Young Faculty Award for Physics Professor May Help Close Quantum Computing Gaps

MERCED - In the last several years, scientists and engineers in different institutions have made progress on diverse pieces of research intended to advance the technology of quantum computing - providing approaches to solving certain complex problems more efficiently than possible using present computing architectures. Now, according to Professor Jay Sharping of the School of Natural Sciences at the University of California, Merced, it's time to start putting those pieces together.

Sharping has received a Young Faculty Award from the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) - the agency that originated the technology that evolved into the Internet. The $150,000 grant will fund his work bringing together different pieces of existing research into usable technology for quantum computing.

Specifically, Sharping will be developing strategies for translating quantum information encoded in infrared light, where communication is most efficient, into visible light where storage and processing are most efficient.

"We're so pleased that Jay's ideas and accomplishments are being recognized at the national level," said Dean Maria Pallavicini of the School of Natural Sciences. "DARPA's choice indicates that this research has the potential to help maintain the United States' technological leadership in computing and information security in future years. It's a great example of how university-level physics research can make a real difference on a large scale."

Sharping explained that one of the nearest-term applications for quantum communications is for secure communications of encrypted messages. Most secure messages are now encrypted using factoring of large numbers. Quantum computing could speed up the solution of those factoring problems.

"It's still a hard problem, but it would be solvable in a more reasonable time," Sharping said. "It's important to make sure that the government or financial institutions would not be surprised by someone else gaining the ability to solve it."

Sharping's project will last 18 months. He plans to enlist a postdoctoral researcher and involve a graduate student in the research. The research line may continue; DARPA encourages further growth following successful investigations.

Sharping joined the faculty at UC Merced in the summer of 2005 as a founding faculty member. He completed his doctorate at Northwestern University in 2003.

DARPA's Young Faculty Award program, now in its second year, is designed to seek out ideas from non-tenured faculty in order to identify the next generation of researchers working in microsystems technology. The funded researchers will focus on concepts that are innovative, speculative, and high-risk. DARPA expects that the innovations researched under the Young Faculty Award program will assist in identifying new areas of research that are sufficiently important and challenging to warrant additional DARPA programs. DARPA's Microsystems Technology Office sponsors the Young Faculty Award program.

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