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John Thomas

John S. Risley Distinguished Professor

Riddick Hall 245


Professor Thomas received his B. S. degree in Physics at MIT in 1973 and his Ph. D. in Physics at MIT in 1979.  At MIT, he was a Hertz Foundation predoctoral Fellow (1973-1978) and received a C. S. Draper Career Development Chair (Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1980-1981), before joining the Physics Department at Duke University in 1986. At Duke, he received a NIST Precision Measurements Grant (1990-1993) and was named the Fritz London Distinguished Professor in 2004.  In 2011, he moved his research group (JETlab) to North Carolina State University, where he is currently the John S. Risley Distinguished Professor of Physics.

Research Description

Dr. Thomas studies the physics of ultra-cold atomic gases. His group developed stable optical traps for atoms and all-optical cooling methods, leading to the first observation of a strongly interacting Fermi gas in 2002. Comprising an ultra-cold cloud of spin-up and spin down atoms, the so-called "unitary" strongly interacting Fermi gas models diverse systems in nature, including electron pairs in super high temperature superconductors, neutron matter in neutron stars, and the nearly perfect hydrodynamic expansion of a quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter that existed microseconds after the Big Bang. Current interests include interacting Fermi gases in confined geometries, quantum hydrodynamics,  optical control of interactions and spin-energy correlation and entanglement.

Honors and Awards

  • Fellow of the American Physical Society
  • Dasari Lecture MIT 2010
  • Jessie Beams Award for Research from SESAPS 2011
  • Outstanding Referee Award from the American Physical Society 2013
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2018
  • Davisson-Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics from APS 2018

Selected Publications

Fermi gases in the two-dimensional to quasi-two-dimensional crossover
C. Y. Cheng, J. Kangara, I. Arakelyan, & J. E. Thomas
Phys. Rev. A, 94, (2016), 031606

Optical control of magnetic feshbach resonances by closed-channel electromagnetically induced transparency
A. Jagannathan, N. Arunkumar, J. A. Joseph, and J. E. Thomas
Phys. Rev. Lett., 116, (2016), 07530

Spin-Imbalanced Quasi-Two-Dimensional Fermi Gases
W. Ong, Chingyun Cheng, I. Arakelyan, and J. E. Thomas
Phys. Rev. Lett., 114, (2015), 110403

Anomalous Minimum in the Shear Viscosity of a Fermi Gas
E. Elliott, J. A. Joseph, and J. E. Thomas
Phys. Rev. Lett., 113, (2014), 020406

Strongly correlated quantum fluids: ultracold quantum gases, quantum chromodynamic plasmas and holographic duality
Allan Adams, Lincoln D Carr, Thomas Schäfer, Peter Steinberg and John E Thomas
New Journal of Physics, 14, (2012), pp. 121

Observation of Shock Waves in a Strongly Interacting Fermi Gas
J. A. Joseph, J. E. Thomas, M. Kulkarni, and A. G. Abanov
Phys. Rev. Lett., 106, (2011), 150401

Universal quantum viscosity in a unitary Fermi gas
C. Cao, E. Elliott, J. Joseph, H. Wu, T. Schaefer and J. E. Thomas
Science Online, (December 9, 2010), (This is the first measurement of a transport property in a universal Fermi gas, the quantum viscosity, currently of great interest in the search for "perfect fluids," which relates the highest temperature matter in the universe, a quark-gluon plasma at 2 trillion degrees, to the coldest matter, a strongly interacting Fermi gas at 0.1 microdegree.)

Unitary Fermi gases
J.E. Thomas
Contemporary Concepts of Condensed Matter Science: Ultracold Bosonic and Fermionic Gases, Elsevier, (August, 2010)

The nearly perfect Fermi gas
J.E. Thomas
Physics Today, 2010, (34-37), (This is part of a feature on perfect fluids, which I wrote along with two quark-gluon plasma experimentalists and a string theorist.)

Is an ultra-cold strongly interacting Fermi gas a perfect fluid?
J.E. Thomas
Nucl. Phys. A, 830, (2009), 635

Controlling spin current in a trapped Fermi gas
X. Du, Y. Zhang, J. Petricka, and J. E. Thomas
Phys. Rev. Lett, 103, (2009), 010401