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

April 2, 2008

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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