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Pratt School of Engineering
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John E. Thomas, Fritz London Professor Emeritus of Physics

John E. Thomas
Contact Info:
Office Location:  185 Physics Building
Office Phone:  (919) 660-2508
Email Address: send me a message
Web Page:


Doctor of PhilosophyMIT1979
Ph.D.Massachusetts Institute of Technology1979
Bachelor of ScienceMIT1973
Research Interests: Quantum Optics/Atomic & Molecular Physics

Professor John E. Thomas is exploring the physics of an optically trapped degenerate Fermi gas. The group pioneered the development of ultrastable all-optical traps for neutral atoms in 1999, achieving trap lifetimes of more than 400 seconds, comparable to the best magnetic traps. The group has developed methods for direct evaporative cooling of neutral atoms in optical traps, enabling the first all-optical production of a degenerate Fermi gas in 2001. The trapped gas comprises a degenerate 50-50 mixture of spin-up and spin-down fermionic lithium-6 atoms, which exhibits a collisional (Feshbach) resonance in a bias magnetic field. In 2002, the Duke group was the first to produce and study a strongly interacting degenerate Fermi gas. This system exhibits universal behavior and is a paradigm for testing nonperturbative many-body calculational methods in disciplines from nuclear matter to high temperature superconductors. In 2004, the Duke group was the first to observe evidence for high temperature superfluid hydrodynamics in a strongly interacting Fermi gas. Ongoing experiments include studies of the thermodynamics and transport properties of this unique quantum system.


Light • Models, Theoretical • Phase Transition • Scattering, Radiation • Superfluidity • Thermodynamics

Current Ph.D. Students   (Former Students)

  • Arunkumar Jagannathan  
  • Chingyun Cheng  
  • Ethan R. Elliott  
  • Willie C. Ong  
  • Yingyi Zhang  
  • Chenglin Cao  
  • Le Luo  
  • James A Joseph  
Postdocs Mentored

  • James Joseph (2010/12-present)  
  • Haibin Wu (2010/12-present)  
  • Ilya Arakelyan (2010/12-present)  
  • Jessie Petricka (2008 - August 01, 2009)  
  • Xu Du (June, 2007 - May 23, 2009)  
  • Andrey Turlapov (December 5, 2003 - December 25, 2006)  
Recent Publications   (More Publications)

  1. JE Thomas, Is an ultra-cold strongly interacting Fermi gas a perfect fluid, Nucl. Phys. A, vol. 830 (October, 2009), pp. 635
  2. JE Thomas, Optically-trapped Fermi gases, Habitation, vol. 10 (January, 2013), pp. 242 (NASA Invited talk, Orlando, February 5-8 2006.)
  3. J Kinast, A Turlapov and JE Thomas, Optically trapped Fermi gases model strong interactions in nature, Optics and Photonics News, vol. 16 (December, 2005), pp. 21
  4. KM O’Hara and JE Thomas, Standing room only at the quantum scale, Science, vol. 291 (January, 2013), pp. 2556
  5. A Wax, S Bali and JE Thomas, Path-length-resolved optical phase space distributions for enhanced backscatter, Phys. Rev. Lett., vol. 85 (January, 2013), pp. 66

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