1989: CU's Tom R. Cech wins the chemistry prize for his discovery that RNA in living cells is not only a molecule of heredity but also can function as a biocatalyst.
1997: NIST's William D. Phillips wins the physics prize with Steven Chu and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji for developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser lights.
2001: Carl E. Wieman of CU and Eric A. Cornell of NIST win the physics prize for creating a new form of matter called Bose-Einstein condensate, which may lead to the creation of precise measuring devices and lasers that could dispense beams of atoms for micro-assembly purposes.
2005: John (Jan) L. Hall of NIST and CU's JILA wins the physics prize for his contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique.
2007: Several CU research faculty members share the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore for their contributions to the international report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
2012: David J. Wineland of NIST and CU wins the physics prize with Serge Haroche of France.
Source: University of Colorado and NIST
David J. Wineland -- a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado at Boulder -- has won the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics, along with Serge Haroche of France, for inventing methods to observe the bizarre properties of the quantum world.
"It's obviously pretty overwhelming and very humbling at the same time," Wineland said Tuesday morning. "It's exciting news."
Wineland said his wife woke up to a call at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday notifying them that he had won the award, which officials said was for "groundbreaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems."
The research has led to the construction of extremely precise clocks and helped scientists take steps toward building a new type of superfast computer based on quantum physics.
"I heard noises in past years, but I hadn't heard anything this year, so it's surprising," Wineland said. "I feel like I got smarter overnight."
Wineland -- who has been at NIST for 37 years -- is the fourth Nobel winner since 1997 to have worked at NIST.
"We're so proud of Dave," said Tom O'Brian, chief of NIST's time and frequency division and Wineland's supervisor, though, he noted, "Obviously, he doesn't need much supervising."
While Wineland said he was surprised by the award, O'Brian said he was not.
"David and his team have been doing world-leading research for many years now, and we were hoping he would win a Nobel Prize -- and today that hope was realized," he said Tuesday. "I was absolutely thrilled and delighted, and I couldn't imagine a better start to the day."
Wineland is also the fifth Nobel Prize winner in science with ties to CU. He has been a lecturer at CU since 2000 and supervises groups of graduate students who work at his lab at NIST.
"It's an honor for the university to have affiliations with five Nobel winners who have served directly at CU or have an affiliate relation with CU-Boulder," CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said. "I think that really
Paul Beale, chairman of the physics department at CU, said adding a Nobel winner only adds to the program's reputation.
"It further validates how great a department we have," Beale said. "Success builds on success."
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, congratulated Wineland on his award.
"This prestigious award recognizes his groundbreaking work, which could someday help construct new types of super-fast computers and has already made timekeeping more accurate," Udall said in a statement. "This award also highlights the contributions of Colorado's innovative scientific community -- a community that continues to grow as more high-caliber thinkers come to our great state -- and the positive benefits of federal investments in the sciences."
On a flight from Columbus, Ohio, to Washington, D.C., President Obama called Wineland to congratulate him. Obama said Wineland represents the latest in a long line of government-funded scientists who have laid the foundation for historic advances in technology -- from the Internet to GPS -- keeping America at the forefront of science and innovation.
A quantum particle is one that is isolated from everything else. In this situation, an atom, electron or photon takes on strange properties. It can be in two places at once, for example. It behaves in some ways like a wave. But these properties are instantly changed when it interacts with something else, such as when somebody observes it.
Working separately, Wineland and Haroche, both 68, developed "ingenious laboratory methods" that allowed them to manage, measure and control fragile quantum states, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.
"Their groundbreaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of superfast computer based on quantum physics," the academy said. "The research has also led to the construction of extremely precise clocks that could become the future basis for a new standard of time."
Haroche is a professor at the College de France and Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris whom Wineland said he has known for more than 20 years. The two researchers use different approaches to examine, control and count quantum particles, the academy said.
Wineland traps ions -- electrically charged atoms -- and measures them with light, while Haroche controls and measures photons, or light particles.
Wineland said their work could lead to even more accurate atomic clocks as well as superfast quantum computers capable of solving some of the most complex encryption.
"This quantum computer will really bring unique capabilities to computing," Wineland said, though he added that type of real-world application may still be far away.
"Don't go out buying quantum computer stock just yet," he joked.
'I'm just one of many'
At a news conference in his honor, Wineland said he considers the award to be one he shares with all those he's worked with and who are working on similar problems around the world.
"It's obviously a huge boost for the field," he said. "I'm just one of many people working on projects like this. I think it's a good sign for science that our field is recognized that way."
Wineland -- who grew up in Sacramento before going to undergraduate school at the University of California at Berkeley -- said his interest in science started early on.
"I don't think I was the best student in high school," he said. "But I took a physics class as a senior and said, 'This is pretty cool.'"
Wineland himself worked with two Nobel winners while studying at Harvard and the University of Washington for his graduate and post-graduate work. When asked what he learned from them and what he hoped to pass on, he preached persistence.
"Find something you like and keep going," he said. "It takes a lot of hard work, but that's the key to success."
Wineland said his fascination with his research is what has always driven him and will continue to drive him.
"The research goes on independent of such awards," he said. "The research is the driver and has been for my whole career. That's what keeps us going.
"Oh sure, you do think about it, even as a kid," he said of winning the Nobel Prize. "But I have no plans to change my course. They'll have to drag me out of here for being too old."
He did admit there were some perks to the award. He said someone emailed him a link to a website where he was on the same page with Lady Gaga.
"I feel that I've really arrived," he joked.
He also said he has no idea what he is going to do with the prize money. But 2001 Nobel Prize winner Eric Cornell -- who, like Wineland, has worked at both CU and NIST -- had a suggestion.
"He may need to step up his wardrobe," Cornell joked at the news conference, where Wineland took the podium in a North Face jacket and a polo.
Wineland said it had been a long day of answering phone calls and speaking engagements, and he hopes some past winners will have some advice for him on how to handle his newfound fame.
"I have my work cut out for me for awhile," he said.
The physics prize was the second of the 2012 Nobel Prizes to be announced, with the medicine award going Monday to stem cell pioneers John Gurdon of Britain and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka. Each award is worth 8 million kronor, or about $1.2 million.
Only two women have won the physics prize since it was first awarded in 1901: Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963.
The prizes are always handed out Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or email@example.com.