I was saddened to learn of the death of Debbie Jin several weeks ago -- she was only 47 years old. Debbie worked at NIST (what used to be called the Bureau of Standards) in Boulder, Colorado. I first met her in my previous incarnation as an Ohio State professor, when we tried to hire her into a faculty position there. Over the years, I've tried to keep track of all of the young superstars who turned down our job offers -- Debbie became by far the most outstanding of all of the "ones who got away."
Debbie worked on ultra-cold systems of atoms. These are the famous "Bose-Einstein condensates" -- bosons are particles that like to clump together, and when you make them cold enough, they all pile into the same quantum state. Fermions, on the other hand, hate each other and don't like to be together. Debbie was the first to produce a "fermionic condensate" in the laboratory. Had she lived, I think she would have been a strong contender for the Nobel Prize. I invited Debbie to give our 2011-12 Slack Lecture here at Vanderbilt, and she gave a spectacular talk. She was also one of the nicest people I've met in the world of physics.