Deborah S. Jin
Growing up the daughter of two physicists, Deborah S. Jin earned her doctorate at the University of Chicago, choosing to also study physics.
Moving to Colorado University she accepted a post-doctoral position at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, now known as JILA. Two researchers there had just successfully created a new state of matter by cooling a gas of rubidium atoms to almost absolute zero, forcing the atoms to meld together and act as a single particle– they would be awarded a Nobel prize for this work.
Dr. Jin decided to take that work in a new direction and experiment with a different class of fundamental particles, fermions. By using fermions, her task was much harder as these particles do not meld together like the original particles used, nonetheless she was successful in creating what she dubbed a fermionic condensate. Her findings might not have any practical applications currently but the knowledge opened up by Jin’s work gives insight into the development of new materials, like room temperature semiconductors allowing a more efficient use of electricity.
In 2003 it was announced that she would be the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, often called the genius grant, which is given to individuals that show extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.
After her success with creating fermionic condensates she began new work with a colleague at JILA to study ultracold molecules. Using lasers and magnetic fields to remove the energy that is created from molecular bonding, a new field of research into chemical reactions was opened up as scientists are now able to study quantum effects that are not observable at higher temperatures.
There had been talk among the scientific community that Dr. Jin herself might be awarded a Nobel prize for her contributions to physics, but sadly she passed away from cancer in September 2016 and according to the Chancellor of CU Boulder, “The international scientific community has lost a giant, and our campus has lost of mentor to young scientists and an inspiration to female scientists.”
Written by Angela Goad