the quality of your research and the world-class scientists employed at NIST.

I am proud to represent a district that has had four Nobel Prize winners in its past, two of which are here today.

Dr. Eric Cornell received his Ph.D. from MIT. He is currently a senior scientist at NIST and a Professor Adjunct at the University of Colorado.

In 2001, Dr. Cornell and another constituent of mine, Dr. Carl Wieman, received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms.

The Bose-Einstein condensation is a new state of matter, formed only when atoms are cooled to nearly absolute zero.

I will let Dr. Cornell describe the details of his work, but I would like to highlight the effects of his research.

The Bose-Einstein Condensate has had enormous impact in quantum computing and nanotechnology. It has allowed for the development of precision accelerometers, gravitometers, and gyroscopes used for remote sensing and navigation.

As the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted upon awarding the prize, the 2001 Nobel Laureates have caused atoms to "sing in unison."

The creation of Bose-Einstein condensate is a ground-breaking accomplishment that has significantly affected the scientific community, its work, and its direction for years to come.

Dr. Cornell, thank you for being here today.

Dr. Jan Hall is NIST and the 2nd district’s most recent Nobel Prize winner.

Dr. Hall is a JILA fellow at the University of Colorado and a senior scientist with NIST Quantum Physics Division. He has received a series of awards in his distinguished career, including the Department of Commerce Gold Medal on three separate occasions.

Dr. Hall won the Nobel Prize in 2005 for the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy.

Through his research, he worked to develop an instrument that can measure frequencies with an accuracy of fifteen digits.

His work has wide-ranging applications that can improve communication and animation technology, and potentially benefit navigation for spacecraft.

I would like to welcome Dr. Hall.

It is an honor to have all three of you here today. As we work to strengthen STEM education in this country and continue to invest in R&D, your experiences and insight is particularly helpful to this committee.

Thank you again for joining us.

(L-R) Dr. William Phillips, Dr. Eric Cornell, Rep. David Wu and Dr. John Hall
Rep. David Wu, Ranking Member of the ETS Subcommittee (second from right), chatted with the Laureates before their testimony. Dr. William Phillips is at left.
109th Congress