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Remembrances of Deborah Jin

Memory/Sentiment Photo(s) Post date

I'm extremely sorry to hear this. I met Deborah when she gave a talk at the Institute of Physics in London two years ago. I was so impressed by her work and her wonderful clarity of thought. A very inspiring person, and I hope everyone close to her has a good store of great memories, it must be a very sad time for you all.

Julia Brown New Scientist 10/14/2016 - 5:35am

I'm very sad to hear about Debby, as she was a wonderful, pioneering scientist who pushed our field in new directions. I've no doubt that she would have been a future Nobel Laureate in due course, as one of the first experimenters in the unitarity regime of fermions.

Peter D Drummond Swinburne University 10/04/2016 - 5:23pm

Debbie chaired my PhD thesis examination committee in 2005. She read through my thesis carefully and corrected my poor English. Debbie is certainly one of the people at JILA from whom I had leant a lot how to become an experimental AMO physicist – Her model story motivated many graduate students even though I was not her student. I still remember I was invited to present my atom-chip work at the Cornell-Wieman-Jin joint group meeting in March 2004 and received much encouragement for continuing my research career. In May 2012, Debbie visited my lab in Hong Kong (with Jun Ye) and witnessed the cold atom research in Hong Kong. As part of JILA and CU-Boulder, Debbie will be deeply missed.

Shengwang Du The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 10/04/2016 - 8:24am

I was a postdoc at JILA when Debbie first showed up here. Once in the corridor, I bumped into Eric and Debbie playing with a lens. Eric was showing Debbie how to determine the focal length by projecting ceiling lights onto the floor. You see, Debbie did her Ph.D. thesis in solid state physics and had to learn experimental optics from scratch. Whenever a new student or a postdoc is unsure when faced with a table full of optics, I tell him or her this Debbie story, how she learned the basics and went on to make one after another fantastic breakthroughs. She has long been and will always be a great inspiration for us.

Zheng-Tian Lu University of Science and Technology of China 09/28/2016 - 6:08pm

Debbie will be so deeply missed at JILA and among her many friends. She was all at once a mentor, friend, and role model. Her effect on my life has been immeasurable. I will remember her calm poise, her smile, her capacity to be utterly absorbed in a physics experiment, and her love of family. Scientifically she never overcomplicated any subject, and she knew how to find an exciting problem that was at the same time possible in the laboratory. She was a unique force, and her wise advice will live on with her many students that she devoted so much to.

Cindy Regal JILA 09/27/2016 - 10:52pm

I am shocked. This is a big loss --- for her family, for JILA, for our scientific community. I have always admired her creativity and her many inspiring contributions to our field.

Wolfgang Ketterle MIT 09/25/2016 - 11:13pm

I was deeply saddened when I heard the tragic news a few days ago. I was one of those lucky people who have had the honor to collaborate with Debbie on physics problems in the field of ultracold atomic gases. Debbie's passing is a great loss of the entire ultracold quantum gas community and the physics world at large. My deepest sympathies are with Debbie's family.

Debbie, you still are and will always be with us, as we remember your smiles, your voices, your sense of humor, and most of all, your scientific accomplishments! May heaven be free of cancer.

Qijin Chen Zhejiang University 09/25/2016 - 6:28am

I am the web developer at JILA. Many of you have been lucky enough to be in Debbie's immediate world of science and family. Some of us were a bit further out, and yet, still touched.

Debbie's accomplishments have no boundary or qualification. That said, as a woman in a non-traditional field, who looks around herself and sees few people who look like her, Debbie inspired me from afar--even though she likely never knew that.

I just wanted her family, colleagues, and friends to know that her influence cast a far wider circle than they might even imagine, and they are all in my thoughts.

Kristin Conrad JILA 09/24/2016 - 10:35pm

I met Debbie when I was only 19. For the next 6 or 7 years, we would play softball together every summer for the JILA team. As we played, I went from an undergrad, to working in industry, to grad school. Jackie went from a very young girl to a young woman, always laconic but kind, tolerating the occasional question from me about school and what she was doing that summer. John and I would take turns writing the JILA Monsters recap for the JILA news, trying our best to cast a beer league softball team in the same light as the Rockies (whether or not we should have emulated the Rockies some years is another story...). Debbie was always there (unless science pursuits dictated otherwise), enthusiastic and ready to play.

She likely had no idea how much I looked up to her, as I knew what she accomplished as a woman in science. To do all of that and still play softball--it was something so human on top of these amazing achievements. Playing on the JILA team helped me realize that professors were normal people with lives, families, and hobbies outside of the hallowed halls of our institute.

I did not interact with her much scientifically, but one story stands out. Last year, at the JILA poster fest, she comes to my poster and starts asking questions. As an applied physicist in JILA, one can feel a bit out of place, and this was no exception. Nervously, I start to explain my research, answering her inquiries as best I could. To me, she seems to be glaring at my poster, and I'm starting to sweat. How can I be a scientist in my own right if I can't explain myself to one of my role models? Finally, I said something, and I could see it click. Her face softened, and we finished our conversation amicably. I look back on that moment favorably--she was able to make me think about my work in a different way and challenge me, and those experiences can help a young scientist immensely. I am thankful to have had that interaction with her.

Jackie, your mom was a great woman, and I believe that you will grow up to be a great woman yourself. Take heart in these difficult times that the lives that she touched were numerous and spanned the globe.

Carrie Weidner JILA 09/24/2016 - 1:19pm

Debbie was very kind and humble person even though she was very famous. I met Debbie and worked with her while I was visiting JILA as a visiting student about 9 years ago, which I still remember as a special memory and thank her for her kindness to treat me like her stundents and give me an excellent research advice. I also thank her for giving me the opportunity because working with her helped me to come to the US to do my PhD, and I was able to meet my husband who was working with John at the time. For us, John and Debbie are very special people as our advisors and friends, and as our role models. We are extremely sad to lose Debbie. My deepest condolence to John, and their lovely daugher Jackie.

Geena Kim Regis University, Computer Science Department 09/24/2016 - 12:10pm

Debbie Jin found time during her illness this year to mentor me through my own cancer treatment. For a few months, we were girlfriends, but instead of talking about physics or our husbands, we talked about cancer and how best to deal with the demands of chemo and other treatments. We took lovely walks and just lived life.

When I was scared about my third chemo infusion because of worsening neuropathy, Debbie came and sat with me through the whole thing. This was an astonishing act of kindness I will never forget.

I have known and respected Debbie professionally at JILA for 12 years. Over the past months, I also came to love her. Debbie Jin was one of the finest people I’ve ever known. 

Julie Phillips JILA 09/23/2016 - 3:40pm

As a grad student in Carl Wieman's group, I first met Debbie when she came to interview for the postdoc position at JILA. By the time I graduated, she and Brian DeMarco had fermi degenerate gasses of their own, and her astronomical rise had just begun. When I left for a postdoc with Christophe Salomon in the same area, John Bohn said, provocatively, "so, you are going to compete with Debbie..." "Surely not," I thought, "who could do that?". And indeed , when I gave invited talks on the subject, I often asked myself, "What would Debbie do?" She generously shared her results and explanations for those talks. I even sought inspiration in her clothing style, simple and elegant, knowing all along it took more than threads to give a talk like Debbie's, one that left the audience astounded with the subject's simplicity and compelling logic.

I was honored by her kindness to me last fall on my visit to Boulder, but had no idea it would be the last visit with her. I will miss her energy, her knowing smile that spoke volumes, her quick sense of humor. I am deeply saddened that she can no longer be present for her colleagues, friends, and students, and most of all for John and Jackie. I am grateful to have known her.

Kristan L. Corwin Kansas State University 09/23/2016 - 5:28am

I’ve been lucky to have the chance to collaborate with Debbie while doing my post-doc in JILA with John. Debbie was a giant of science yet so approachable, encouraging and friendly. She had the rare ability to present her ground breaking work so eloquently, such that the most complex experiments and theories seemed simple. I’m so terribly sad to hear about her passing away. My deepest condolences to John, Jackie, and her family.

Shai Ronen Medtronic Inc. 09/22/2016 - 10:43pm

Through her groundbreaking scientific explorations, her leadership within the JILA Physics Frontiers Center, and her many contributions toward the conduct of the peer review process, Dr. Jin had an important and lasting impact on the mission of the National Science Foundation. She left her mark as well through her dedication to both undergraduate and graduate students, and through her many contributions to the professional development of early career scientists. On behalf of the staff of the Physics Division, Program Directors and others with whom Debbie interacted over many years, I extend our condolences to her family and friends at JILA.

C. Denise Caldwell Division Director, Physics Division, National Science Foundatio 09/22/2016 - 12:45pm

I have been working on a couple projects which is significantly motivated by Prof. Jin's work on polar molecules over the past two years, when I was still an undergraduate student at UBC. Last year, Debbie gave a colloquium at UBC, where I first (and unfortunately, last) had a chance to see her. It was one of the best talk that I have ever attend, where I have learnt a lot about the realization of ultracold polar molecules. I was too shy to initiate any conversation after her talk, so I made up my mind that I will work hard and be a good researcher so that I could chat about physics with her in the future. I was shocked when I heard from my friends at CU Boulder and JILA that she passed away -- I did not want to believe it when I heard the news -- then Wikipedia confirmed this later that day, which turned my denial into sadness: it is such a great loss to the physics community.
And also, I would like to express my deepest condolences to her family.

Tianrui Xu UC Berkeley 09/22/2016 - 10:30am

I worked with Debbie for 10 years. She always expected my best effort, and I always tried my best to give it (sometimes falling flat on my face...). When she said, "Good work," I felt like I'd won a prize! I miss her sense of humor and her dimples, and I miss hearing her funny giggle.

Krista Beck Assistant to Debbie Jin, Eric Cornell, and Carl Lineberger 09/22/2016 - 8:42am

It is with infinite sadness that I learned last Sunday that Debbie passed away. I knew she was seriously ill but I was hoping that the progress of medicine would save her.
All my thoughts are with John, Jackie, and all JILA members during these terrible moments. Debbie was so young and active that it is very hard to accept the cruelty of destiny. I have a great admiration for her pioneering contributions in the field of ultracold Fermi gases and ultracold polar molecules with so many "premières". We will be missing not only an outstanding scientist but also a role model for women in Science that was exemplified by the 2013 L'Oreal prize and so many other prizes illustrating her great impact on Science. I hope that the friendship and support of all your friends and colleagues around the world will help you all to go through these so difficult times.
With my warmest support.

Christophe Salomon Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France 09/22/2016 - 8:15am

When Debbie and I began planning the Fellows dinner, she asked to make it family friendly. She wanted the children of the fellows to feel welcome. Her face lit up when she talked about this, knowing that her daughter Jackie would be involved in the dinner. Debbie brought games and coloring books to the Gold Hill Inn for the kids. How thoughtful! I have very fond memories of working with Debbie. I loved her smile and getting to know her. I will miss her, and send hugs to her husband, daughter and family.

Kim Monteleone Visiting Scientist Office at JILA 09/21/2016 - 12:30pm

I feel very sad to know Prof. Jin's passing. She is an excellent scientist as well as a tutor. I once asked her a research question in email when I was a graduate student in Georgia Institute of Technology in 2004. She returned to me with the right answer in only hours. Her passion and love for science had encouraged us in the past and will encourage us in the future.

Wenxian Zhang Wuhan University, China 09/21/2016 - 5:56am

I had met with her when she came to give a colloquium in Madison, but I really fell in love with Debbie when I visited to give a colloquium at CU-Physics in 2013. Instead of the usual chat in front of a computer screen she brought me to her lab, and showed me how cold atoms literally fell to the floor of the chamber! We laughed that the atoms went "thud!" What an exciting woman she was! Here are two photos I took of her and the impressive lab she built. A huge loss!

, Pupa Gilbert University of Wisconsin - Madison 09/21/2016 - 5:43am

Debbie is with us.

She is because of the changes we recognize in ourselves after having had the privilege of working, discussing, or sharing in friendship with her.

She is because of the students who have learned from her to make physics as an enthusiastic, curious, challenging and powerful way of thinking and being, and who have learned to be women and men straight in principles and in everyday strenuous practice. As she learned from you, and as the students of her students will learn.

She is because Jackie and John are.

She is because her smile with that unmistakable dimple in her cheeks is impressed in my mind, and this is the way she remains in my memory, bright, gentle and sunny friend.

I wish to be there to tightly and warmly hug Jackie and John, and all the Jila community, I feel to be so tight.


Marilù Chiofalo University of Pisa (Italy), Department of Physics 09/21/2016 - 1:00am

Debbie's presence at JILA made it a more special place. I have many fond memories of her and appreciated her mentorship. I first met her when I toured her lab in 1999, all the optics for the Fermi-degenerate gas set up neatly on one optical table in that 2nd floor JILA lab. She was always welcoming and had an amazing smile. She was a remarkable physicist and this is a big loss, especially to the many of us who looked up to her. My thoughts are with her beloved daughter Jackie, her husband and family.

Qudsia Quraishi Army Lab/Univ of MD 09/20/2016 - 9:38pm

I worked with Debbie as an REU student in the summer of 2011. She often took time out of her busy schedule to come down to the lab to help me build and align my setup. You could tell that she truly enjoyed being there and was happy for any excuse to spend time in lab. She was such a warm and considerate person and a wonderful advisor. She has been an inspiration for me. As I continue in my career I can only hope to have a fraction of the impact that she has had both scientifically and seemingly on every person she has known.

Emily Gehrels Harvard University 09/20/2016 - 8:06pm

My condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues. As a former JILA colleague, I must say that Debbie was as inspirational person to work alongside with, and I admired her and her work greatly. She had such good, clear, and deep level relationships with all the people she worked around with. I'm glad she (as well as all the JILA Fellows) gave me chance and time to work there with her and be a part of that special JILA family. She has been an inspirational person in my early work and career path ... and I only wish to come across and work with more wonderful and brilliant people like herself who break so many barriers.

Greg Kuebler Bluepoint Partners Inc., Seoul Korea 09/20/2016 - 7:54pm

Debbie was a truly special person - a brilliant scientist, eloquent communicator, and all-around genuine person. I always enjoyed the way that Debbie brought her sense of humor to even the deepest scientific discussion. Her passing is a huge loss. My deepest condolences to John, Jackie, and all of Debbie's family and JILA family.

Jeff McGuirk Simon Fraser University 09/20/2016 - 7:07pm

I am so sad to receive this terrible news. I extend my deepest condolences to John, Jackie, her JILA family, and everyone who had the privilege of knowing Debbie. Her impact on the scientific community was huge, and will continue to be felt for a very long time. I will miss her greatly.

Randy Hulet Rice University 09/20/2016 - 3:11pm

An incredible scientist and mentor, whose influence could hardly be overstated. On a personal note, Debbie almost single-handedly transformed me from a lover of physics into a physicist. She had a huge appetite and energy for physics, and a unique ability to strip the most opaque situation down to its simplest elements. I will never stop feeling her influence.

Jon Goldwin University of Birmingham, UK 09/20/2016 - 2:03pm

I am so sorry for the loss. Debbie was a warm person and a wonderful colleague. I remember when she was hired at JILA and I remember when we brought dinners to her and John after Jackie was born.

Ellen Zweibel U. Wisconsin-Madison 09/20/2016 - 1:55pm

This is a terrible loss and my heart goes out to John and Jackie, Debbie's other family and friends, and to the world that will never know what would have been discovered and realized.

Debbie sure could hit a softball and on the field you could see her never-quit indomitable spirit and her sense of competition and fun on full display. She was also one of those super busy people who always seemed to be able to make some time to talk to people and help them out. I was proud to work with her and share a few seasons on the field as well. Photo from 2011.

Joel Frahm CU Boulder 09/20/2016 - 11:43am

My heartfelt condolences go out to John, Jackie, and the rest of her family. As a grad student in Eric Cornell’s group in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, we had weekly group meetings that included Debby and Carl’s groups. I always appreciated her insightful and helpful comments toward my research and was always incredibly impressed with the work happening in her group as they worked toward the first Fermi degenerate gas and then began studying the BCS-BEC crossover. I am lucky to have known to have known her. This is a great loss.

Peter Schwindt Sandia National Laboratories 09/20/2016 - 10:19am

Having known Debbie since we were postdocs together, she is an idol for me as a scientist and as a person. It is devastating to lose unjustly such a brilliant scientist. The soul hurts to lose such a wonderful human being.

Eric Abraham University of Oklahoma 09/20/2016 - 8:28am

What a terrible and sad message for the world spanning community of cold atoms, molecules, and beyond. We lose a pioneer, one of our greatest minds and a role model for so many. It is hard to imagine the field without her.

Even harder to imagine is the loss for John and Jackie. I can only share my tears when I think of this tragedy.

Tilman Pfau University of Stuttgart 09/20/2016 - 4:55am

My deepest condolences to John, Jackie and family. I have known Debbie since I was a grad student in Eric Cornell’s group in JILA beginning in the late 90’s and got to witness from afar the excitement as she and her group achieved their first ultracold fermion results. I was lucky to have had her as one of my PhD committee members. Every time I have met Debbie since, she has always been very kind and gracious to take the time to talk. Given her remarkable scientific accomplishments, how humble she was was a true lesson in humanity. A great scientist and wonderful person to have lost.

Paul Haljan Simon Fraser University 09/20/2016 - 12:25am

I met Professor Jin for the first time during a lab tour at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I was a prospective student, listening to one of her graduate students give a tour of the experiment. Debbie walked in halfway through and offered to continue the tour, and after pointing out a few interesting components she said "...and these are our MOT coils - you know how Magneto Optical Trapping works, right?" I said, "Oh yeah, definitely", and she replied "Okay, good - explain it to me."

Well I had no idea how magneto optical trapping worked, and after I sheepishly admitted as much, she nodded politely and then allowed her grad student to continue the lab tour in her place. And ever since then I've told that story to my own students and my friends as a cautionary tale not to pretend that you know more than you really do. And I've worked hard ever since then, partly hoping that when I met next Debbie, I wouldn't once again embarrass myself. That I won't get another chance breaks my heart. She was a giant, and just through that tiny interaction she had a massive impact on my development as a physicist.

Mickey McDonald Postdoc at University of Chicago 09/19/2016 - 9:53pm

Debbie and I used to race each other to the JILA cookies when we worked in Eric's lab. Then when we wandered back to the lab, she had another great idea, another new thing to try. I had a great time working with her, and I'm sad to know future generations of grad students won't be taught by her.

Michael Matthews AOSense 09/19/2016 - 8:36pm

The world has lost a wonderful,warm person,and a truly great scientist. I met Debbie after she arrived at JILA: I will never forget her explanation of fermions to me! My deepest sympathy to John and her daughter. JILA has lost a truly bright light.

Katy Garmany National Optical Astronomy Observatory 09/19/2016 - 8:33pm

The loss of Debbie is just sad and tragic beyond words. We were all waiting for the day she would get that first-class ticket to Stockholm. She was a sure bet, that's the quality of physics that she was doing. But even more importantly, Debbie was an amazing and inspiring person and colleague. She was indeed a bright light that has gone dim much too soon, but somehow, she will keep lightning our path.

Pierre Meystre American Physical Society 09/19/2016 - 6:29pm

I was fortunate to work with Debbie as a post-doc during an early point in her career at JILA. She was an exceptional scientist who had a lasting impact on AMO physics and those of us who worked with her. Her passing is a great loss for all of us.

Tom Loftus AOSense, Inc. 09/19/2016 - 6:13pm

I was lucky enough to meet Debbie when I spend some time at JILA im 1999/2000. Besides her already then impressive accomplishments as a scientist, I will always remember Debbie for her great sense of humour. I still remember her reasoning why she studied fermions - "A boson goes where all the other bosons go. That is kind of boring. Fermions do the opposite, that's way more interesting." The world has lost a great physicist and a very inspiring person. My heartfelt sympathies go to her family for their loss.

Oliver Jennrich European Space Agency 09/19/2016 - 2:23pm

As an undergraduate, I did research in one of Debbie's labs. Working for her was an amazing experience. She was a kind and generous advisor, and she was committed to the idea that her students should receive first rate scientific training. Debbie often took time out of her busy schedule to sit down with me and make sure that I was learning important concepts and techniques, to make sure that I was staying on top of my classes, and to provide mentorship for the next phases of my career. I always looked up to Debbie, and she remained a trusted friend after I graduated. Her death is a tremendous loss for our field, JILA, and the many people she impacted for the better.

Travis Nicholson Massachusetts Institute of Technology 09/19/2016 - 12:51pm

I was lucky enough to work with Debbie as an REU student during the summer of 2014. She challenged me to be a better scientist, and was always happy to help with any problems and questions I had. She was so personable and friendly. I can't believe she's gone.

Allison Mueller REU Student at JILA 09/19/2016 - 11:35am

Debbie truly exemplified the best of JILA. A brilliant mind, a collaborative approach and a kind spirit. I count myself lucky to have worked with and learned from her. She will be missed in so many ways. My heartfelt sympathies to her husband, daughter, family and friends.

Beth Kroger JILA Chief of Operations 09/19/2016 - 10:54am

My deepest condolences to John and the family for their tremendous loss. Debbie was a shining light in AMO science. She will be missed.

Barry Schneider NIST formerly NSF 09/19/2016 - 10:15am

I am so sad and sorry that such a special person with so many amazing gifts has been lost so early in life. It's hard to believe.
I have known Debbie since she first went to JILA in 1995. Even though she and I are practically the same age, she was a role model for me in many ways.
She has been an inspiration, and even though I haven't seen her often in recent years, she has also been a friend.
My deepest condolences to her family.

Elizabeth Donley NIST 09/19/2016 - 9:49am

Dr. Jin's father was a professor at my undergraduate institution. I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture Deborah gave on her fermionic gas research in our department. It renewed my excitement for physics at the time. I was sad to hear that quantum chemistry has lost such a great mind and that her family and community has lost such a wonderful person.

Christopher Snyder New York University 09/19/2016 - 9:37am