Joseph Emerson

Faculty, Associate Professor


Joseph Emerson

Joseph Emerson is a faculty member at the Institute of Quantum Computing and the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Waterloo, a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Quantum Information Science program, and CEO and founder of the start-up Quantum Benchmark. He is a world-leading authority on the practical implementation of quantum computing. Through his pioneering work on scalable error diagnostic methods for quantum computers he developed a protocol known as randomized benchmarking, which is the current global standard for characterizing the performance of quantum gates across all quantum computing platforms. He also developed a theoretical framework for assessing quantum randomization, known as unitary t-designs, which has been applied in a wide-range of settings, including quantum algorithms, quantum thermodynamics, the complexity of scrambling and the black hole information paradox.

Prof. Emerson obtained his BSc in physics at McGill University, followed by a Master's degree in experimental nuclear physics and PhD degree in theoretical physics studying quantum chaos and quantum foundations, both from Simon Fraser University. After his PhD, Joseph held postdoctoral positions at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, where he studied the interface of randomness and decoherence in quantum computing and developed fundamental techniques for understanding and overcoming the challenges confronting the practical implementation of quantum algorithms.

Current projects and research expertise

  • Theory and methods for characterizing quantum systems, in particular methods for the diagnosis and suppression of errors and validation of circuit performance in small-scale and large-scale quantum computers
  • Foundations of quantum theory and the power of quantum information, including, in particular understanding how contextuality and negativity of quasi-probability representations can characterize the resources required for quantum computing

Academic affiliations

  • Faculty Member, Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), University of Waterloo
  • Fellow, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)
  • Faculty Member, Guelph-Waterloo Physics Institute
  • Affiliate Member, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Awards & honours

  • Early Researcher Award from Ontario Government (2008-2013)
  • Scholar, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (2008-2013)
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Postdoctoral Fellowship (2003-2005)
  • SFU Faculty of Science Excellence in Teaching Award (1999)
  • Simon Fraser University Graduate Fellowship x 4 (1996-2000)

Major positions

Title Location When
Associate Professor Institute for Quantum Computing and Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Waterloo 2010-present
Assistant Professor Institute for Quantum Computing and Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Waterloo 2005-2010
Visiting Professor Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2008
Postdoctoral Fellow Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics 2003-2005
Postdoctoral Research Associate Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 2001-2003
PhD Student and Research Assistant Department of Physics, Simon Fraser University 1995-2001
Masters student and Research Assistant TRIUMF Laboratory, Vancouver, BC and DESY Research Laboratory, Hamburg, Germany 1993-1995