Roberto Onofrio

Academic Appointments

Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Roberto Onofrio's main research interests are in macroscopic quantum phenomena and their potential role for understanding the interplay between gravitation and the standard model of elementary particle physics. After graduating at the University of Rome 'La Sapienza', he has become a junior faculty at the University of Padua in 1991, and has spent extensive research periods at the University of Rochester (1989-92), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1997-2000), the Los Alamos National Laboratory (2001-2003), and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (2007-2015). Summer student at CERN in 1984, he has been the recipient of 'Enrico Persico' fellowships of the National Academy of the Lincei in A.Y. 1984/85 and 1985/86, a CNR fellowship in 1991, a CNR-NATO 'Advance Fellowship programme' fellowship in 1997. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society since 2009, Outstanding Referee of the American Physical Society since 2012, and Distinguished Referee of the European Physical Journal in 2014 and 2015. 


Dartmouth College
HB 6127


  • Laurea, Summa cum Laude, University of Rome "La Sapienza"
  • Ph.D. University of Rome "La Sapienza"

Selected Publications

  • Jauffred, Francisco, Roberto Onofrio, and Bala Sundaram. “Simulating Sympathetic Cooling of Atomic Mixtures in Nonlinear Traps.” Physics Letters A 381, no. 34 (2017): 2783–91.

  • Jauffred, Francisco, Roberto Onofrio, and Bala Sundaram. “Universal and Anomalous Behavior in the Thermalization of Strongly Interacting Harmonically Trapped Gas Mixtures.” Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics 50, no. 13 (2017): 135005.

  • Onofrio, R. “Cooling and Thermometry of Atomic Fermi Gases.” Physics-Uspekhi 59, no. 11 (2017): 1129.

  • Onofrio, Roberto. “All-Optical Cooling of Fermi Gases via Pauli Inhibition of Spontaneous Emission.” Phys. Rev. A 93, no. 3 (March 2016): 33414. doi:10.1103/PhysRevA.93.033414.

Research interests and principal scientific results

A) Quantum measurement theory and open systems

Quantum nondemolition measurements schemes for resonant gravitational wave antennas [A1,A2], uncertainty principle in quantum tunneling transducers [A3,A4], quantum measurements through the path integral approach [A5,A6], quantum Zeno effect and atomic spectroscopy [A7,A8], quantum measurement theory and temporal Bell inequalities [A9,A10], quantum measurement models for ion traps, rf-SQUIDs, and atomic gases [A11,A12,A13].

Selected publications

A1 - R. Onofrio, 
"Quantum non demolition observables for a gravitational wave antenna coupled to a resonant transducer," Physics Letters A 120, 1-5 (1987).

A2 - F. Bordoni and R. Onofrio, 
"Multisqueezing of mechanical states and back-action evasion measurements" F. Bordoni and R. Onofrio, Physical Review A  41, 21-26 (1990).

A3 - C. Presilla, R. Onofrio, and M. F. Bocko, 
"Uncertainty principle noise in vacuum tunneling transducers," Physical Review B 45, 3735-3743 (1992).

A4 - R. Onofrio and C. Presilla,
"Quantum limit in resonant vacuum tunneling transducers," Europhysics Letters  22, 333-339 (1993).

A5 - M. B. Mensky, R. Onofrio, and C. Presilla, 
"Continuous quantum monitoring of position of nonlinear oscillators," Physics Letters A 161, 236-240 (1991).

A6 - M. B. Mensky, R. Onofrio, and C. Presilla, 
"Optimal monitoring of position in nonlinear quantum systems," Physical Review Letters  70, 2825-2828 (1993).

A7 - R. Onofrio, C. Presilla, and U. Tambini,
"Quantum Zeno effect with the Feynman-Mensky path-integral approach," Physics Letters A 183, 135-140 (1993).

A8 - C. Presilla, R. Onofrio, and U. Tambini, 
"Measurement quantum mechanics and experiments on quantum Zeno effect," Annals of Physics (N.Y.) 248, 95-121 (1996).

A9 - R. Onofrio and T. Calarco, 
"Testing temporal Bell inequalities through repeated measurements in rf-SQUIDs, Physics Letters A  208, 40-46 (1995).

A10 -  T. Calarco, M. Cini, and R. Onofrio, 
"Are violations to temporal Bell inequalities there when somebody looks?," Europhysics Letters 47, 407-413 (1999). 

A11 - L. Viola and R. Onofrio, 
"Measured quantum dynamics of a trapped ion," Physical Review A 55, R3291-R3294 (1997).

A12 - L. Viola,  R. Onofrio and T. Calarco,
"Macroscopic quantum damping in SQUID rings," Physics Letters A 229, 23-31 (1997).

A13 - R. Onofrio and L. Viola, 
"Dynamics of decoherence in continuous atom-optical quantum nondemolition measurements,"  Physical Review A 58, 69-76 (1998). 

B) Macroscopic phenomena in quantum electrodynamics

Birefringence phenomena in QED [B1,B2]. Limits to gravity-like interactions in the submillimeter range [B3,B4]. Precision measurement of the Casimir force between parallel conducting plates [B5,B6]. Studies of the Casimir force in a cylinder-plane geometry [B7,B8]. Evidence for anomalies in the electrostatic calibrations of Casimir force measurement [B9,B10]. Proposal of an experiment to detect the dynamical Casimir effect using superradiance [B11,B12].

Selected Publications

B1 - D. Bakalov, G. Cantatore, G. Carugno, S.Carusotto, P. Favaron, F.  Della Valle, I. Gabrielli, U. Gastaldi, E.Iacopini, P. Micossi, E. Milotti, R. Onofrio, R.Pengo, F. Perrone, G. Petrucci, E.Polacco, C. Rizzo, G. Ruoso, E. Zavattini, and G. Zavattini, 
"PVLAS: Vacuum birefringence and production and detection of nearly massless, weakly coupled particles by optical techniques,''  Nuclear Physics B (Proc. Suppl.) 35, 180-182 (1994). 

B2 - D. Bakalov, F. Brandi, G. Cantatore, G. Carugno, S. Carusotto, F. Della Valle, A. M. De Riva, U. Gastaldi, E. Iacopini, P. Micossi, E. Milotti,  R. Onofrio, R. Pengo, F. Perrone, G. Petrucci, E. Polacco, C. Rizzo, G. Ruoso, E. Zavattini, and G.Zavattini,
"Experimental method to detect the magnetic birefringence of vacuum,"  Quantum Semiclassical Optics 10, 239-250 (1998).

B3 - G. Carugno, Z. Fontana,  R. Onofrio, and C. Rizzo, 
"Limits on the existence of scalar interactions in the submillimeter range," Physical Review D 55, 6591-6595 (1997).

B4 - G. Bressi, G. Carugno, R. Onofrio, and G. Ruoso, 
"Experimental searches for extra-gravitational forces in the submillimetre range,"  Classical and Quantum Gravity 17, 2365-2368 (2000).

B5 - G. Bressi, G. Carugno, A. Galvani, R. Onofrio, G. Ruoso, and F. Veronese, 
"Experimental studies of macroscopic forces in the micrometer range,"  Classical and Quantum Gravity 18, 3943-3961 (2001). 

B6 - G. Bressi, G. Carugno, R. Onofrio, and G. Ruoso, 
"Measurement of the Casimir force between parallel metallic surfaces,''  Physical Review Letters 88, 041804 (2002).

B7 - D. A. R. Dalvit, F. C. Lombardo, F. D. Mazzitelli, and R. Onofrio, 
"Casimir forces between eccentric cylinders,'' Europhysics Letters 57, 517-523 (2004).

B8 - M. Brown-Hayes, D. A. R. Dalvit, F. D. Mazzitelli, W. J. Kim, and R. Onofrio, 
"Towards a precision measurement of the Casimir force in a cylinder-plane geometry,''  Physical Review A 72, 052102 (2005).

B9 - W.-J. Kim, M. Brown-Hayes, D.A.R. Dalvit, J.H. Brownell, and R. Onofrio, 
"Anomalies in electrostatic calibrations for the measurement of the Casimir force in a sphere-plane geometry,''  Physical Review A 78, 021101(R) (2008).

B10 - Q. Wei, D.A.R. Dalvit, F.C. Lombardo, F.D. Mazzitelli, and R. Onofrio, 
"Results from electrostatic calibrations for measuring the Casimir force in the cylinder-plane geometry,''  Physical Review A 81, 052115 (2010).

B11 - W.-J. Kim, J. H. Brownell, and R. Onofrio, 
"Detectability of dissipative motion in quantum vacuum via superradiance,''  Physical Review Letters 96, 200402 (2006).

B12 - J.H. Brownell, W.-J. Kim, and R. Onofrio, 
"Modelling superradiant amplification of Casimir photons in very low dissipation cavities,''  Journal of Physics A 41, 164026 (2008).

C) Ultracold atom physics and superfluidity

Measurements of the critical velocity for superfluidity in dilute Bose gas [C1,C2]. Models for continuous quantum measurements on a Bose-Einstein condensate [C3,C4]. Proposal of bichromatic optical dipole traps for optimal heat capacity matching in Fermi-Bose mixtures [C5,C6]. Optimal sympathetic cooling of atomic mixtures using shortcuts to adiabaticity [C7,C8]. Microscopic models for sympathetic cooling of atomic gases [C9], all-optical cooling of Fermi gases [C10].

Selected Publications

C1 - C. Raman, M. Kohl, R. Onofrio, D.S. Durfee, C.E. Kuklewicz, Z. Hadzibabic, and W. Ketterle,
"Evidence for a critical velocity in a Bose-Einstein condensed gas,''  Physical Review Letters 83, 2502-2505 (1999).

C2 - R. Onofrio, C. Raman, J. M. Vogels, J. R. Abo-Shaeer, A. P. Chikkatur,  and W. Ketterle, 
"Observation of superfluid flow in a Bose-Einstein condensed gas," Physical Review Letters 85, 2228-2231 (2000).

C3 - D. A. R. Dalvit, J. Dziarmaga, and R. Onofrio, 
"Measurement-induced squeezing of a Bose-Einstein condensate," Physical Review A 65, 033620 (2002).

C4 - D. A. R. Dalvit, J. Dziarmaga, and R. Onofrio,
"Continuous quantum measurement of a Bose-Einstein condensate: a stochastic Gross-Pitaevskii equation,"  Physical Review A 65, 053604 (2002).

C5 - R. Onofrio and C. Presilla, 
"Reaching Fermi degeneracy in two-species optical dipole traps" Physical Review Letters 89, 100401 (2002).

C6 - C. Presilla and R. Onofrio,
"Cooling dynamics of ultracold two-species Fermi-Bose mixtures,"  Physical Review Letters 90, 030404 (2003). 

C7 - S. Choi, R. Onofrio, and B. Sundaram, 
"Optimized sympathetic cooling of atomic mixtures via fast adiabatic strategies,"  Physical Review A 84, 051601(R) (2011).

C8 - S. Choi, R. Onofrio, and B. Sundaram, 
"Squeezing and robustness of frictionless cooling strategies"  Physical Review A 86, 043436 (2012).

C9 - R. Onofrio and B. Sundaram, 
"Effective microscopic models for sympathetic cooling of atomic gases,"  Physical Review A 92, 033422 (2015).

C10 - R. Onofrio,
"All-optical cooling of Fermi gases via Pauli inhibition of spontaneous emission,"  Physical Review A 93, 033414 (2016).

D) Elementary particle physics, gravitation, and astrophysics 

Phenomenology of pseudoscalar mesons [D1,D2]. Tests of the equivalence principle using free falling quantum objects [D3].  Proton-Rydberg hydrogen atoms collisions in astrophysical settings [D4,D5].  Higgs shifts near strong gravity sources, and upper bounds from tabletop experiments, white dwarfs, and neutron stars [D6,D7,D8,D9]. Proposal of a gravitoweak unification and related low energy and high energy phenomenology [D10,D11,D12]. 

Selected Publications

D1 - M. Ciuchini, E. Franco, and R. Onofrio,
"Leading non-logarithmic contribution to the electropenguin diagram and phenomenology of kaon decays,"  Modern Physics Letters A 5, 2173-2181 (1990).

D2 - G. Bressi, G. Carugno, S. Cerdonio, E. Conti, A. T. Meneguzzo, R. Onofrio, D. Zanello, U. Beriotto, S. De Biasia, M. Nicoletto, R. Pedrotta, N. Toniolo, 
"A large liquid Xenon time projection chamber for the study of the radiative pion decay,"   Nuclear Instruments and Methods A 376, 149-154 (1996).

D3 - L. Viola and R. Onofrio, 
"Testing the equivalence principle through freely falling quantum objects,"  Physical Review D 55, 455-462 (1997). 

D4 - D. Vrinceanu, R. Onofrio, and H. R. Sadeghpour, 
"Angular momentum changing transitions in proton-Rydberg hydrogen atom collisions,"  Astrophysical Journal 747, 56 (2012).

D5 - D. Vrinceanu, R. Onofrio, and H. R. Sadeghpour,
"Comprehensive rate coefficients for electron collision induced transitions in hydrogen,"  Astrophysical Journal 780, 2 (2014).

D6 - R. Onofrio,
"Higgs-induced spectroscopic shifts near strong gravity sources,''  Physical Review D 82, 065008 (2010).

D7 - R. Onofrio,
"Gravitational vacuum polarization phenomena due to the Higgs field,''  European Physical Journal C 72, 2006 (2012).

D8 - R. Onofrio and G. A. Wegner,
"Search for Higgs shifts in white dwarfs,''  Astrophysical Journal 791, 125 (2014).

D9 - G. A. Wegner and R. Onofrio,
"Higgs shifts from electron-positron annihilations near neutron stars,''  European Physical Journal C 75, 307 (2015).

D10 - R. Onofrio,
"On weak interactions as short-distance manifestations of gravity,"  Modern Physics Letters A 28, 1350022  (2013).

D11 - R. Onofrio,
"Proton radius puzzle and quantum gravity at the Fermi scale,"  EPL 104, 20002 (2013).

D12 - R. Onofrio,
"High-energy density implications of a gravitoweak unification scenario,''  Modern Physics Letters A 29, 1350187 (2014).