The Quantum Times

Newsletter of the APS Division of Quantum Information

GQI Elections

January 6, 2017 Elections 0

This year the Topical Group on Quantum Information (GQI) is holding elections for the following executive committee positions of Vice Chair and Member at Large.

Vice Chair Candidates: Jay Gambetta and Susan Coppersmith

Member at Large Candidates: Stephanie Wehner and Ryan Babbush

Listed below is a  statement from each candidate.

Jay Gambetta (Candidate for Vice Chair)

Quantum information science is the area of science that blurs standard boundaries and pushes us to understand nature at its most fundamental level. It brings together scientists from virtually all scientific disciplines to collectively try and understand the depths of fundamental physics and information theory for explaining aspects of the natural world around us. We research fundamental questions related to how physics and information theory are intertwined, to how nature computes, and to the foundations of the world around us. One would be hard-pressed to find any other division in the APS that covers such a broad and rich area, and I am very excited to run for Vice Chair of the executive committee of the Topical Group of Quantum Information (GQI).

Quantum, as ubiquitous in popular science as the word has become, is a pre-eminent pillar of physics and the beauty of quantum information science is its diverse and powerful nature. On one day a researcher could be working on foundations of physics and on the following day be considering applications of a new model of computation. The breadth of our research field is one of the many reasons why we are on the path to becoming a division of the APS. The evolution and growth of our field of quantum information has accelerated in recent years, as is clearly evident when I look back at my own personal journey starting from foundational research on open quantum systems to working closely with experimentalists on demonstrating concepts of quantum information processing.

It is a very exciting time for our community as we have recently met the requirements for becoming a division of the APS and last year, thanks to the generous support of IBM, we have our own award – Rolf Landauer and Charles H. Bennett Award in Quantum Computing– which recognizes the great work of our community. My goals for the GQI are 1) to continue the excellent work of the executive committee before me and to make sure we remain a division through increasing membership, 2) to encourage and develop more recognition for the younger researchers in quantum information – we need more awards and diversity for them, and 3) to increase the visibility of quantum information science in the public sphere. This is an area that is very important to me personally as in recent years I have been deeply involved in creating the IBM Quantum Experience, which is a substantial collaborative effort with colleagues that provides free public access to a fully-functioning small quantum computer. We have over 30K users learning about quantum information science as well as a large number of researchers using the Experience as a world class research tool to help produce research papers and further our understanding of nature.

In the past, I have served the GQI by chairing for the last two years the APS Fellowship committee where we have been very successful and had 11 top researchers accepted as GQI-sponsored APS fellows. As a topical group, we don’t have a final say in the selection of our Fellows since they are voted on by the governing division. To have such a large number be accepted for APS fellowship points to the top-class research being performed and the subsequent recognition of our researchers by the broader physics community.

Susan Coppersmith (Candidate for Vice Chair)

It is a tremendously exciting time for the field of quantum information. The APS Topical Group on Quantum Information (GQI) is important for the field not only for its role in facilitating communication between quantum information researchers, but also because of its role in communicating the great intellectual challenges and achievements of the field to other physicists as well as the general public.

I am honored to be a candidate to serve GQI as Vice-Chair. If elected, I will strive to make the organization as fair and efficient as possible, I will work to increase the diversity of the membership to maintain a membership sufficient for Division status, and I will also work hard to enhance the appreciation of quantum information in the broader community of physicists and in society at large.

Dr. Susan Coppersmith is a theoretical physicist who has been working in the field of quantum information science since 2001. She is currently a Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her Ph.D. in physics is from Cornell University, and she has been a postdoc at Brookhaven National Laboratory and at AT&T Bell Laboratories, a visiting lecturer at Princeton University, a member of technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories, and a professor at the University of Chicago. She has been working to develop qubits using quantum dots in silicon/silicon-germanium heterostructures, and has also investigated the properties of algorithms involving single- and multi-particle quantum random walks.

Dr. Coppersmith has served as Chair of the UW-Madison physics department, as a member of the NORDITA advisory board, as a member of the Mathematical and Physical Science Advisory Committee of the National Science Foundation, and as a Trustee at the Aspen Center for Physics. She has served as Chair of the Division of Condensed Matter Physics and of the Group for Statistical and Nonlinear Physics of the American Physical Society, as Chair of the Division on Physics of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Gordon Research Conferences, and as Chair of the External Advisory Board of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

Stephanie Wehner (Candidate for Member at Large)

I have never been as excited about quantum information as in the past three years. On the one hand, quantum information is proving its worth to understand fundamental aspects of nature; the term “it from bit” capturing the idea, or maybe rather the dream, that all of nature could be deciphered using the perspective of information processing.

On the other hand, we are at last edging close to seeing quantum computing technologies being realized by most impressive experimental efforts. Recent years have seen a paradigm shift in the field, marked by the commitment of several large companies such as Intel, Microsoft, and Google as well as international efforts such as the EU Flagship on quantum technologies.

I believe quantum information has always drawn great strength from interdisciplinary collaboration. It is now time to fulfill the promise of quantum computing and communication technologies – if possible. However, without joint efforts from both theoretical and experimental physics, computer science, and mathematics we cannot succeed. The recent paradigm shift also sees a necessary expansion into the domain of engineering, and I believe we will see a new field of applied quantum computer science emerge which in analogy to most of classical computer science employs a heuristic approach to realize and utilize quantum technologies.

GQI now has the potential to bring the old and new communities in quantum information together. I will contribute to GQI stepping up to a Division in order to realize this goal. Recent developments also highlight new career opportunities for junior researchers to enter or indeed found quantum industry. I would like GQI to help facilitate such opportunities and navigate challenges.

I am honored to be a candidate for the GQI member-at-large. Due to my own interdisciplinary background, my collaborations across disciplines with both theory and experiment, as well as my international experience in the US, Asia and Europe I believe I am well positioned to represent the diverse GQI community. I enjoyed making a difference by founding QCRYPT and advancing QuTech Academy, and I would now be excited to serve in the APS to take GQI forward.

Stephanie Wehner is an Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Professor at QuTech, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. She received her PhD degree in computer science from the University of Amsterdam in 2008, followed by two years as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the California Institute of Technology. From 2010-2014 she was an Assistant Professor and later Dean’s Chair Associate Professor at the Centre for Quantum Technologies, National University of Singapore. Prior to her academic career, Stephanie has worked for a few years in the network security industry as a professional hacker.

Stephanie’s passion is the theory of quantum information in all its facets, and she has published more than 60 articles on a wide range of topics in physics and computer science, ranging from more applied subjects such as (quantum) information theory and quantum cryptography to fundamental questions in quantum foundations and quantum thermodynamics. Some of her contributions to scientific progress have been selected for Science’s “Top 10 Breakthroughs of 2015”, and Nature’s “Science Events that shaped 2015”, and received the Paul Ehrenfest Award for Quantum Foundations. Stephanie was awarded personal grants including the ERC Starting Grant.

Stephanie is one of the founders of QCRYPT, which has grown to be the largest international conference in quantum cryptography. She has served on the steering committees of several conferences, QCRYPT 2011-2016, QIP 2014-2016, and QCMC 2015-2017, as well as on the editorial board of the New Journal of Physics. She has organized several international conferences such as QCRYPT, QIP and workshops such as the IMS workshop on Quantum Thermodynamics. At QuTech, she is part of the management team, as well as responsible for QuTech Academy, an interdisciplinary education program in quantum technologies for students in engineering, physics, computer science and mathematics. She enjoys spreading the word about quantum information, for example by teaching online in edX QuCryptoX, and contributing to outreach by speaking at events such as TEDx and New Scientist Live.

Ryan Babbush (Candidate for Member at Large)

Five years ago, a wise postdoc sat me down for a serious conversation; they urged me to abandon quantum information while I still could because there were no jobs and the field seemed doomed. Fortunately, we both ignored that advice and today, laugh about that discussion. The size and number of industrial quantum groups is growing, funding for academic researchers and government programs is increasing, as is the size and quality of quantum hardware. Now is an extremely exciting time for the field.

However, now is also an uncertain time for the future of science in the United States. Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the APS, told Nature that “Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had. The consequences are going to be very, very severe”. Whether one agrees with this sentiment or not, with both executive and legislative branches under Republican control, the incoming administration will have tremendous power to reshape science policy in America. How policy changes will affect quantum research is unclear and quite possibly, still undecided by lawmakers. In my view, how the APS will represent our interests to these lawmakers in 2017 is the most important issue in the current APS election.

If I am elected Member-at-Large of GQI, I will use my position on the GQI committee to advocate for increased lobbying on behalf of our group’s interests. As a representative of the APS and an American citizen, I will participate in all APS lobbying efforts and personally travel to DC to meet with congressional staffers about the importance of supporting quantum research. I will wear a tie and tell anyone willing to listen that academic and government research in quantum information is essential for the development of future technology and also creates industry jobs (such as mine). I will tell them that America’s competitive advantage in this field demands the availability of visas for the best physicists to work here, regardless of their nationality. But most importantly, I will tell them about the promise of quantum information and remind them that leadership in science is part of what makes America great.

Ryan Babbush is a Research Scientist in the Quantum AI Lab at Google where he works closely with experimentalists to design quantum algorithms for prototype quantum hardware. He has broad interests in quantum algorithms, quantum complexity, machine learning, superconducting qubits, chemical physics and electronic structure theory.

Ryan entered undergraduate studies intending to become a chemist. However, after two years of research in experimental chemistry and two trips to the hospital for toxic exposure in the laboratory, Ryan decided it was safer to be a theorist. As he quickly learned, most chemistry is just physics that’s too hard for physicists… unless the physicist has a quantum computer, in which case most chemistry is just a problem in the quantum complexity class BQP. This realization convinced Ryan to enter the field of quantum information. He graduated from Carleton College with a double major in Physics and Chemistry (2011) and headed to Harvard University where he joined the Aspuru-Guzik group, known for working at the intersection of quantum information and quantum chemistry. Ryan received both his masters in Physics (2013) and his PhD in Chemical Physics (2015) from Harvard University.

At Harvard and Google Ryan worked on developing efficient analog and digital protocols for quantum computing problems in chemistry and machine learning. He has collaborated with experimental groups using ion traps, NV centers, and several types of superconducting qubits to realize these algorithms. During his PhD he did internships with quantum groups at both Google and Microsoft. Upon disserting in 2015, he joined Google’s team as a permanent researcher.

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