University distinguished professor of physics
Ernest K. and Lillian E. Chapin physics chair
Brett Esry, university distinguished professor of physics and Ernest K. and Lillian E. Chapin professor of physics, performs basic research in theoretical atomic and molecular physics. His fields of study have included the dynamics of atomic Bose-Einstein condensates, atomic matter wave propagation on microfabricated chips, and ultracold few-body systems.
In 1999 he led a study that predicted the influence of Efimov states, peculiar quantum states of three atoms predicted nearly 30 years earlier, on ultracold atomic gases. Their prediction — and Efimov's — was verified for the first time experimentally in 2006 by a group in Austria. More recently, his research group discovered another previously unobserved quantum state where three atoms can stick together — but not two — even as the atoms are actively repelling each other.
Since coming to K-State in fall 1999, Esry has also undertaken studies on the effects of an intense laser on atoms and molecules. He performs this research in the university's James R. Macdonald Laboratory, where he is also the associate director for research, and as part of the atomic, molecular and optical physics program that is ranked 13th in the United States. He works closely with experimentalists in the lab to understand the behavior of molecules in femtoseconds-long, intense laser pulses. He also works on the basic theory of such processes and has produced a general description useful for understanding how to use the laser's properties to control the quantum behavior of molecules.
His research has appeared in more than 130 publications and he has given more than 80 talks and seminars. His work has been supported by more than $37 million in collaborative project funding and $2 million in individual grants. He has also received the K-State Making a Difference award and the Schwenk Teaching Award. In addition, he has been named a Simons Fellow in Theoretical Physics as well as a JILA Visiting Fellow.
Esry is a member and fellow of the American Physical Society. He has mentored 10 graduate students, 10 undergraduate students and 13 postdoctoral researchers.
He graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in physics from K-State and was one of the university's first recipients of the Barry M. Goldwater scholarship. He received his doctoral degree in physics from JILA at the University of Colorado. Prior to joining K-State, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Theoretical Atomic and Molecular Physics at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Esry can be reached at 785-532-1620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.