Institute for Quantum Computing adds former CSA chief, Harvard professor

Monday, September 9, 2013

The University of Waterloo today announced the appointment of Steve MacLean, former president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and Harvard professor Amir Yacoby as new members of the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC)

MacLean joins IQC as an associate member and Yacoby is appointed as a visiting professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and as the Distinguished Research Chair in Condensed Matter.

“Waterloo stands amongst the world's leaders in the revolutionary field of quantum science,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of Waterloo. “IQC brings together internationally recognized researchers who are already developing our understanding of the quantum world. I’m delighted to welcome these two accomplished scientists to Waterloo to help push that understanding further forward.”
“It is fantastic that two scientists of the calibre of Steve MacLean and Amir Yacoby are joining IQC,” said Raymond Laflamme, executive director of IQC. “Their experience and insight will complement our extraordinary community of researchers and continue the truly world-class research already happening here.”
Steve MacLean is a laser physicist whose research has included electro-optics, laser-induced fluorescence of particles and crystals and multi-photon laser spectroscopy. MacLean’s work will include the development of attosecond lasers.
As quantum research leads closer and closer to the very building blocks of nature, the quest to capture dynamic images at these scales becomes challenging. An attosecond laser, which would produce shorter and more powerful pulses of light, could allow for more precise images of the tiniest parts of our world. An attosecond is one quintillionth of a second and a laser with such short pulse lengths could help capture images as small as the space between atoms.
“I’m going back to my roots,” says MacLean. “I’ve always been a physicist at heart. A change is coming in how we build useful devices using the ideas of quantum mechanics. I’m excited to be a part of that here at IQC.”
MacLean retired from his role as President of the Canadian Space Agency in February 2013. He served as Mission Specialist on the International Space Station in 2006 and was the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm2.
Amir Yacoby is a renowned experimental condensed matter physicist at Harvard University. His research explores quantum phases of matter in reduced dimension and their applications towards quantum information science. He will set up a lab at IQC to focus on implementing quantum information processing in condensed matter systems.
Yacoby’s research at IQC will tackle some of today’s biggest research challenges including long distance coupling of quantum bits or qubits; the basic elements of quantum computers. Qubits can be in a coherent superposition where a single one of them can be in two different states at the same time. Coupling such qubits over large distances, several microns for example, while maintaining their coherence, is one of the main challenges in solid state implementations of quantum computation. Having such long distance coupling, says Yacoby, will allow the integration of many qubits on a single chip.
“Most discoveries in science, including those that lead to societal impact, were never planned,” says Yacoby. “I’m looking forward to the hidden surprises and discoveries that will happen here at IQC.”
Yacoby earned his PhD from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel in 1994 and is currently a professor of condensed matter physics at Harvard University. He will spend three months each year as a visiting professor in Waterloo participating in research at IQC.
MacLean and Yacoby sit on the Scientific Advisory Committee for Quantum Valley Investments.
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Tobi Day-Hamilton 
Institute for Quantum Computing

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