IOP pays tribute to Professor Deborah Jin

20 September 2016

The IOP’s 2014 Isaac Newton medal winner, Professor Deborah Jin, has died at the age of 47 after developing cancer.

Professor Deborah Jin

Jin was an internationally renowned atomic physicist who had achieved extraordinary things throughout her career. Considered a pioneer and leader in her field, Jin received the 2014 Isaac Newton medal from the IOP for her breakthrough work with ultracold fermions.

Jin’s work with fermion condensates and extremely cold polar molecules demonstrated for the first time some of the universal laws that underpin fundamental quantum behaviour.

A fellow with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), professor adjunct at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a fellow of Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA), she was highly regarded by her friends and colleagues – particularly those at JILA, where she had been working for more than two decades.

The IOP’s chief executive, Professor Paul Hardaker, said: “We were deeply saddened to hear the news about Debbie. She was an outstanding physicist and a warm, inspiring and engaging person that anyone who spent time with her knows well.

“I am pleased that we were able to recognise Debbie’s world class contribution when she won our Isaac Newton Medal two years ago, our senior medal for achievements in physics.  This was just one of the many prestigious international awards that recognised her important contributions. Debbie leaves an incredible legacy and will be hugely missed by all of us in the community. And I would particularly like to send all our best wishes to Debbie’s family at this difficult time.”

Professor Roy Sambles, the IOP’s president, added: “Professor Jin was an incredibly talented physicist who had already achieved so much throughout her physics career, and we are immensely saddened to hear of her passing.

“Her innovative approach to research into fermionic condensates not only widened our understanding of the mysteries of the quantum world, but also paved a fresh way forward in key areas, such as quantum computing.

“A true pioneer, Deborah was an inspiration  and a role model to many physicists and her absence will be felt for a long time to come.

“She will be greatly missed throughout the physics community, particularly by those who had the pleasure to work with her.”

After completing her PhD in 1995 at the University of Chicago, she joined the National Research Council as a research associate at JILA, going on to become a NIST physicist and assistant professor at the University of Colorado in 1997.

In 2003 her group at JILA was the first to make a completely new form of matter – an ultracold fermionic condensate – and in 2008, as part of a collaborative effort, Jin created the first ultracold gas, paving the way for further investigations into quantum behaviour. 

An accomplished physicist and also an inspirational woman of science, Jin received the American Physical Society Maria Goeppert Mayer Award in 2002 and was named the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureate for North America in 2013. 

Alongside receiving her Isaac Newton medal in 2014, Jin also was named the 2004 Research Leader of the Year by Scientific American, received the 2008 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics from the Franklin Institute, and the 2014 Comstock Prize in Physics, awarded by the US National Academy of Sciences.

She is survived by husband John Bohn and their daughter Jackie Bohn. Her family has asked that should anyone feel inclined to, donations can be made in Jin’s name to either the Foundation for Women’s Cancer or the World Wildlife Fund.