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Renowned Berkeley Physicist Raymond Chiao to Join UC Merced Faculty

December 14, 2005

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.”