Shayan Majidy wins prestigious Vanier Scholarship

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Shayan Majidy, a PhD candidate in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has earned the prestigious Vanier Scholarship award for his research achievements and his work in quantum computing education.

Maijdy, currently studying under Professor Raymond Laflamme, and also a member of the Institute of Quantum Computing (IQC), has been interested in two questions during his PhD: what are the limitations to our current tests of quantum behaviour; and can we gain a thermodynamic advantage from quantum mechanics?

Shayan Majidy

"In both research areas, our goal was to bridge theoretical results with experimental tests.”

To investigate the limits of one of the most well-studied tests of quantum behaviour, the Leggett-Garg inequalities, Majidy partnered with Jonathan Halliwell at Imperial College in London. They identified experimental systems that demonstrate quantum effects that go undetected by these inequalities. Thus highlighting the possibility of false-negative tests of quantum behaviour.

In his second project, Majidy was interested in recent theoretical results claiming the existence of thermodynamic advantages from quantum mechanics. Majidy, alongside Nicole Yunger Halpern at the University of Maryland, helped bridge the gap between these results and their experimental tests by developing an algorithm that will allow scientists to test these claims with different physical systems such as superconducting qudits, ultracold atoms, and trapped ions.

Majidy has also been building bridges between students entering graduate school and the field of quantum computing. Along with Professors Raymond Laflamme and Chris Wilson from the Faculty of Engineering, Majidy has been writing a textbook on the physics of the different types of quantum computers that are being developed at IQC.

“A text on experimental quantum computing is something I wished was available when I first came to IQC,” says Majidy. “Our hope is that this text will help other students who are newly entering the field of quantum computing.”

In addition to his PhD and textbook, Majidy also founded a non-profit organization, Unentangled, which has allowed him to introduce students to innovative research happening at the University of Waterloo and help them explore what science is. He hopes to bring these ideas to a wider cross-section of society — particularly to youth who may not have equal opportunities to experience higher-level science.

The Vanier Scholarships were developed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to attract and retain world-class doctoral students worldwide and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. Vanier scholars are chosen based on their academic excellence, research potential, and leadership qualities. Each successful candidate will receive $50,000 annually for three years, with an additional $5,000 to $10,000 annually from the University of Waterloo’s President’s Graduate Scholarship.

Congratulations Shayan!