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Electronics Lab Holds 50th-Year Celebration

By Brett Altschul
staff reporter

Today and tomorrow the Research Lab of Electronics will hold its fiftieth anniversary celebration. Events begin this afternoon and continue through tomorrow evening in celebration of the laboratory's many major discoveries and inventions.

Jonathan Allen, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of the RLE, emphasized the laboratory's illustrious history. The RLE developed out of the Radiation Laboratory, where the radar was developed during the World War II, he said.

The RLE has also given birth to a number of other important inventions over the past half-century. "We developed the first practical atomic clock here," Allen said. The RLE was also responsible for essentially all the major advances in information theory, he said.

The laboratory has also made advances in the study of biological electrical activity, Allen said. "We did pioneering work in the analysis of brain waves and in the study of how the brain processes sensory inputs."

One of the primary events on Friday will be a poster session, where the current research going on at the RLE will be presented to the public. The session will run from 1 to 5 pm in the Grier Room (34-401).

There is currently a lot of important research taking place at the RLE that will be displayed at the poster session, Allen said. "There's a lot of research on optical communications going on," he said. "We're also working on high-bandwidth wireless communication."

There will be over 60 posters at the event, Allen said. "This will be the most comprehensive display of research results we've ever put together."

At the same time as the poster session, RLE staff members will conduct tours of all the laboratories at the RLE. Among the most interesting laboratories are the ones working on the Bose-Einstein Condensate and on high-resolution lithography, Allen said.

Talks planned on lab's research

On Saturday morning, the events begin again with a breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Faculty Club. The breakfast is intended as a reunion for the many people who have worked at the RLE over the years, Allen said. Registration for the event is closed.

At the breakfast, Professor Emeritus Jerome Y. Lettvin, a longtime researcher at the RLE, will be speaking. Lettvin is well-known for his research into bioelectronics and perception.

Starting at 10 a.m., six current RLE researchers will give half-hour technical talks about their work in Tang Hall. The talks will range over a variety of topics. There will be three talks by physics professors and three by electrical engineering and computer science faculty because people from those departments comprise the vast majority of the RLE, Allen said.

Several of the talks should be very interesting, Allen said. Allen particularly emphasized the talk being given by Dennis M. Freeman PhD '86, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science. Freeman will be speaking about his research into nanometer motions of the hairs in the cochlea, part of the inner ear.

"This should be a real treat," Allen said. "It's going to have a full video setup so he can show his pictures." Allen also emphasized that the presentation would be designed for popular consumption. "All these presentations are going to be without equations," he said.

Another interesting presentation should be the one given by Wolfgang Ketterle, assistant professor of physics, about the Bose-Einstein Condensate. "This has potential for fabrication of incredibly strong, small devices at atomic levels," Allen said. "We're really in the golden era of atomic physics right now."

Professor of Physics Marc A. Kastner will give another symposium that promises to be interesting, Allen said. Kastner will discuss single-electron transistors and other quantum effect devices and their applications in nanostructure technology. "These have enormous potential, as they can be switched on and off by the flow of a single electron," Allen said.

After the technical symposiums, there will be two further talks on Saturday afternoon in the Wong Auditorium of Tang Hall. The first will be given by President Charles M. Vest at 2 p.m. Vest will discuss the the importance of research universities and the potential value of the RLE's research in the future.

After Vest's talk, science historian JamesBurke, known best for his several television miniseries, will speak at 4 p.m. Burke's lecture will detail and explain the historical significance of research done at the RLE over the past 50 years.

From 6:30 to 10 p.m., the final event, a jubilee dinner party, will take place at Walker Memorial. Registration for the event is now closed.