UCSB Engineering

November 2, 2001

Engineering Professor Wins $2 Million Award From Germany's Humboldt Foundation

Santa Barbara, Calif.--Atac Imamoglu, professor of electrical and computer engineering and of physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) and a participant in the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), has received the Wolfgang Paul Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany. The $2 million research award will be conferred at ceremonies in Berlin on Nov. 6.

Imamoglu is one of 14 academicians to receive the Wolfgang Paul Award, given, according to Wolfgang Fruhwald (president of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation), "in honour of academic achievement at an internationally excellent level." Seventy researchers from 21 countries were nominated.

According to the terms of the award, Imamoglu will be affiliated for two years with the Physics Institute of Stuttgart University. The sole other stipulation is that the $2 million be spent on research.

Notified by e-mail, Imamoglu said, "I was extremely happy, as you can imagine."

Imamoglu's research has developed along two lines: (1) quantum computing and (2) manipulation of single light particles or photons.

The idea behind quantum computing is to use particle spin as the quantum-bits or qubits analogous to the zero and one binary code of electronic computing.

Imamoglu's approach to quantum computing focuses on understanding and manipulating the properties of quantum dots, nanostructures made by enclosing a small amount of a semiconducting material within another seminconducting material. He led a UCSB research team that proved that a "dead" time exists between emission of light particles or photons from a single quantum dot. Demonstrating that phenomenon (called "quantum correlation") for quantum dots and using it to realize a train of optical pulses that contain one-and-only-one photon, is the first step in a multi-step research program he has laid out to attack the overarching problem of the feasibility of quantum information processing.

The other line of Imamoglu's research dates to his dissertation for a 1991 Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. There he introduced and first explored the idea of electromagnetically induced transparency, basically a way of eliminating the absorption of photons in a medium. This September Imamoglu co-authored an article published in the prestigious British science journal Nature, which reviewed the decade of research stemming from his idea. One possible application is for memory in quantum computational devices.

Imamoglu received his 1985 BS in electrical engineering from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Theoretical Atomic and Molecular Physics at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., before joining the UCSB faculty in 1993.

The interview for this article took place in Imamoglu's office, not in Engineering, but at the Institute for Theoretical Physics on the UCSB campus, where he is temporarily lodged as an organizer of a four-month program on "Quantum Information: Entanglement, Decoherence and Chaos." "It's been a lot of fun for me," he said. "The majority of the leading people in quantum information have participated. It's very exciting to be in an environment with so many people to talk to." From his vantage as program organizer, Imamoglu thinks that quantum information science is evolving into a new discipline.

Imamoglu is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Career Award and a David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship.

Note: Prof. Imamgolu leaves for Germany on Nov. 3; until then he can be reached at 805-893-7277 or at atac@ece.ucsb.edu.


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Tony Rairden
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