Lene Vestergaard Hau

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The scientist who has been ableto stop light

Lene Vestergaard Hau is a physicist, born i n Denmark in 1959.

Neither of her parents had been trained in science, but they were clear that Lene would receive the same opportunities as her brother, a stance which was fundamental for her education.

She studied physics and mathematics, and received a PhD at Aarhus university. She was a two year post doctoral fellow at Harvard, and later received a MacArthur Fellowship. Her academic speciality was theoretical physics, but gradually her interests changed to experimental research, in an effort to create a new type of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.

She is well-known for her experiments in which she reduced the speed of a ray of light to 17 meters per second thanks to a superfluid in an ultracold atomic gas close to absolute 0. Subsequently she reduced the speed of light to one mile an hour, and in the year 2001 it was possible to completely freeze light for one-thousandth of a second.

Despite the fact that this amount of time may seem negligible, according to Lene “it is an incredibly long period; although we think we can stop light for a longer time. It's great to look inside a room and see a crowd of ultracold atoms floating. In this strange state, light takes on a more human dimension, because you can almost touch"

She has received numerous awards, including the NKT of the Danish Physical Society or the Samuel Friedman Rescue Award, and is part of the Royal Danish Society of Sciences.

Since 1999 she is Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University.

«Physics is about questioning, studying, probing nature. You probe and, if you´re lucky, you get strange clues.»