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Honors for Original Work in Quantum Computing

Research Scientist at HRL Labs
January 23, 2015

Matthew Reed (PhD 2013, Physics) has won the Council of Graduate Schools/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Physical Sciences. The prize was presented at an awards ceremony in Washington, DC, in December. The award recognizes original work that makes an unusually significant contribution to its field. 

In addition, Reed was named the winner of the American Physical Society’s 2015 Richard L. Greene Dissertation Award in Experimental Condensed Matter or Materials Physics. The citation credits him with, “original contributions to research on Superconducting Qubits and for a remarkably detailed and complete description of the state-of-the-art in solid state quantum computing.”

His dissertation, “Entanglement and Quantum Error Correction with Superconducting Qubits,” reports on work toward building a quantum computer conducted in the laboratory of Robert Schoelkopf, the Sterling Professor of Applied Physics and Physics. Quantum computers are theoretical devices that would take advantage of exotic quantum phenomena like superposition (a particle can be in more than one state at the same time) and entanglement (the behavior of two particles can be intrinsically linked with one another). Such a computer would be exceptionally powerful, potentially solving in days problems that would take a conventional supercomputer the age of the universe to decipher. Researchers in the Schoelkopf lab are pursuing one possible method of building a quantum computer, using superconducting qubits, which are fabricated in a manner similar to conventional computer chips but are controlled with microwave light and must be cooled to near absolute zero.           

The advantages of quantum technology do not come without a cost, however, as it is intrinsically more susceptible to errors than its classical counterpart,” Reed says. While conventional “bits” — the fundamental units of information used in all modern computing technology — are binary and therefore inherently robust to small errors, their quantum analog “qubits” are continuous-valued and have no such protection. Even tiny deviations will tend to build up and, given enough time, scramble the result of a quantum algorithm of any interesting size. Fortunately, it is possible to detect and correct these errors without sacrificing the quantum speed-up by redundantly encoding information in several entangled qubits, Reed explains.  

Among the results reported in Reed’s thesis is the first demonstration of such quantum error correction in a solid-state device. This required encoding a single quantum state into a three-qubit register and then non-destructively detecting (and reversing) an error using an interaction known as a “Toffoli gate” that Reed and colleagues engineered. Other results reported in the dissertation include the discovery of a novel mechanism to detect the state of a qubit as well as the development of a design element used to inhibit information loss, known as a “Purcell filter.”

Born and raised in Seattle, Matt earned his undergraduate degree from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. He became interested in studying quantum information after a mentor persuaded him to choose physics instead of engineering as his college major, resulting in his exposure to what he calls “the wonder and beauty of quantum mechanics.” He hopes that a career in quantum information will “make a positive impact on the world.”

While at Yale, Matt was an active participant in graduate life, serving as a member of the Graduate Student Assembly and as a Graduate Affiliate at Jonathan Edwards College. He enjoyed the “robust and diverse intellectual environment of the University as well as the high standard of graduate living that New Haven had to offer.”

He is currently a research scientist at HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California, where he conducts fundamental research on quantum information processing with silicon quantum dots.