Dr. David Wineland

BiographyDr. David Wineland

Dr. David Wineland is an American Nobel Prize-winning physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) physics laboratory.

His work has included advances in optics, specifically laser cooling of ions and use of trapped ions to implement quantum computing operations. He was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics for "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems."

Dr. Wineland graduated from Encina High School in Sacramento in 1961 as a CSF Sealbearer and went on to earn his B.S. from University of California, Berkeley in 1965 and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1970.

His work focuses on the use ions (charged atoms) for two applications.  In the first, ions are used to make atomic clocks with a precision such that they will lose or gain only one second in the age of the universe.  The second application uses ions as information bits in a quantum computer, a device that if constructed with a sufficient number of bits, can solve certain problems that are intractable on normal “classical” computers.  As one example, the behavior of complicated molecules such as those used in medicine, could be predicted without the necessity of synthesizing the molecules. This might help to shorten the time of clinical trials for certain drugs. The techniques used in this work also enable the realization of some of the non-intuitive predictions of quantum mechanics, such as a single particle being in two separated locations at the same time.

According to Dr. Wineland, “As nice as it is to be recognized for accomplishments, I think the biggest reward for me has been just to have the opportunity to explore new ideas. The physics has never been a job; it’s more like a hobby – and just the process of doing research is extremely interesting and rewarding.

Since receiving the Nobel Prize, he has often been asked for advice to give to young students. He says, “Of course there’s no one answer that fits all, but for me, because of my upbringing, it’s been pretty simple. I would suggest finding something interesting (even if you change your mind) and give it your best possible effort. That means hard work, and although not everybody above you will appreciate it, most of them will recognize it and support you.”

1961 Encina High School Graduate

2009 - Frito Pie Contest