Professor Earns Prestigious National Science Foundation Award for Nanoscale Research

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

MERCED, CA— University of California, Merced, physics Professor Lin Tianhas 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.

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