Nobel Prize Winner Osheroff to Deliver WSU’s Stephenson Lecture

PULLMAN, Wash. — The 1996 Nobel Prize winner in physics, Douglas Osheroff, will deliver the 2000 S. Town Stephenson Distinguished Lecture at Washington State University. His address, “So What Really Happens at Absolute Zero?,” is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, in the Webster Physical Science Building, Room 16.

Osheroff, an international leader in low-temperature physics, received the Nobel Prize, along with David Lee and Robert Richardson, for the discovery of superfluidity in a rare isotope of helium, helium-3. Superfluidity is the point at which a fluid has no viscosity, or inner friction. In the case of helium-3, superfluidity is reached at the temperature of about two-thousandths of a degree above absolute zero. In this condition, helium-3 has special characteristics such as flowing up out of cups and through extremely small holes. Osheroff’s research has illuminated the fundamental properties of matter at the extremely cold end of the temperature scale.

Raised in Aberdeen, Osheroff constructed a powerful x-ray machine while still in high school. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Cal Tech in 1967, where he studied with Richard Feynman. During graduate school at Cornell University, he joined the low-temperature group of David Lee. His doctoral thesis research was on unusual low temperature properties of liquid and solid helium-3, which led to the Nobel Prize.

After earning his doctorate, Osheroff joined Bell Labs and continued his research on superfluidity in helium-3 and initiated studies on solid helium-3. In 1981, he became head of Solid State and Low Temperature Physics Research at Bell Labs. In 1987, he joined the physics faculty at Stanford University. At Stanford, his research group continues work on superfluid and solid helium-3, studying how the superfluid phase forms from the higher-temperature phase. In addition, they developed a program to study the low temperature properties of amorphous solids.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Osheroff is a recipient of the MacArthur Prize and the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Physics Prize. At Stanford, he holds the J.C. Jackson and C.J. Wood Chair in Physics.

The Stephenson Lecture honors the late S. Town Stephenson, who came to WSU from Yale University in 1934 and served the university as chair of the Physical Sciences Division, dean of faculty, and vice president. He was noted for his research on the propagation of radar waves and low energy x-rays. Stephenson died in 1964.

A reception will be held following the lecture, which is sponsored by the WSU Department of Physics.