Mark Wilde: Developing a new quantum theory of information and computation
- New Faculty Year: 2022
Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Academic focus: Quantum Shannon/information/communication theory, quantum computation/algorithms, quantum optical communication, quantum computational complexity theory, and quantum error correction
Research summary: What are the ultimate limits that nature imposes on communication and computation and what are effective procedures for achieving these limits? These are the questions that drive my research, and in order to answer them convincingly, we must reassess the theories of information and computation under a "quantum lens." That is, since quantum mechanics represents our best understanding of microscopic physical phenomena and since information is ultimately encoded into a physical system of some form, it is necessary for us to revise the laws of information and computation established many years ago by intellectual giants such as Shannon and Turing. This is not merely an academic exercise, but instead represents one of the most exciting new frontiers for physics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering. Entanglement, superposition, and interference are all aspects of quantum theory that were once regarded as strange and in some cases, nuisances. However, nowadays, we understand these phenomena to be features that are the enabling fuel for a new quantum theory of information and computation, in which seemingly magical possibilities such as teleportation are becoming reality. Several notable examples are computational speedups in quantum computing, increased communication capacities of noisy communication channels, secure encryption based on physical principles, and enhanced precision in measurements. Concepts developed in the context of quantum information theory are now influencing other areas of physics as well, such as quantum gravity, condensed matter, and thermodynamics. Furthermore, quantum information theory has given us a greater understanding of the foundations of quantum mechanics and might eventually lead to a simpler set of postulates for quantum mechanics.
What are you most looking forward to as a Cornell Engineering faculty member? Cornell has deep expertise in a large variety of research areas. In just a few months, I have already had many insightful conversations with Cornell faculty, not only in engineering but also in areas like physics and mathematics, which intersect with quantum information science. I am looking forward to many more such conversations and collaborations. Indeed I have always found that, through collaboration, it is possible to achieve research results that go far beyond anything I could ever achieve on my own. I am also looking forward to working with Cornell students, not only at the PhD level, but also master's and undergraduates in the classroom and on research projects.
What do you like to do when you’re not working? I have a one-year old son. I like to hug him and make up games to play with him.