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Professor Rob Ballagh



After completion of a BSc Honours degree in Physics at Canterbury University, I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for graduate study in the US. I completed my PhD in theoretical atomic and laser physics at JILA, University of Colorado in 1978. Returning to New Zealand in 1979, I joined the Physics Department at Otago University as a post doctoral fellow and subsequently became the inaugural Beverly Fellow in 1981. I was appointed as a permanent member of the Physics Department in the same year, and have remained in the Department since that time. I was awarded a personal Professorship at Otago in 2001, and have held visiting Professorships and Fellowships at Universities in Australia, US, and Europe. I became a Fellow of the Royal Society of NZ in 2000, and I served a term on the Marsden Council, and am currently a Trustee of the Rutherford Foundation.

My research is in the field of quantum theory, focussing particularly on the interactions of atoms and radiation, and the behaviour of ultracold atomic gases. These are major areas in contemporary Physics, providing a fundamental understanding of how the world works on a microscopic scale, and giving rise to important technological applications.

My early work spanned a range of topics including laser physics, nonlinear optics, quantum optics, and atomic collisional processes. In more recent years, my focus has shifted to ultracold atoms, a field which came into prominence with the first experimental realisation of a Bose-Einstein condensate in the mid 1990s. With my colleagues, I have been involved in the development and application of a practical formalism for calculating and understanding the behaviour of these complex systems. Some particular contributions have been in the areas of: condensate formation; theory of the atom laser; vortex dynamics in condensates; coherent atom optics; and the effect of thermal fluctuations on condensate dynamics.

Ultracold atoms is an area of vigorous international activity, and I am involved in a network of colleagues around the world.

Find out more about my research.