Thad Walker honored with Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professorship

Extraordinary members of the University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty, including physics professor and WQI member Thad Walker, have been honored during the last year with awards supported by the estate of professor, U.S. senator and UW Regent William F. Vilas (1840-1908).

Walker was one of seventeen professors were named to Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professorships, an award recognizing distinguished scholarship as well as standout efforts in teaching and service. The professorship provides five years of flexible funding — two-thirds of which is provided by the Office of the Provost through the generosity of the Vilas trustees and one-third provided by the school or college whose dean nominated the winner.

In addition, nine professors received Vilas Faculty Mid-Career Investigator Awards and six professors received Vilas Faculty Early Career Investigator Awards.

Shimon Kolkowitz awarded Sloan Fellowship

headshot of Shimon Kolkowitz
Shimon Kolkowitz

Four University of Wisconsin–Madison professors, including WQI’s Shimon Kolkowitz, have been named to Sloan Research Fellowships — competitive, prestigious awards given to promising researchers in the early stages of their careers.

“Today’s Sloan Research Fellows represent the scientific leaders of tomorrow,” says Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which has awarded the fellowships since 1955. “As formidable young scholars, they are already shaping the research agenda within their respective fields—and their trailblazing won’t end here.”

Kolkowitz, an assistant professor of physics, builds some of the most precise clocks in the world by trapping ultracold atoms of strontium — clocks so accurate they could be used to test fundamental theories of physics and search for dark matter.

UW–Madison’s other 2022 Sloan Fellows are Tatyana Shcherbina (math), Zachary K. Wickens (chemistry) and Andrew Zimmer (math).

The UW–Madison professors are among 118 researchers from the United States and Canada honored by the New York-based philanthropic foundation. The four new fellows join 110 UW–Madison researchers honored in the past.

Each fellow receives $75,000 in research funding from the foundation, which awards Sloan Research Fellowships in eight scientific and technical fields: chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences and physics.

Deniz Yavuz, Randall Goldsmith awarded funding in first round of UW’s Research Forward initiative

profile photo of Deniz Yavuz
Deniz Yavuz
profile shot of Randall Goldsmith
Randall Goldsmith

In its inaugural round of funding, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education’s (OVCRGE) Research Forward initiative selected 11 projects, including projects from WQI’s Deniz Yavuz and Randall Goldsmith.

Yavuz is Principal Investigator and Goldsmith is co-Principal Investigator (along with Dan Van der Weide, professor of electrical engineering) on a project titled “Compact and efficient terahertz optical modulators.”

Goldsmith is co-PI on a second funded project, “Therapeutic targeting of post-transcriptional RNA processing in human diseases.”

OVCRGE hosts Research Forward to stimulate and support highly innovative and groundbreaking research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The initiative is supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and will provide funding for 1–2 years, depending on the needs and scope of the project.

Research Forward seeks to support collaborative, multidisciplinary, multi-investigator research projects that are high-risk, high-impact, and transformative. It seeks to fund research projects that have the potential to fundamentally transform a field of study as well as projects that require significant development prior to the submission of applications for external funding. Collaborative research proposals are welcome from within any of the four divisions (Arts & Humanities, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences), as are cross-divisional collaborations.

Deniz Yavuz announced as Vilas Associate

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education has announced 23 faculty winners of the Vilas Associates Competition, including WQI faculty member Deniz Yavuz. The Vilas Associates Competition recognizes new and ongoing research of the highest quality and significance.

The award is funded by the William F. Vilas Estate Trust.

Recipients are chosen competitively by the divisional research committees on the basis of a detailed proposal. Winners receive up to two-ninths of research salary support (including the associated fringe costs) for both summers 2021 and 2022, as well as a $12,500 flexible research fund in each of the two fiscal years. Faculty paid on an annual basis are not eligible for the summer salary support but are eligible for the flexible fund portion of this award.

WQI researchers awarded DOE Quantum Information Science grant

Three UW–Madison physics professors and their colleagues have been awarded a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) High Energy Physics Quantum Information Science award for an interdisciplinary collaboration between theoretical and experimental physicists and experts on quantum algorithms.

The grant, entitled “Detection of dark matter and neutrinos enhanced through quantum information,” will bring a total of $2.3 million directly to UW-Madison. Physics faculty include principal investigator Baha Balantekin as well as Mark Saffman, and Sue Coppersmith. Collaborators on the grant include Kim Palladino at the University of Oxford, Peter Love at Tufts University, and Calvin Johnson at San Diego State University.

With the funding, the researchers plan to use a quantum simulator to calculate the detector response to dark matter particles and neutrinos. The simulator to be used is an array of 121 neutral atom qubits currently being developed by Saffman’s group. Much of the research plan is to understand and mitigate the behavior of the neutral atom array so that high accuracy and precision calculations can be performed. The primary goal of this project is to apply lessons from the quantum information theory in high energy physics, while a secondary goal is to contribute to the development of quantum information theory itself.

Two WQI students named to QISE-NET’s Fall 2020 cohort

Two WQI graduate students, Chuanhong (Vincent) Liu (McDermott Group) and Cecilia Vollbrecht (Goldsmith Group), have had their projects awarded funding through QISE-NET, the Quantum Information Science and Engineering Network. Run through the University of Chicago, QISE-NET is open to any student pursuing an advanced degree in any field of quantum science. Liu, Vollbrecht, and other students in their cohort earn up to three years of support, including funding, mentoring and training at annual workshops. All awardees are paired with a mentoring QISE company or national lab, at which they will complete part of their projects. Liu and Vollbrecht explain their projects below.

Profile photo of Vincent Liu
Chuanhong (Vincent) Liu
Chuanhong (Vincent) Liu | McDermott Group | Mentoring partner: NIST

“The Single Flux Quantum (SFQ) digital logic family has been proposed as a scalable approach for the control of next-generation multiqubit arrays. With NIST’s strong track record in the field of SFQ digital logic and the expertise of McDermott’s lab in the superconducting qubit area, we expect to achieve high fidelity SFQ-based qubit control. The successful completion of this research program will represent a major step forward in the development of a scalable quantum-classical interface, a critical component of a fully error-corrected fault-tolerant quantum computer.”

profile photo of Cecilia Vollbrecht
Cecilia Vollbrecht
Cecilia Vollbrecht | Goldsmith Group | Mentoring Partner: NIST

“The goal of my proposal is to develop a coupled cavity array that will allow us to simulate complex quantum phenomena. With the partnership between NIST and Prof. Goldsmith’s group I can combine the expertise of both groups to create an array where we characterize energy transfer and loss pathways, couplings, and coherence. The knowledge gained from these experiments will help to make a highly controlled cavity quantum electrodynamics platform.”

WQI team named winners in international quantum research competition

A WQI faculty team was one of 18 winners in the Innovare Advancement Center’s “Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator” competition, which awarded a total of $1.35 million last week. The winning teams, including UW­–Madison physics professors Shimon Kolkowitz and Mark Saffman, each earned $75,000 toward their proposed research.

a blue glowing dot in the center of a chamber
A view into the strontium optical lattice clock vacuum chamber in the Kolkowitz lab | photo: Shimon Kolowitz

The competition attracted nearly 250 proposals from teams across the world in the areas of quantum timing, sensing, computing and communications, and 36 teams were invited to present at the live virtual event.

“The format was a bit like ‘Shark Tank’ in that any researcher from around the world was invited to submit a short white paper, and then 36 finalists were selected to make 10-minute pitch to judges,” explains Kolkowitz. “The 18 winners were then selected based on their pitches.”

The WQI team won in the quantum timing category for their pitch, “Reducing optical lattice clock size, weight and power (SWaP) requirements while improving accuracy with precision Rydberg spectroscopy.”

“Optical atomic clocks are the most precise and accurate devices ever built by humankind,” Kolkowitz says. “This project, which is a collaboration between Mark Saffman and myself, will help to make these clocks more portable and robust while maintaining or even further improving their accuracy, which will enable their use in applications such as navigation, mapping, and sensing.”

The competition was part of a three-day Innovare kickoff event held virtually September 1-3. The 36 finalists presented over the first two days, and winners were announced on the last day. Funding for the competition comes from the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

UW–Madison named member of new $25 million Midwest quantum science institute

As joint members of a Midwest quantum science collaboration, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and the University of Chicago have been named partners in a National Science Foundation Quantum Leap Challenge Institute, NSF announced Tuesday.

The five-year, $25 million NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks (HQAN) was one of three in this first round of NSF Quantum Leap funding and helps establish the region as a major hub of quantum science. HQAN’s principal investigator, Brian DeMarco, is a professor of physics at UIUC. UW–Madison professor of physics Mark Saffman and University of Chicago engineering professor Hannes Bernien are co-principal investigators.

“HQAN is very much a regional institute that will allow us to accelerate in directions in which we’ve already been headed and to start new collaborative projects between departments at UW–Madison as well as between us, the University of Illinois, and the University of Chicago.” says Saffman, who is also director of the Wisconsin Quantum Institute. “These flagship institutes are being established as part of the National Quantum Initiative Act that was funded by Congress, and it is a recognition of the strength of quantum information research at UW–Madison that we are among the first.”

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cartoon showing a quantum hardware network
In a hybrid quantum network, hardware for storing and processing quantum information is linked together. This design could be beneficial for applications that rely on distributed quantum computing resources. | Credit: E. Edwards, IQUIST

Two students earn 2020 QISE-NET awards

Two physics graduate students, Xiaoyu Jiang and Abigail Shearrow, have had their projects awarded funding through QISE-NET, the Quantum Information Science and Engineering Network. Run through the University of Chicago, QISE-NET is open to any student pursuing an advanced degree in any field of quantum science. Jiang, Shearrow, and other students in their cohort earn up to three years of support, including funding, mentoring and training at annual workshops. All awardees are paired with a mentoring QISE company or national lab, at which they will complete part of their projects. Jiang and Shearrow explain their projects below.

a male student poses with his arms out behind a computer screen
Xiaoyu Jiang
Xiaoyu Yang, Saffman Group | Mentoring partner: Argonne National Lab

“The research I proposed aims to, with the help of Argonne National Lab’s computational expertise, build a platform that models and simulates the performance of the atomic qubit array (AQuA) experiment in Prof. Saffman’s lab. This could help us to understand the effect of various technical problems, such as laser noise, in the experiment, and guide us in improving the gate fidelities. On the other hand, the platform could also be a useful tool in simulating and designing novel quantum gate protocols and quantum algorithms that can be performed on AQuA.”

a woman in a cleansuit works with qubit components in a yellow-hued research cleanroom
Abigail Shearrow
Abigail Shearrow, McDermott Group | Mentoring Partner: Google

“We are developing a new type of superconducting qubit that provides protection from noise and decoherence at the hardware level. Our near-term goals are to prepare quantum superposition states and to transfer them into the protected regime where we will look for extended energy relaxation and dephasing times. We will next implement protected gates, which we will characterize by doing interleaved randomized benchmarking.”