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Alicia  Kollár wearing glasses and a blue and white plaid shirt in front of red and clear windows.
March 30, 2022 | People News

JQI Fellow Kollár Bridges Abstract Math and Realities of the Lab

The research of JQI Fellow Alicia Kollár, who is also a Chesapeake Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, embodies the give and take between physics and mathematics. In her lab, she brings abstract theories to life and in turn collaborates on new theorems. She has forged a research program of manipulating light on a chip, coaxing the light into behaving as though it lives on the surface of a sphere, or a mathematical abstraction known as a hyperbolic surface. She also collaborates with mathematicians, furthering both the understanding of what these chips can do and their underlying mathematics. A direct collaboration with pure mathematicians is uncommon for a physicist, particularly an experimentalist. But Kollár is no stranger to mathematics.
Michael Winer in a plaid shirt and jeans sits in a wooden lawn chair.
March 23, 2022 | People News

Growing into a Physicist at UMD

JQI graduate student Michael Winer has had a relationship with physics—and physics at the University of Maryland in particular—since he was a kid. He first came to UMD as a high school student pursuing his competitive spirit when physics was a fun challenge. Then over time, physics became something more nuanced for him. Now, he has returned to UMD to pursue physics as a career and is also helping introduce the joys of physics to a new generation of bright young minds.
An asymmetric grey shape has a black curved path wandering through the center of it. Two sections of the path have arrows pointing to peaks that have a color gradient from red at the base to green at the top of the peaks.
March 7, 2022 | Research News

New Perspective Blends Quantum and Classical to Understand Quantum Rates of Change

There is nothing permanent except change. This is perhaps never truer than in the fickle and fluctuating world of quantum mechanics. The quantum world is in constant flux. The properties of quantum particles flit between discrete, quantized states without any possibility of ever being found in an intermediate state. How quantum states change defies normal intuition and remains the topic of active debate—for both scientists and philosophers. The rules governing things like billiards balls and the temperature of a gas look very different from the quantum rules governing things like electron collisions and the energy absorbed or released by a single atom. And there is no known sharp, defining line between these two radically different domains of physical laws. Quantum changes are foundational to our universe and understanding them is becoming increasingly important for practical applications of quantum technologies. In a paper published Feb. 28, 2022 in the journal Physical Review X, JQI Fellow Alexey Gorshkov, JQI postdoctoral researcher Luis Pedro García-Pintos and their colleagues provide a new perspective for investigating quantum changes. They developed a mathematical description that sorts quantum behaviors in a system into two distinct parts. One piece of their description looks like the behavior of a quantum system that isn’t interacting with anything, and the second piece looks like the familiar behavior of a classical system. Using this perspective, the researchers identified limits on how quickly quantum systems can evolve based on their general features, and they better describe how those changes relate to changes in non-quantum situations.
Elizabeth Bennewitz in a black top stands in front of red and clear windows.
February 18, 2022 | People News

JQI Graduate Student Is Finalist for Hertz Fellowship

Elizabeth Bennewitz, a first-year physics graduate student at JQI and QuICS, has been named a finalist for a 2022 Hertz Fellowship. Out of more than 650 applicants, Bennewitz is one of 45 finalists with a chance of receiving up to $250,000 in support from the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation. The fellowships provide up to five years of funding for recipients pursuing a Ph.D.
Alicia  Kollár wearing glasses and a blue and white plaid shirt in front of red and clear windows.
February 15, 2022 | People News

JQI Fellow Kollár Awarded Sloan Research Fellowship

JQI Fellow Alicia Kollár has been awarded a prestigious 2022 Sloan Research Fellowship. This award is given to early career researchers by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to recognize distinguished performance and the potential to make substantial contributions to their field. Each fellowship provides $75,000 to support the fellow’s research over two years.
A photo of Nicole Yunger Halpern at a whiteboard
February 2, 2022 | People News

Nicole Yunger Halpern Ponders Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics, and Everything Else

There is a well-known saying, of disputed origin, that dissuades students and even working physicists from thinking too deeply about the meaning behind quantum physics. “Shut up and calculate,” it goes. Nicole Yunger Halpern, an affiliate of JQI and the newest Fellow of the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science (QuICS), was never one to abide by this mantra. Instead, Yunger Halpern, who is also a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, brings a vast intellectual curiosity to physics, from tackling abstract theory to collaborating with experimentalists, all the while drawing distinct connections between diverse disciplines of physics. She also brings her research to life through writing, imbuing it with historical, philosophical, and even artistic context.
January 25, 2022 | Research News

Tug-of-War Unlocks Menagerie of Quantum Phases of Matter

Often when physicists study phases of matter they examine how a solid slab of metal or a cloud of gas changes as it gets hotter or colder. Sometimes the changes are routine—we’ve all boiled water to cook pasta and frozen it to chill our drinks. Other times the transformations are astonishing, like when certain metals get cold enough to become superconductors or a gas heats up and breaks apart into a glowing plasma soup. However, changing the temperature is only one way to transmute matter into different phases. Scientists also blast samples with strong electric or magnetic fields or place them in special chambers and dial up the pressure. In these experiments, researchers are hunting for a stark transition in a material’s behavior or a change in the way its atoms are organized. In a new paper published recently in the journal Physical Review Letters, Barkeshli and two colleagues continued this tradition of exploring how materials respond to their environment. But instead of looking for changes in conductivity or molecular structure, they focused on changes in a uniquely quantum property: entanglement, or the degree to which quantum particles give up their individuality and become correlated with each other.
Technical graphic composed of two white dots on a blue-green background. The left dot shows a gradient from black to light yellow. A dotted line forms a semicircle connecting the two black dots on the edge of the white dot. The right white dot is filled with a hexagonal grid. The hexagons git smaller the further they are from the center of the dot. Each vertex of the hexagons is a colored dot with the ones near a larger grey dot being purple and the rest fading to yellow the further away they are.
January 18, 2022 | Research News

Enhancing Simulations of Curved Space with Qubits

One of the mind-bending ideas that physicists and mathematicians have come up with is that space itself—not just objects in space—can be curved. When space curves (as happens dramatically near a black hole), sizes and directions defy normal intuition. Understanding curved spaces is important to expanding our knowledge of the universe, but it is fiendishly difficult to study curved spaces in a lab setting (even using simulations). A previous collaboration between researchers at JQI explored using labyrinthine circuits made of superconducting resonators to simulate the physics of certain curved spaces. In particular, the team looked at hyperbolic lattices that represent spaces—called negatively curved spaces—that have more space than can fit in our everyday “flat” space. Our three-dimensional world doesn’t even have enough space for a two-dimensional negatively curved space. Now, in a paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters on Jan. 3, 2022, the same collaboration between the groups of JQI Fellows Alicia Kollár and Alexey Gorshkov, who is also Fellow of the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, expands the potential applications of the technique to include simulating more intricate physics. They’ve laid a theoretical framework for adding qubits—the basic building blocks of quantum computers—to serve as matter in a curved space made of a circuit full of flowing microwaves. Specifically, they considered the addition of qubits that change between two quantum states when they absorb or release a microwave photon—an individual quantum particle of the microwaves that course through the circuit. 
Jay Sau sets in an office in front of a picture frame and framed artistic representation of the Latin alphabet.
January 14, 2022 | People News

Sau Named UMD Co-Director of JQI

JQI Fellow Jay Sau has been appointed the newest UMD Co-Director of JQI. He assumed the role on January 1, 2022.
An artist's depiction of an array of atomic ions controlled by lasers
December 20, 2021 | Research News

In a Smooth Move, Ions Ditch Disorder and Keep Their Memories

Scientists have found a new way to create disturbances that do not fade away. Instead of relying on disorder to freeze things in place, they tipped a quantum container to one side—a trick that is easier to conjure in the lab. A collaboration between the experimental group of College Park Professor Christopher Monroe and the theoretical group of JQI Fellow Alexey Gorshkov, who is also a Fellow of the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, has used trapped ions to implement this new technique, confirming that it prevents their quantum particles from reaching equilibrium. The team also measured the slowed spread of information with the new tipping technique for the first time. They published their results recently in the journal Nature.

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