MIT professor David Pritchard to deliver Rall Symposium keynote at North Central College

May 05, 2015

North Central College welcomes Dr. David Pritchard as keynote speaker for the College’s 18th annual Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research on May 12.

The public is invited to Pritchard’s talk at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 12, in the College’s Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave. His keynote address kicks off a day of student oral and poster presentations held during the Rall Symposium, a forum for North Central College undergraduate students to present their independent scholarly research projects across all academic areas.

Pritchard, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a renowned researcher in atomic physics and a principal investigator in the Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics Group. He has been a member of MIT’s department of physics since 1970.

Pritchard’s pioneering experiments on the interaction of atoms with light led to the creation of the field of atom optics. His demonstration of the diffraction of a beam of atoms by a grating made of light waves opened the way to studies of the diffraction, reflection and focusing of matter waves, similar to those with light waves. He has applied atom optics to basic studies of quantum theory, to new methods for studying the properties of atoms, and to the creation of devices such as the atom interferometer and atom wave gyroscope.

In addition, his investigations into the field of laser cooling resulted in a number of pioneering contributions, including work leading to the creation of the magneto-optical trap. This device became the workhorse in atom cooling experiments. Esteemed physicist Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle, whom Pritchard brought to MIT to conduct research on atom cooling, went on to share the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001.

Pritchard is also a recognized expert and leader in physics education and enjoyed a lifelong interest in teaching problem-solving in physics. He collaborated with his son, Alex, to develop CyberTutor, an interactive web-based program, which is dramatically superior to written homework in raising students’ test scores.

At MIT, Pritchard won the Dean’s Award for teaching and advising and the Earll M. Murman Award for
Excellence in Undergraduate Advising (2010). North Central College President Troy D. Hammond is among the many students he’s mentored over his career.

Pritchard received his Ph.D. from Harvard and his B.S. from California Institute of Technology. He holds many prestigious honors, including the Broida Prize of the American Physical Society. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Rall Symposium was named in 1998 to honor the late Joseph Edward “Ed” Rall, M.D., Ph.D., a renowned National Institutes of Health scientist and 1940 graduate of North Central College. The annual event showcases the collaborative, original research and scholarship of North Central College students.