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Controlling the Quantum World: The Science of Atoms, Molecules, and Photons
intense, ultrashort electromagnetic fields, the atom-cavity interaction at high fields, and quantum properties of the electromagnetic field. The AMO theory program covers the same broad areas.
NSF, unlike the other agencies discussed, is not a mission-oriented agency. Rather, it shapes its scientific portfolio based mostly on the scientific interest and merit of the proposals submitted by the community. Observation of Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) in 1995 led to growth in that area. Thus the more mature areas of AMO research in individual-particle collisions, such as electron-atom scattering and ion scattering, have become less active than research in cold collisions and phenomena related to BEC. This trend continues in that BEC per se is no longer of special interest. Research is moving onward to the study of collective effects in quantum fluids, for example, at the Physics Frontier Center for Ultracold Atoms.
Advances in laser technology also drove increased support in the area of quantum control, including the large Physics Frontiers Centers award to the Frontiers in Optical Coherent and Ultrafast Science (FOCUS) program. Finally, the impetus provided by quantum information science has driven an increase in the number and quality of proposals in optical physics, a trend that has become increasingly manifest in the past 3 years. It also led to enhanced funding through the NSF-wide programs Information Technology Research (ITR) and Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NSE). Support for research in atomic and molecular structure, which is primarily spectroscopy, also dropped over the last decade. The support for research in precision measurements has remained essentially constant. The distribution of funding between experiment and theory varies from year to year, with theory hovering at between 15 and 20 percent of experiment.
As indicated, AMO science is included in NSF ITR and NSE priority areas, though the funding impact has not been large. AMO-related science is also funded through the Divisions of Chemistry and Materials Research in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences and to some extent also in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering and the Directorate for Engineering.