Bates Prize 2017

The David Bates Prize is awarded in odd years to commemorate Sir David Bates FRS and his pioneering studies of atomic and molecular processes and their role in atmospheric science, plasma physics and astronomy.

The Bates Prize shall be awarded to an early-career researcher for outstanding research, published within the previous five years, on a topic relevant to the below groups:

Dr James Millen from the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology won the 2017 prize for his pioneering experimental and theoretical contributions to the field of quantum optomechanics.

Over the past five years Dr James Millen has established a reputation as one of Europe’s foremost young researchers in the rapidly growing field of quantum nanoscale optomechanics. He has made seminal contributions to the study of levitated optomechanical systems, opening up new directions in quantum science research.

Following a highly successful PhD in atomic physics, he began working on optomechanics at University College London (UCL) in 2011. The field of quantum nanoscale optomechanics emerged early this century. The aim is to cool and manipulate nano- and micro- scale mechanical systems with light. The ultimate goal is to observe the quantum behaviour of mesoscopic objects made of billions of individual molecules. Until recently, these mechanical systems had to be attached to a much larger substrate, limiting the range of systems that could be cooled and leading to unwanted losses.

Millen’s major contribution over the past five years has been to pioneer the optical cooling and manipulation of levitated objects – freed from a substrate and held in place by electrostatic or optical fields. At UCL he demonstrated the first cavity cooling of electrostatically trapped nanobeads, followed by record cavity cooling of a levitated nanoparticle. Demonstrating his versatility, he was also lead author on a pivotal theoretical study on the use of statistical methods to carry out thermometry in these out-of-equilibrium, strongly coupled nonlinear systems. Remarkably, he was able to show that by observing the Brownian motion of the trapped sphere, information can be gleaned not only on its centre-of-mass dynamics, but also on the its surface temperature and that of the surrounding background gas. This work was featured on the cover of Nature Nanotechnology.

More recently he obtained a prestigious EU Marie Curie fellowship in the group of Professor Markus Arndt at the University of Vienna, where he continued his ground breaking research in optomechanics, performing the world’s first studies of the optical control of levitated nanorods. In these papers, Millen appears as the last author, a position traditionally reserved for the group leader, demonstrating that this pioneering project was indeed driven by him, and the international esteem that he has acquired.

Alongside his outstanding research track record, Millen is also recognised as a leader in public engagement in the area of quantum science. He founded the quantum workshop project, presenting demos and science discussion in venues from pubs to the Science Museum. He has provided outreach training for scientists from undergraduate to professorial level, and science advice to producers of two BBC documentaries. In 2013 he was invited to give a nine-hour course on quantum theory to the public at the Royal Institution, which was enormously successful, becoming an annual event.

Previous winners
2017: James Millen
2015: Janet Anders
2013: Jeremy O'Brien.
2011: Matt Jones
2009: Mike Tarbutt
2006: J Brown
2005: J Tennyson
2004: Joachim Ulrich
2002: Philip G Burke
2000: Raymond Flannery