Wolfgang Ketterle receives one third of the Nobel Prize in Physics along with Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman, who conducted similar work independently and concurrently "for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates".
In the early 1990s, Ketterle begins working on the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). With his team, Ketterle develops innovative techniques for trapping and cooling atoms, and in September 1995 he succeeds in creating a BEC from sodium atoms. This BEC is used to carry out additional studies, including an interference experiment that provides the first direct evidence of the coherent nature of a BEC.
Wolfgang Ketterle does an internship at Volkswagen Company in Puebla, Mexico.
Wolfgang Ketterle attends Bunsengymnasium in Heidelberg, where he is the first of his class. One of the mathematics teachers, Albrecht Strobel, is inspirational for Ketterle. Strobel invites the students to approach mathematical problems in a playful way. As a student, Ketterle likes to play soccer and basketball. He finds also his true passion in long-distance running.
Wolfgang Ketterle enters the University of Heidelberg. After passing the pre-diploma (intermediate exam) in two years, he moves to Munich.
Wolfgang Ketterle is born in Heidelberg. When he is three years old, the family moves from Heidelberg to Eppelheim. Here he grows supported in his interests (such as music, sports and sciences) by his parents. Since an early age Ketterle shows passion for science and technologies by exploring chemistry and electronics.
In the spring of 1990 Wolfgang Ketterle joins Dave Pritchard's group at MIT as Research Associate. There, he finds the interactions with Pritchard and within the group very informal and exciting for him.
In 1993 Wolfgang Ketterle becomes a faculty member at the Department of Physics at MIT first as Assistant Professor, then in 1997 as Professor. He becomes in 1998 John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics, and since 2006 he is Director of the Center of Ultracold Atoms and Associate Director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics. He leads experimental research in atomic physics and laser spectroscopy and currently focuses on Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute atomic gases.
For his Ph.D. Ketterle researches on trace analysis of semiconductors using laser spectroscopy under Herbert Walther and Hartmut Figger at the Max-Planck-Institute of Quantum Optics. After abondoning the project for the lack of infrastructure, Ketterle focuses on the basic spectroscopy of small molecules. He creates excited neutral molecules by charge transfer to a mass-selected ion beam obtaining almost pure fluorescence spectra of triatomic hydrogen.
Wolfgang Ketterle becomes Research Scientist at the University of Heidelberg in the Department of Physical Chemistry joining the group of Prof. Jürgen Wolfrum. There, he works on physical chemistry, focusing on combustion diagnostics with lasers.
Wolfgang Ketterle enters the Technical University of Munich. During these years he goes hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. He also enjoys the small and big theatres of the city and its arts museums. He is politically involved in a peace movement and in a group working on third world issues. He writes his diploma thesis on spin relaxation in disordered materials under the guidance of Prof. Wolfgang Götze.
Wolfgang Ketterle wins a fellowship from Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes (German National Merit Foundation). As part of the fellowship he has the opportunity to attend special summer schools in the Italian Alps, where he meets other highly talented students and where he strengthens his motivation to have high goals in life.
Wolfgang Ketterle becomes Research Assistant at the Max-Planck-Institute of Quantum Optics and, starting from 1985, he becomes staff scientist.