Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Sen. Kaufman Recognizes Great Federal Employee, Dr. William Phillips

December 16, 2009

   Last week, in Stockholm and Oslo, the 2009 Nobel laureates accepted their prizes. I am particularly proud that 11 of this year's 13 prizes were won by Americans. This is a reminder of our Nation's global leadership in science, medicine, economics, and peacemaking.

   My honoree today holds the distinction of having been the first Federal employee to win a Nobel Prize in physics for work performed while serving the public.

   Our Federal workforce is composed of citizens who are both highly educated and incredibly motivated.

   Dr. William Phillips is the perfect example. A native Pennsylvanian, William learned the importance of public service and hard work from a young age. His mother, an immigrant from Italy, and his father, a descendent of American revolutionaries, were the first in their families to attend college. They both pursued careers as social workers in Pennsylvania's coal-mining region. William, along with his brother and sister, grew up in a home where reading and education were emphasized.

   As a boy, William fell in love with science, and he tinkered with model rockets and chemical compounds in the basement of his family's home. While attending Juniata College in the 1960s, William delved into physics research. He spent a semester at Argonne National Laboratory and, after graduation, pursued his doctorate at M.I.T.

   During his time at M.I.T., the field of laser-cooling was just heating up, and William wrote his thesis on the collisions of atoms using this new technology.

   In 1978, William began working at what is today the National Institute for Standards and Technology--or ``NIST''--at the Department of Commerce. At NIST, he pursued further research into laser-cooling, and his discoveries have helped open up a new field of atomic research and expand our knowledge of physics. His findings have found important application in precision time-keeping, which is important for both private industry and for national security.

   In 1997, William received the Nobel Prize for Physics along with two other scientists. One of his fellow-laureates that year was Dr. Steven Chu, who now serves as Secretary of Energy.

   After winning his Nobel Prize, William made a commitment to using his fame to promote both science education and public service. He regularly speaks to student groups, and he serves as a mentor to graduate students in his field.

   William won the prestigious Arthur S. Flemming Award for Public Service in 1987, and he was honored by the Partnership for Public Service with its 2006 Service to America Medal for Career Achievement.

   He and his wife, Jane, live in Gaithersburg, MD, and are active in their community and church. Today, after a 3-decade Federal career, William continues to work at NIST as the leader of its Laser-Cooling and Trapping Group.

   I hope my colleagues will join me in honoring Dr. William Phillips and all those who work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology for their dedicated service and important contribution to our national life. They keep us at the forefront of science and human discovery. They do us all proud.

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