Dwight Whitaker

Assistant Professor of Physics

at Pomona College since 2007



Contact Information


Courses given

Williams College

Pomona College


Research Interests:

Bose-Einstein Condensation:


Our lab makes Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) of rubidium-87.  The atoms are evaporatively cooled in an all-optical trap created from a focused CO2 laser beam.   Below a critical temperature the atoms held in our trap undergo a quantum phase transition and form a new form of matter (the BEC).  Condensates are a coherent form of matter and a BEC differs from a cloud of warmer atoms like the light from a laser differs from that of a light bulb.   Our group is currently working on creating a simple method to form large condensates in an optical trap.  We also have developed an inexpensive imaging system that uses a CCD camera designed for amateur astronomers. 


Investigations of Rapid Biological Movements:


In collaboration with Joan Edwards in the Biology Department at Williams College we are documenting and understanding the rapid (sub-millisecond) movements of different plant and fungi.  The most rapid motion of any biological system occurs through the release of stored elastic energy rather than chemically driven and slower muscle twitching.  Since plants too can slowly store elastic energy by growing or moving water, they too can move quickly.  The fastest plants (and fungi) move on a timescale shorter than any animal movements.  Our group looks to understand how the morphology and physical properties of a plant enable it to move quickly.   With an understanding of the relevant physical parameters it is easier to identify what traits are co-opted from similar species to produce the rapid motion.   For an informative (and pretty) webpage about the explosive opening of the bunchberry flower go here.


Links to podcasts about our Science paper on the exploding capsules of Sphagnum moss: Science podcast, BBC Science in Action (our bit starts at 16:00). 


Physics Demonstration Database:


The high-speed video camera used in our biophysics project has also given rise to a collection of ultra slow motion videos of some popular physics demonstrations. You can access these streaming videos, which are sortable by course number or course description here.


Selected publications (links may require subscriptions)

Pomona Physics and Astronomy