Thomas, the John S. Risley Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics, was recognized by APS “for his seminal contributions to the study of unitary Fermi gases, from their experimental realization to measurements of their collective mode dynamics, universal thermodynamic relations, and quantum transport coefficients.” Unitary Fermi gases model exotic systems in nature, including high temperature superconductors, neutron star matter, and perfect fluid flow in quark-gluon plasmas, a state of matter than existed just after the Big Bang.
The prize, which includes a $5,000 award, recognizes outstanding work in atomic physics or surface physics. It was established in 1965 by what was then AT&T Bell Laboratories, with additional support from the Chope Family Trust. APS is a non-profit organization with 54,000 members working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy and international activities.
Thomas has been on the NC State faculty since 2011. His current research explores interacting Fermi gases in confined geometries, quantum hydrodynamics, and optical control of interactions. He has developed quantum resonance imaging methods for atoms, techniques to measure Wigner functions of classical optical fields for biomedical imaging, and stable optical traps for all-optical cooling and trapping.
He earned his B.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.