The J.J. Sakurai Prize is considered one of the most prestigious annual prizes in the field of theoretical high energy physics. Barger, who joined the UW–Madison faculty in 1965, is a world leader in theoretical particle physics where theory meets experiment. He is one of the founders of collider phenomenology as it is practiced today.
“This prize belongs to the hundreds of students, postdocs, faculty and visiting colleagues who entered the portal of UW–Madison to discover the quarks, leptons and bosons of particle physics,” Barger says. “Only at UW–Madison could this research at the interface of theory and experiment so thrive.”
The techniques that Barger helped develop have been crucial in establishing the experimental foundations of the Standard Model of particle physics and in guiding the search for signals of new physics. His contributions have played a key role in many important milestones in particle physics, including the discovery of the W boson in 1985, the top quark in 1995, and the Higgs boson discovery in 2012.
UW–Madison physics professor Lisa Everett and University of Hawaii professor Xerxes Tata, both phenomenologists, co-nominated Barger for the prize.
“We are thrilled that Vernon Barger has been awarded the 2021 J.J. Sakurai Prize, for which we nominated him for his seminal accomplishments and leadership record in collider physics phenomenology over five decades in the field,” Everett says. “The techniques he has pioneered have and continue to be of pivotal importance for elucidating physics signals at particle colliders, and these contributions are only part of a very long and distinguished research career in theoretical particle physics. He is highly deserving of this honor.”
UW–Madison chemistry professor Martin Zanni also won an APS award, the Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy & Dynamics.
Robert McDermott elected Fellow of the American Physical Society
Congratulations to Prof. Robert McDermott, who was elected a 2020 Fellow of the American Physical Society! He was elected for seminal contributions to quantum computing with superconducting qubits, including elucidating the origins of decoherence mechanisms, and development of new qubit control and readout methods. He was nominated by the Division of Quantum Information.
APS Fellowship is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one’s professional peers for outstanding contributions to physics. Each year, no more than one half of one percent of the Society’s membership is recognized by this honor.
Massive halo finally explains stream of gas swirling around the Milky Way
The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. They are surrounded by a high-velocity gaseous structure called the Magellanic Stream, which consists of gas stripped from both clouds. So far, simulations have been unable to reconcile observations with a complete picture of how the stream was formed. In this Nature week’s issue, numerical simulations carried out at by Scott Lucchini, graduate student at the Physics Department working with Elena D’Onghia, present a model that potentially resolves this conundrum. By embedding the Large Magellanic Cloud in a corona of ionized gas, the researchers were able to simulate the Magellanic Stream accurately and explain its structure. Ellen Zweibel and Chad Bustard are also co-authors of the article.
Q-NEXT collaboration awarded National Quantum Initiative funding
The University of Wisconsin–Madison solidified its standing as a leader in the field of quantum information science when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the White House announced the Q-NEXT collaboration as a funded Quantum Information Science Research Center through the National Quantum Initiative Act. The five-year, $115 million collaboration was one of five Centers announced today.
Q-NEXT, a next-generation quantum science and engineering collaboration led by the DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, brings together nearly 100 world-class researchers from three national laboratories, 10 universities including UW–Madison, and 10 leading U.S. technology companies to develop the science and technology to control and distribute quantum information.
“The main goals for Q-NEXT are first to deliver quantum interconnects — to find ways to quantum mechanically connect distant objects,” says Mark Eriksson, the John Bardeen Professor of Physics at UW–Madison and a Q-NEXT thrust lead. “And next, to establish a national resource to both develop and provide pristine materials for quantum science and technology.”
Q-NEXT will focus on three core quantum technologies:
Communication for the transmission of quantum information across long distances using quantum repeaters, enabling the establishment of “unhackable” networks for information transfer
Sensors that achieve unprecedented sensitivities with transformational applications in physics, materials, and life sciences
Processing and utilizing “test beds” both for quantum simulators and future full-stack universal quantum computers with applications in quantum simulations, cryptanalysis, and logistics optimization.
Eriksson is leading the Materials and Integration thrust, one of six Q-NEXT focus areas that features researchers from across the collaboration. This thrust aims to: develop high-coherence materials, including for silicon and superconducting qubits, which is an essential component of preserving entanglement; develop a silicon-based optical quantum memory, which is important in developing a quantum repeater; and improve color-center quantum bits, which are used in both communication and sensing.
“One of the key goals in Materials and Integration is to not just improve the materials but also to improve how you integrate those materials together so that in the end, quantum devices maintain coherence and preserve entanglement,” Eriksson says. “The integration part of the name is really important. You may have a material that on its own is really good at preserving coherence, yet you only make something useful when you integrate materials together.”
“I’m excited about Q-NEXT because of the connections and collaborations it provides to national labs, other universities, and industry partners,” Eriksson says. “When you’re talking about research, it’s those connections that often lead to the breakthroughs.
The potential impacts of Q-NEXT research include the creation of a first-ever National Quantum Devices Database that will promote the development and fabrication of next generation quantum devices as well as the development of the components and systems that enable quantum communications across distances ranging from microns to kilometers.
“This funding helps ensure that the Q-NEXT collaboration will lead the way in future developments in quantum science and engineering,” says Steve Ackerman, UW–Madison vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “Q-NEXT is the epitome of the Wisconsin Idea as we work together to transfer new quantum technologies to the marketplace and support U.S. economic competitiveness in this growing field.”
New study expands types of physics, engineering problems that can be solved by quantum computers
A well-known quantum algorithm that is useful in studying and solving problems in quantum physics can be applied to problems in classical physics, according to a new study in the journal Physical Review A from University of Wisconsin–Madison assistant professor of physics Jeff Parker.
Quantum algorithms – a set of calculations that are run on a quantum computer as opposed to a classical computer – used for solving problems in physics have mainly focused on questions in quantum physics. The new applications include a range of problems common to physics and engineering, and expands on the types of questions that can be asked in those fields.
“The reason we like quantum computers is that we think there are quantum algorithms that can solve certain kinds of problems very efficiently in ways that classical computers cannot,” Parker says. “This paper presents a new idea for a type of problem that has not been addressed directly in the literature before, but it can be solved efficiently using these same quantum computer types of algorithms.”
The type of problem Parker was investigating is known as generalized eigenvalue problems, which broadly describe trying to find the fundamental frequencies or modes of a system. Solving them is crucial to understanding common physics and engineering questions, such as the stability of a bridge’s design or, more in line with Parker’s research interests, the stability and efficiency of nuclear fusion reactors.
As the system being studied becomes more and more complex — more components moving throughout three-dimensional space — so does the numerical matrix that describes the problem. A simple eigenvalue problem can be solved with a pencil and paper, but researchers have developed computer algorithms to tackle increasingly complex ones. With the supercomputers available today, more and more difficult physics problems are finding solutions.
“If you want to solve a three-dimensional problem, it can be very complex, with a very complicated geometry,” Parker says. “You can do a lot on today’s supercomputers, but there tends to be a limit. Quantum algorithms may be able to break that limit.”
The specific quantum algorithm that Parker studied in this paper, known as quantum phase estimation, had been previously applied to so-called standard eigenvalue problems. However, no one had shown that they could be applied to the generalized eigenvalue problems that are also common in physics. Generalized eigenvalue problems introduce a second matrix that ups the mathematical complexity.
Parker took the quantum algorithm and extended it to generalized eigenvalue problems. He then looked to see what types of matrices could be used in this problem. If the matrix is sparse — meaning, if most of the numerical components that make it up are zero — it means this problem could be solved efficiently on a quantum computer.
“What I showed is that there are certain types of generalized eigenvalue problems that do lead to a sparse matrix and therefore could be efficiently solved on a quantum computer,” Parker says. “This type includes the very natural problems that often occur in physics and engineering, so this study provides motivation for applying these quantum algorithms more to generalized eigenvalue problems, because it hasn’t been a big focus so far.”
Parker emphasizes that quantum computers are in their infancy, and these classical physics problems are still best approached through classical computer algorithms.
“This study provides a step in showing that the application of a quantum algorithm to classical physics problems can be useful in the future, and the main advance here is it shows very clearly another type of problem to which quantum algorithms can be applied,” Parker says.
The study was completed in collaboration with Ilon Joseph at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Funding support was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC52-07NA27344 and U.S. DOE Office of Fusion Energy Sciences “Quantum Leap for Fusion Energy Sciences” (FWP SCW1680).
NSF Physics Frontier Center for neutron star modeling to include UW–Madison
A group of universities, including the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has been named the newest Physics Frontier Center, the National Science Foundation announced Aug. 17. The center expands the reach and depth of existing capabilities in modeling some of the most violent events known in the universe: the mergers of neutron stars and their explosive aftermath.
The Network for Neutrinos, Nuclear Astrophysics, and Symmetries (N3AS) is already an established hub of eight institutions, including UW–Madison, that uses the most extreme environments found in astrophysics — the Big Bang, supernovae, and neutron star and black hole mergers — as laboratories for testing fundamental physics under conditions beyond the reach of Earth-based labs. The upgrade to a Physics Frontier Center adds five institutions, provides $10.9 million in funding for postdoctoral fellowships and allows members to cover an expanded scope of research.
“For 20 years, we’ve expected that the growing precision of astrophysical and cosmological measurements would make this ﬁeld an increasingly important part of fundamental physics. Indeed, four monumental discoveries — neutrino masses, dark matter, the accelerating universe, and gravitational waves — have conﬁrmed this prediction,” says A. Baha Balantekin, a professor of physics at UW–Madison and one of the principal investigators for N3AS.
Have you heard the joke about the lawyer who became a physics professor? Jeff Parker has, but rather than be the punchline, he was always in on the joke. After earning his Ph.D. in plasma physics from Princeton in 2014, Parker enrolled at Stanford Law School to pursue a career in energy and climate policy. “I lasted one year in law school, decided I really didn’t like it and just loved physics, and I wanted to get back to physics research,” Parker says.
After that one year, Parker accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and two years later became a staff scientist there. On July 1, 2020, Parker joined the UW–Madison Physics Department as its newest assistant professor. Here, he will focus his research interests in theoretical plasma astrophysics. To welcome Professor Parker, we sat down for a (virtual) Q+A with him.
What are the main topics or projects that you will focus your research on?
My immediate research program has two main directions.
One area of research is going to be in plasma astrophysics and astrophysical fluid dynamics. This concerns plasmas in space or in the universe, like in the sun, or the origin of magnetic fields in the cosmos and how they shape what we see in the universe. I will be investigating angular momentum transport by magnetic fields, which can occur in stars, accretion disks around black holes, and planetary interiors.
Another area is topological phases of matter in plasma physics, related to the 2016 Nobel prize on topological insulators, which came out of condensed matter physics. I am applying these ideas for the first time to plasma physics and plasma waves. This is a brand-new field in plasmas and I’m just getting into it, but I think it’s really, really interesting.
You’re in Madison now, and you’re getting started with your research. What is the first thing you’re doing?
One particular project I’m very interested in is the astrophysical fluid dynamics involving angular momentum transport due to magnetic fields. I have developed theory on something that I call magnetic eddy viscosity, which could be important where there are magnetic fields and rotation. This can occur in astrophysical objects like stars or accretion discs or planets. And so where I studied this was in a pretty idealized system, and I’d really like to extend this into more realistic models that are closer to reality that would help us say something more about real object like stars or accretion discs, or potentially could be measured in the laboratory. So, there are these experiments, Prof. Forest has one, and there are other experiments throughout the country or the world that have rotating plasmas or liquid metals. This effect could potentially be seen in those experiments as well, and that is something I’d love to do right away.
Your work is primarily theory and computation. Do you see your work as predicting ideas that would be tested with collaborators in the department?
That is one thing I do hope to do. But I do also enjoy developing theory to better understand plasmas, even if those theories cannot be tested immediately in an experiment. I’m a theoretical physicist at heart, but there are so many great plasma physics experiments at Madison, which enable a close collaboration of theory and experiment. Progress is truly made when you can measure, observe, analyze, and use theory to understand what you see.
What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?
I want students to take away how plasma physics is everywhere, how most of the universe is plasma, and so if we want to understand the universe, we need to understand plasma physics.
What is your favorite element and/or elementary particle?
For elementary particle, I’ll say the neutrino because it’s so mysterious, and mysterious is good for physics. For favorite element, hydrogen and its isotopes because they’re what’s important for fusion.
What hobbies/other interests do you have?
I like to hike, run, and travel.
Dark Energy Survey census of the smallest galaxies hones the search for dark matter
In particular, the new results constrain the minimum mass of the dark matter particles, as well as the strength of interactions between dark matter and normal matter.
According to these new results, a dark matter particle must be heavier than a zeptoelectronvolt, which is 10-21 electronvolts. That’s one trillionth of a trillionth of the mass of an electron. This study also shows that dark matter’s interactions with normal matter must be roughly 1,000 times weaker than the weak nuclear force. Of the known forces, only gravity is weaker.
These novel measurements used data from the Dark Energy Survey, a cosmological survey designed to study dark energy, the mysterious force driving the accelerated expansion of the universe. In contrast, dark matter is gravitationally attractive, resisting the expansion of the universe and gravitationally binding astronomical systems such as galaxies. The smallest “dwarf” galaxies can have hundreds to thousands of times more dark matter than normal matter. Over the past five years, the Dark Energy Survey has combined with other surveys to more than double the known population of these tiny galaxies. The current total is now over 50.
“The large number of dwarf galaxies that we found orbiting the Milky Way is consistent with expectations from the simplest picture of dark matter — that is, comprising slow-moving particles that interact only through gravity,” Bechtol explained. “In this new paper, we rule out several alternative possibilities for the nature of dark matter.”
Dark matter makes up 85% of the matter in the universe, but we have yet to detect it directly in the laboratory. The gravitational effects of dark matter are clearly visible in the motions of stars in galaxies, the clumpy distribution of galaxies in the universe, and even in the amount of lightweight elements. The robust astronomical evidence for the existence of dark matter has motivated many experimental searches here on Earth, using instruments ranging from cryogenic detectors buried deep underground to energetic particle colliders.
“The faintest galaxies are among the most valuable tools we have to learn about dark matter because they are sensitive to several of its fundamental properties all at once,” said Ethan Nadler, the study’s lead author and graduate student at Stanford University and SLAC.
In these multi-year, multi-telescope sky surveys, the raw data comes in the form of tens of thousands high-resolution digital images. But identifying these ultrafaint galaxies, as their description implies, is not as simple as looking at an image and seeing a faint smudge of light. Bechtol and his group, including physics grad student Mitch McNanna, designed the search algorithms needed to identify, with some statistical assurance, which individual stars are part of a dwarf galaxy.
“We worked closely with experts in galaxy formation and particle physics theory to compare the Dark Energy Survey observations with predictions,” Bechtol said. “Part of our job was to determine the sensitivity of our search — how far away from the Earth could we spot a galaxy with only a few hundred stars?”
By combining the observed census of dwarf galaxies with advanced cosmological simulations of the distribution of dark matter around the Milky Way, scientists were able to predict how the physical properties of dark matter would affect the number of small galaxies. Small galaxies form in regions where the dark matter density in the early universe is very slightly above average. Physical processes that smooth out these regions of higher density (if dark matter moves too quickly or gains energy due to interactions with normal matter) or prevent density variations from collapsing to form galaxies (thanks to quantum interference effects) would reduce the number of galaxies observed by the Dark Energy Survey.
“Astrophysical observations provide unique information about the fundamental nature of dark matter, and are complementary to searches for dark matter particles in terrestrial experiments.” Bechtol said. “With the Dark Energy Survey, we continue to learn about the deep connection between particle physics and the growth of cosmic structure, ranging from the vast network of galaxies in the cosmic web, down to smallest individual galaxies.”
The Dark Energy Survey is a collaboration of more than 300 scientists from 25 institutions in six countries. For more information about the survey, please visit the experiment’s website.
Funding for the DES Projects has been provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Ministry of Science and Education of Spain, the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics at the University of ChicagoFunding Authority for Funding and Projects in Brazil, Carlos Chagas Filho Foundation for Research Support of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development and the Ministry of Science and Technology, the German Research Foundation and the collaborating institutions in the Dark Energy Survey.
UW–Madison named member of new $25 million Midwest quantum science institute
As joint members of a Midwest quantum science collaboration, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and the University of Chicago have been named partners in a National Science Foundation Quantum Leap Challenge Institute, NSF announced Tuesday.
The five-year, $25 million NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks (HQAN) was one of three in this first round of NSF Quantum Leap funding and helps establish the region as a major hub of quantum science. HQAN’s principal investigator, Brian DeMarco, is a professor of physics at UIUC. UW–Madison professor of physics Mark Saffman and University of Chicago engineering professor Hannes Bernien are co-principal investigators.
“HQAN is very much a regional institute that will allow us to accelerate in directions in which we’ve already been headed and to start new collaborative projects between departments at UW–Madison as well as between us, the University of Illinois, and the University of Chicago.” says Saffman, who is also director of the Wisconsin Quantum Institute. “These flagship institutes are being established as part of the National Quantum Initiative Act that was funded by Congress, and it is a recognition of the strength of quantum information research at UW–Madison that we are among the first.”
Chicago Quantum Exchange, including UW–Madison, welcomes seven new partners in tech, computing and finance, to advance research and training
The Chicago Quantum Exchange, a growing intellectual hub for the research and development of quantum technology, has added to its community seven new corporate partners in computing, technology and finance that are working to bring about and primed to take advantage of the coming quantum revolution.
These new industry partners are Intel, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Quantum Design, Qubitekk, Rigetti Computing, and Zurich Instruments.
The Chicago Quantum Exchange and its corporate partners advance the science and engineering necessary to build and scale quantum technologies and develop practical applications. The results of their work – precision data from quantum sensors, advanced quantum computers and their algorithms, and securely transmitted information – will transform today’s leading industries. The addition of these partners brings a total of 13 companies into the Chicago Quantum Exchange to work with scientists and engineers at universities and the national laboratories in the region.
“These new corporate partners join a robust collaboration of private and public universities, national laboratories, companies, and non-profit organizations. Together, their efforts — with federal and state support —will enhance the nation’s leading center for quantum information and engineering here in Chicago,” said University of Chicago Provost Ka Yee C. Lee.
“Developing a new technology at nature’s smallest scales requires strong partnerships with complementary expertise and significant resources. The Chicago Quantum Exchange enables us to engage leading experts, facilities and industries from around the world to advance quantum science and engineering,” said David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, senior scientist at Argonne, and director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange. “Our collaborations with these companies will be crucial to speed discovery, develop quantum applications and prepare a skilled quantum workforce.”
Chicago Quantum Exchange member institutions engage with corporate partners in collaborative research efforts, joint workshops to develop new research directions, and opportunities to train future quantum engineers. The CQE has existing partnerships with Boeing, IBM, Applied Materials, Inc., Cold Quanta, HRL Laboratories, LLC, and Quantum Opus, LLC.
The CQE’s newest corporate partners include a broader set of companies ranging in interest and expertise from quantum communication hardware to quantum computing systems and controls to finance and cryptography applications.
Intel is advancing a systems-level approach to quantum research that demonstrates quantum practicality and a path to commercially viable quantum computing systems. Its research efforts – in partnership with QuTech, the quantum institute of TU Delft and TNO—include technology advancements in silicon spin qubits, control and interconnect systems for large-scale quantum systems, and quantum algorithms.
JPMorgan Chase is a leader in the field of quantum algorithms and applications for financial use cases, such as portfolio optimization, option pricing and reinforcement learning, as well as general foundational algorithms with cross-domain applicability, such as quantum search. The firm has made a significant investment in quantum computing, collaborating with multiple quantum providers and forums. Its research team is also actively working in the area of post-quantum cryptography.
Microsoft has driven advances in scalable quantum technology for nearly two decades. Their global team of physicists, computer and materials scientists, engineers, developers, and enthusiasts are collaborating with a broad community to advance a full-stack quantum computing system, develop practical solutions, enable a quantum community, and accelerate quantum workforce development.
Quantum Design manufactures automated characterization systems that allow research and exploration of new materials & devices. With the partnership, Quantum Design will support research and advanced teaching at the CQE, launching a new student laboratory for quantum measurements and the study of quantum materials.
Qubitekk develops and manufactures a variety of key components for quantum networks. Qubitekk provides entangled photon sources in its support for researchers across the CQE working on the Argonne quantum loop.
Rigetti Computing builds and delivers integrated quantum systems and offers a distinctive hybrid cloud computing access model for practical near-term applications. The company owns and operates Fab-1, the world’s first dedicated quantum integrated circuit foundry.
Zurich Instruments develops advanced instrumentation including quantum control systems that enable reliable control and measurement of superconducting qubits and silicon spin qubits. The company will collaborate with the CQE on student opportunities and research.
Many of the new industry partners already have ongoing or recent engagements with CQE and its member institutions. In recent collaborative research, spectrally entangled photons from a Qubitekk entangled photon source were transported and successfully detected after traveling through one section of the Argonne quantum loop.
Another example of these relationships is the work that University of Chicago computer scientist Fred Chong and his students have done with both Intel and Rigetti Computing on software and hardware solutions. With Intel’s support, Chong’s team invented a range of software techniques to more efficiently execute quantum programs on a coming crop of quantum hardware. For example, they developed methods that take advantage of the hierarchical structure of important quantum circuits that are critical to the future of reliable quantum computation.
Jim Clarke, director of quantum hardware at Intel, looks forward to further collaborations with Chicago Quantum Exchange members.
“Intel remains committed to solving intractable challenges that lie on the path of achieving quantum practicality,” said Clarke. “We’re focusing our research on new qubit technologies and addressing key bottlenecks in their control and connectivity as quantum systems get larger. Our collaborations with members of the Chicago Quantum Exchange will help us harness our collective areas of expertise to contribute to meaningful advances in these areas.”
The Chicago Quantum Exchange’s partnership with JPMorgan Chase will enable the use of quantum computing algorithms and software for secure transactions and high-speed trading.
“We are excited about the transformative impact that quantum computing can have on our industry,” said Marco Pistoia, managing director, head of applied research and engineering at JPMorgan Chase. “Collaborating with the Chicago Quantum Exchange will help us to be among the first to develop cutting-edge quantum algorithms for financial use cases, and experiment with the power of quantum computers on relevant problems, such as portfolio optimization and option pricing.”
Applying quantum science and technology discoveries to areas such as finance, computing and healthcare requires a robust workforce of scientists and engineers. The Chicago Quantum Exchange integrates universities, national laboratories and leading companies to train the next generation of scientists and engineers and to equip those already in the workforce to transition to quantum careers.
“Microsoft is excited to partner with the Chicago Quantum Exchange to accelerate the advancement of quantum computing,” said Chetan Nayak, general manager of Microsoft Quantum Hardware. “It is through these academic and industry partnerships that we’ll be able to scale innovation and develop a workforce ready to harness the incredible impact of this technology.”