Waterloo PhD student spends a week with Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany

Jean-Philippe MacLean at the IQC

The annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting brings together some of the brightest minds on the planet. Every year since 1951, a few dozen Nobel Laureates convene in Lindau, Germany to meet with a new generation of scientists. This year, 29 Nobel Laureates met with 400 young scientists from more than 80 countries around the world. Among those in attendance was Waterloo’s own, Jean-Philippe MacLean – a PhD student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC).

The topic of this year’s meeting was physics – a subject that MacLean is very passionate about. As a PhD student, MacLean spends his time advancing quantum optics research under Kevin Resch, Canada Research Chair in Optical Quantum Technologies.

We’re trying to store and manipulate photons, gradually working toward some sort of global quantum communication network. Basically, what we’re trying to do is build the critical components for a quantum computer and its communications interface.

It was MacLean’s research that landed him a spot at the laureate meeting in the first place. In November of 2015, Jean-Philippe received the prestigious Vanier Scholarship, and was nominated to attend the meeting by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The opportunity was too good to pass up, says MacLean.

These are scientists who have made significant contributions to the community and have been recognized for it. Ever since I was a graduate student I’ve been developing an appreciation for what it’s like to research physics, and these are people who have done it and been successful. It’s inspiring, it’s exciting.

After making his way to the small island in Lake Constance, MacLean got to spend an entire week engaging with the laureates in lectures, discussions, and classes. The conference took place every morning, and the afternoons were left open for a more informal discussion, where attendees could have a one-on-one conversation with the laureates.

Overall, the experience was like no other, says MacLean:

The motto of the conference was threefold: Educate, Inspire, Connect – and all three were achieved with brilliance. We saw firsthand the quality of research that it takes to be a Nobel Laureate, were inspired by their depth and breadth of understanding in physics, and built a network of fellow scientists and friends with a passion for physics.

For undergraduate students with a science itch of their own – MacLean has just one piece of advice:

Work hard, find something you love and get really good at it. You never know what great opportunities will present themselves to you in the future.

To get a glimpse at Jean-Philippe’s experience form his own perspective, check out the piece he wrote for the IQC.

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