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CQT hosts conference in honour of PI Berge Englert's 60th birthday

30 April 2014

Logo for Bergefest Berge Englert with his Bergefest cake

Berge was treated to a 'burger' birthday cake at the conference banquet. See more photos on CQT's Facebook page.

What better way to celebrate a 60th birthday than with a science conference? Some 130 physicists joined CQT PI and NUS Professor Berthold-Georg Englert in Singapore to mark his birthday milestone.

"I was very happy to have my scientific family around me," says Berge. Colleagues, collaborators and friends had travelled from afar afield as Chile, Israel, Japan and France to attend the meeting.

The Berge Fest conference, held 22-25 April at NUS University Town, was organised by Berge's collaborators and former students with support from CQT, the Institute of Advanced Studies at NTU and the Lee Foundation. The scientific program had 32 talks covering the broad areas of quantum information theory, quantum optics and the foundations of quantum mechanics. The talks included presentations by Nobel Prizewinners Serge Haroche and Roy Glauber, with Berge giving the closing address.

"The interesting talks highlighted the many areas of physics Berge's work has had an impact on," says Ng Hui Khoon, a Research Fellow in Berge's group and co-organiser of the meeting. Hui Khoon is also an Assistant Professor at Yale-NUS College.

Berge's theoretical research in quantum physics spans three decades, beginning before people had conceived of 'quantum information'. He moved into this field as it emerged in the 1990s and has worked on diverse topics within it. His group's current focus is on what can be known about quantum states and on what can be done with ultracold atoms.

Berge is also known for his pragmatic attitude to the foundational questions that some study, often referred to in popular literature as the 'mysteries' of quantum physics. Berge's view is that these mysteries arise from one misunderstanding or another, as he explains in a recent colloquium paper.

The impact of Berge's research is captured, albeit in a crude metric, by his h-index. The h-index is based on the citation distribution of an author's papers. Berge's is a strong 34 as of April 2014 (according to Web of Science).

Beyond his academic life, Berge is husband to Ola and father to two grown up children. He is a friend and mentor to many of his colleagues, and shares with them his love for fine food and wine. Long-time friend and collaborator, CQT Visiting Research Professor Christian Miniatura, jokes that after the Bergefest celebrations "I am glad to have a rest – for my stomach and my liver!"

In a paper for the conference proceedings, Christian comments on his first meeting with Berge, some 22 years ago. "Life is sparked with blessing and important moments, this was one. Of course I could not anticipate it at the time, but Berge was to profoundly and positively influence my life."

"Everyone's great regard for him shows that he is not just an outstanding physicist, but also a well-respected teacher and a sincere friend. It is a good reminder to us to be thankful that we have Berge right here at CQT!" says conference co-organiser Han Rui, who graduated as Berge's PhD student in 2012 and remains in his group as a postdoc.

Berge's positive influence on so many people was the real celebration at Berge Fest. Happy birthday Berge!

Bergefest attendees

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