Renowned Berkeley Physicist Raymond Chiao to Join UC Merced Faculty

In a major recruiting triumph for the University of California, Merced, Professor Raymond Chiao of the UC Berkeley Physics Department has accepted a joint faculty appointment in the fledgling university's schools of Natural Science and Engineering. He plans to pursue a new line of research in gravitational radiation when he assumes his new post.

"Professor Chiao's expertise and experience as a researcher and teacher will be enormous assets," said Dean Maria Pallavicini of the UC Merced School of Natural Sciences. "Faculty members and students will benefit from his insight and example, and his high-level research is going to have a major impact on the physical sciences and engineering academic programs. It's an honor for UC Merced that he has decided to join us."

"The potential for engineered applications based on Professor Chiao's scientific research is tremendous," said Dean Jeff Wright of the School of Engineering. "We're extremely pleased that he will be part of UC Merced's Energy Institute, where we are already working on solar energy solutions that use advanced optics. His work will simultaneously fit our mission and expand our capabilities."

Chiao is an award-winning atomic, molecular and optical physicist. His research into the behavior of photons - the particles that make up light - and related particles has made Chiao a renowned expert in his field.

When Chiao sets up shop in Merced, startup funds from the UC system available to him as a new UC Merced professor will make it possible to pursue a new line of research: attempting to detect the gravitational radiation predicted decades ago by Albert Einstein.

Einstein theorized that gravity travels in waves, like light, heat or sound. Chiao aims to discover gravity waves directly by generating them, as well as detecting them, directly in a laboratory setting, using macroscopically coherent quantum matter as the means.

"I am eager to start what I believe is an important line of research not being pursued elsewhere," said Chiao. "If I were to be successful in this new research at Merced, the results would be extremely important, as the generation and detection of a new kind of 'gravity radio waves' would open up whole new areas of science and engineering, such as a new kind of long-distance wireless communication."

Gravitational radiation, Chiao explained, would be able to travel through the earth, potentially creating a direct line of wireless communication between opposite points on the globe.

To work on this question, Chiao will be setting up equipment at UC Merced using recently developed technology involving extremely cold helium 3 - helium 4 dilution refrigerators, which he plans to purchase from a company in Europe. In addition to using UC startup funds, he will seek funding for his work from various private foundations and from the National Science Foundation.

Chiao, who was born in China, completed his undergraduate degree at Princeton University and his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in physics. After two years on the faculty at M.I.T., he joined the Berkeley faculty as an Alfred P. Sloan fellow in 1967. Among his many honors and awards, he counts a prize from the Gravity Research Foundation, a Scientific Innovation Award from the Center for Advanced Studies and the Einstein Prize for Laser Science. From 1987 - 1996 he was the recipient of the Senior U.S. Scientist Award of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung. Currently, he serves as a fellow of the American Physical Society and a fellow of the Optical Society of America and as a foreign member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Arts and Letters. He recently won the 2006 Willis E. Lamb Medal for Laser Science and Quantum Optics with colleagues Roy J. Glauber and Manfred Kleber.

Chiao's connection with UC Merced began with an invitation from Professor Roland Winston two years ago to give a colloquium at the University of Chicago.

"As soon as I began interacting professionally with Raymond, the elegance and innovation in his work was apparent, not to mention the strong potential for creating applications based on the outstanding science he does," said Winston. "It's going to be very beneficial for faculty members and for students to have him as a colleague and professor at UC Merced."

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