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Professor Earns Prestigious National Science Foundation Award for Nanoscale Research

February 26, 2010

Funding to Support More Student Researchers in Effort to Build
Quantum Computer

MERCED, CA— University of California,
Merced, physics Professor
has been awarded the National Science Foundation’s esteemed
Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, the fourth
professor here in four years to earn the honor.

The $450,000 award supports Tian’s theoretical
researchinto how
quantum optics can be applied to understand the behavior of
nanoscale devices with the ultimate goal of establishing a
foundation to build a quantum computer. The research award is a
testament to the world-class faculty members who have joined UC
Merced to conduct research in a 21
stcentury environment.

“The four CAREER awards given to UC Merced’s junior faculty in
the last four years reflect the university’s growing reputation as
a leading research institution and the talented faculty members it
attracts,” said Samuel J. Traina, vice chancellor for research.
“The awards assist our professors in their cutting-edge research,
which serves the San Joaquin Valley, state and nation.”

The National Science Foundation notes on its Web site that the
CAREER award is given to junior faculty who “exemplify the role of
teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education
and the integration of education and research within the context of
the mission of their organizations.”

Tian joined UC Merced in July 2008 and has established a
theoretical research lab with one postdoctoral student, two Ph.D.
students and one master’s degree student. She plans to bring two
more students to her lab with the grant.

“It also gives me more freedom to explore other exciting
territories,” Tian noted.

Quantum optics, which can probe atomic systems, has been well
developed but is just beginning to be applied to solid-state,
nanosize devices. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. The
nanosize devices are promising building blocks for a quantum
computer, which — if built — could solve some problems
much faster than existing supercomputers, remaking the information
technology landscape and having significant impacts on national security.

For example, it takes years for a conventional computer to crack
certain encrypted codes. A quantum computer could do it in months.

“Such research brings new prospects for nanoscale technology and
its application,” Tian explained. “It has been quickly developing.”

Tian’s work explores how nanometer-sized mechanical resonators
can serve as ways to carry quantum information. For example, the
mechanical vibrations of tiny cantilevers can be connected with
electronic circuits to store and manipulate information; the
superconductors with millions of electrons can be explored as one
giant spinning top to store quantum information.


Scott Jason