Dwight Whitaker has two principal areas of research in applied physics. The first involves the creation of Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) of rubidium-87using an all-optical trap created from a focused CO2 laser beam. Below a critical temperature the atoms held in the trap undergo a quantum phase transition and form a new form of matter (the BEC).
Whitaker and the undergraduate students who work in his research lab are currently working on creating a simple method to form large condensates in an optical trap. They also have developed an inexpensive imaging system that uses a CCD camera designed for amateur astronomers.
Whitaker’s second area of research involves investigations of rapid biological movements. In collaboration with Joan Edwards in the Biology Department at Williams College, he is documenting and exploring the extremely rapid (sub-millisecond) movements of certain plants and fungi. His lab looks to understand how the morphology and physical properties of a plant enable it to move so quickly.