The relationship between the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado continues to yield Nobel Prize winners for the two Boulder institutions.

Nobel Prize-winning physicists tied to both NIST and CU since 1997 have been David J. Wineland, whose award was announced Tuesday; Carl Wieman and Eric Cornell, who won in 2001; and John Hall, who won in 2005.

"Its been a wonderful collaboration for the 60 years that NIST has been here in Boulder near the university," said Tom O'Brian, chief of NIST's time and frequency division. "We're very close to the university physically, and the great quality of the university has been a great boon for NIST. And I hope that NIST has been a boon for the university."

Paul Beale, chairman of the physics department at CU, said the collaboration with NIST has helped lure some of the nation's top graduate students to Boulder.

"The close ties between NIST and CU have benefited both greatly," he said.

Beale said at annual recruiting trips, NIST scientists like Wineland talk about the work they do at NIST, and prospective students take a tour of the Boulder labs. He said it pays for the students to know they will have the chance to interact with Nobel winners.

"We're competing against the great graduate programs in the country, so along with our own labs, NIST's labs are crucial in getting them to come," he said. "NIST, of course, is a world leader in all sorts of technology."


The main connection between the two remains JILA, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as one of the first cooperative ventures between a government institute and a university and remains a top research program.

JILA this year tied with MIT in the U.S. News and World Report ranking for the No. 1 graduate program in atomic, molecular and optical physics.

"The best students apply to the top schools, and we are one of those," Beale said. "When they come to visit, they see all the opportunities that we have available to them."

Started in 1962 as the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, JILA is home to almost 100 scientists and support staff members, more than 50 postdoctoral researchers and more than 100 graduate students. Discoveries made at JILA also have been spun off into 11 companies now operating in Colorado.

"JILA has been a remarkable institute for promoting innovation," O'Brian said. "Lots of high-tech companies in the area have come directly out of JILA, and many of the people who work at NIST trained at JILA in one way or another."

Wineland said it was humbling to be able to add to the tradition of winners for both CU and NIST.

"It's obviously a great honor to join those people," he said.

Wineland, a NIST fellow, was awarded a lectureship at CU in 2000 and every year oversees a group of graduate students at his lab at NIST. This year, he has four students whom he directly oversees.

With four joint Nobel winners, leaders at both NIST and CU hope their close relationship and free exchange of ideas will result in even more in the future.

"We have every reason to believe we will continue to grow and continue to prosper," O'Brian said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or