Professor Jelena Vuckovic is the director of a new initiative - Q-FARM. Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have launched the Quantum Fundamentals, ARchitecture and Machines (Q-FARM) initiative to leverage and expand the university's strengths in quantum science and engineering and to train the field's next generation of scientists.
"Our mission is not only to do research, it's also to educate students, bring the community together, fill the gaps that we have in this space and connect to the world outside, both to industry and to other academic institutions," said Q-FARM director Jelena Vuckovic.
Q-FARM emerged from Stanford's long-range planning process as part of a team focused on understanding the natural world. The idea for it originated from faculty across departments who recognized that the university is uniquely positioned to become a leader in the field of quantum research, said Q-FARM deputy director Patrick Hayden, a professor of physics in the School of Humanities and Sciences.
"I think it is very possible for Stanford to establish itself as the leading center in quantum science and engineering," Hayden said. "We have advantages that other schools do not, including top-ranked science and engineering departments that are a short distance away from technology companies and SLAC, a renowned laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy."
On the theoretical front, quantum mechanics merged with computer science, mathematics and other branches of physics to give rise to a new field known as quantum information science (QIS). QIS aims to harness the spookier properties of quantum mechanics – superposition, wave-particle duality, entanglement – to manipulate information. Surprisingly, insights and techniques from QIS are proving useful not only for the design of quantum computers, algorithms and sensors but also for providing powerful new tools for investigating old questions in physics. [...]
As QIS has matured, so too has the ability of engineers to fabricate quantum-mechanical systems. Phenomena such as quantum teleportation that were once purely theoretical can now be created and studied in the lab. "This is what's supposed to happen in science, that there is this feedback loop between theory and experiment, but it's not always true," Hayden said. "This is an area where it's really happening and that's very exciting."
With many world-leading research groups already established at Stanford, Q-FARM's role will be to build bridges between them and create a community that can tackle the major emerging challenges in the area. Among Q-FARM's initial priorities are the creation of postdoctoral and graduate fellowships and organizing research seminars where faculty, students and visiting scholars can present their research.
Q-FARM will also focus on developing an educational program for undergraduate and graduate students to bolster the current curriculum. "We already have an excellent collection of classes, but we want to coordinate the program between physics and engineering so that we can better educate our students," Vuckovic said.
Demonstrating a united front on the research end will also help with faculty and student recruitment in an increasingly competitive field and attract some of the significant government funding that will target quantum research.
In 2018, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the National Quantum Initiative, which authorizes $1.275 billion to be spent over the next five years to fund American quantum information science research and to create multiple centers dedicated to quantum research and education.
"Bringing one of those centers to Stanford and SLAC will help us maintain the strengths we already possess and establish ourselves more broadly in this field," Vuckovic said.
"If we can sustain this pace, Stanford will be the place where people who work in this field will want to be," she added. "We have leading physics and leading engineering. We are in Silicon Valley. This is what makes us the right place to carry this forward."
Excerpted from Stanford News, "Q-FARM initiative to bolster quantum research at Stanford-SLAC", February 8, 2019.
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