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About JILA

JILA was founded in 1962 as a joint institute of CU Boulder and NIST. JILA is located at the base of the Rocky Mountains on the CU Boulder campus in the Duane Physics complex.

Because you've asked: What does "JILA" stand for?

When JILA was formed in 1962 as a joint institue of CU Boulder and NIST, the acronym stood for "Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics". However, JILA's research quickly expanded to include fields like atomic, molecular and optical physics, as well as biophysics, quantum information, precision measurement, and more! So although the name "JILA" has stuck, we no longer spell out the acronym that we have outgrown.

For a full history on JILA and its 50-year evolution, please visit our online version of the book JILA: The First 50 Years.

JILA's faculty includes two Nobel laureates, Eric Cornell and John Hall, as well as three John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellows, Margaret Murnane, Deborah Jin, and Ana Maria Rey. JILA's CU members hold faculty appointments in the Departments of Physics; Astrophysical and Planetary Science, Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology as well as in the School of Engineering. NIST’s Quantum Physics Division members hold adjoint faculty appointments at CU in the same departments.

Each year, JILA scientists publish more than 200 original research papers in national and international scientific journals and conference proceedings. Creative collaborations among the JILA Fellows, their groups, CU professors, and NIST staff members play a key role in generating the pioneering research JILA is known for around the world.  Major initiatives, such as NSF’s Physics Frontier Center, make major contributions to JILA’s cutting edge research programs. 

The wide-ranging interests of our scientists have made JILA one of the nation's leading research institutes in the physical sciences. Our scientists explore some of today's most challenging and fundamental scientific questions about quantum physics, the design of precision optical and X-ray lasers, the fundamental principles underlying the interaction of light and matter, and processes that have governed the evolution of the Universe for nearly 14 billion years. Research topics range from the small, frigid world governed by the laws of quantum mechanics through the physics of biological and chemical systems to the processes that shape the stars and galaxies. JILA science encompasses eight broad categories: Astrophysics, Atomic & Molecular physics, Biophysics, Chemical physics, Laser PhysicsNanoscience, Precision Measurement, and Quantum Information.

Astrophysicists study our origins and place in the scheme of things. They investigate such topics as the dynamics of the Sun, the interaction of black holes with space, and the fundamental properties that give rise to the universe itself. Their quest is aided by vast amounts of data gathered by ground and space-based instruments.

JILA makes major contributions to research in ultracold matter and the control of atoms and molecules with ultrafast light. The institute is world renowned for its work in Bose-Einstein and fermionic condensation and the development of ultrafast lasers capable of manipulating matter. JILA scientists recently created the world’s first ultracold molecules in their lowest energy state and began research in the entirely new field of ultracold chemistry. JILA research in optical physics and precision measurement enhances these efforts and advances the frontiers of these disciplines. Optical physicists investigate ultrafast light sources and the control of ultrashort pulses. Precision measurement experts advance optical metrology, measuring fundamental parameters, developing a new generation of atomic clocks, and creating some of the world's most sensitive measurement devices.

Biophysicists, chemical physicists, and nanoscience researchers apply the tools of physics to understanding living systems at the molecular level, chemical structures and reactions at the microscopic and quantum mechanical levels, as well as on chemical surfaces. Biophysics projects include the measurement of the elasticity, or spring constants, of streams of individual red blood cells and the elucidation of folding dynamics of single molecules of RNA. Chemical physics research includes the comparison of electronic structure calculations with experimental investigations of photodetachment photoionization dynamics. Researchers compare theory and experimental investigations of photon absorption by such entities as C3H3+, which is abundant in the interstellar medium. Nanoscience researchers investigate the coherent dynamics of semiconductors and monitor changes in specific atoms as fast chemical reactions unfold on a surface.

CU Fellow Dana Anderson is the Chair of JILA until December 2016, and Thomas Perkins is the Associate Chair. CU Fellows and NIST Fellows alternately fill the two-year position of Chair. The Chair oversees JILA administration, collaborating with the Fellows' Executive Committee; Julia Bachinski, the NIST Adminstrative Officer; Beth Kroger, JILA's Chief of Operations; and Tom O'Brian, JILA Administration.