2016 - Robert Drullinger

Robert Drullinger received a BS in Chemistry from Michigan State University in 1967 and a PhD in Chemical-Physics from Columbia University in 1972. He joined what was then the National Bureau of Standards, Quantum Electronics Division which was subsequently reorganised which involved Robert in the Time and Frequency Division. The whole organization was renamed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 1993.

Notable work experiences: In 1978, together with David Wineland (the 2012 Nobel Prize winner), Robert performed the first ever laser-cooling of an atomic species; work that forms the foundation of all advanced atomic-clocks today. In 1983 working with a group that included Jan Hall (the 2005 Nobel Prize winner), he performed the first ever synthesis of an optical frequency; work that lead to the redefinition of the meter in 1983.

From 1985 he was the head of the Atomic Beams Standards group at NIST with responsibility for the US primary frequency standard. Within that group, he developed NIST-7, the first optically-pumped atomic beam standard at NIST (a device that is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC). Working together with Andrea DeMarchi of the Politecnico di Torino, Robert developed innovative cavities for the interaction of microwave radiation with the atoms that greatly reduce an insidious and difficult-to-evaluate error in primary frequency standards.

Robert retired from NIST in 2002 to pursue that part of his life that existed outside the lab; a wife living in Italy. However, it is never possible to just leave such exciting work. Hence, while in Italy he worked with LENS (European Laboratory of Non-Linear Spectroscopy) in Florence and with DeMarchi at the Politecnico in Torino. When in Boulder, he continues to work with the NIST optical clock group where they are currently trying to do an alpha (dot) experiment between an Hg+ clock and an Al+ clock.

  • 1980 US Department of Commerce Silver medal
  • 1993 US Department of Commerce Gold medal
  • 1996 IEEE Rabi award
  • 1999 Japanese Ministry of Post and Telecommunications distinguished service award