Nathan Gemelke, an assistant professor of physics at Penn State University, has been honored with an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow award in recognition of his research accomplishments. Sloan Research Fellowships are intended to enhance the careers of the very best young faculty members in seven fields of science: chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics.
Gemelke is a physicist whose research focuses on the behavior of atomic gases as they transition from one quantum phase to another at temperatures near absolute zero -- the point at which all random motion ceases. He and his collaborators recently created the first direct images showing the transition between two phases of such "ultracold" gases held in an egg-crate-like container formed by interfering laser beams. These high-resolution images reveal a peculiar self-organization of atoms resembling tiered cakes, which have been dubbed "wedding cake" structures. In other work, Gemelke and his collaborators demonstrated the peculiar effects of quantum mechanics in a rapidly rotating gas of atoms, where whirlpools known as "vortices" begin to overlap. Gemelke's research is an important step toward understanding the complicated and enigmatic quantum mechanics of large numbers of interacting particles at very low temperatures. His research also makes important advances in the categorization of unique forms of matter.
Before joining Penn State in 2011, Gemelke was a Grainger Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago. In 2007, he joined the James Franck Institute to participate in research on atomic gases. He also helped to develop Chicago's SMART (Science, Mathematics and Research Training) outreach program, which provides instruction in the physical sciences to minority and at-risk high-school students.
Gemelke has published numerous papers in journals such as Nature and Physical Review Letters. He has given talks at many conferences across the United States, and in 2007, he was invited to deliver the 66th Arthur H. Compton Lecture Series at the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago.
In 2007, Gemelke earned his doctoral degree at Stanford University under the direction of Nobel Laureate Steven Chu. In 1999, he received his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.