There is a vibrant Princeton community working on quantum science and engineering and building upon the University's renowned legacy in physics, chemistry, engineering, materials science, and the computational sciences.
As Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber tells it, Princeton's history with quantum science dates back to 1935, when the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) was temporarily located on the University's campus. Three physicists named Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen were appointed to the IAS. In a bold paper covered by the New York Times, they got almost everything right... but they wrongly criticized quantum mechanics, misunderstanding what we now call "quantum entanglement."
Since then, multiple Princeton scientists have been awarded Nobel prizes for their contributions to quantum understanding; quantum science has contributed to world-changing technologies; and the University has announced its intention to establish a quantum science and engineering institute.
A Princeton Quantum Institute Is On the Way
In June 2023, the Princeton Board of Trustees announced planning is underway for a quantum science and engineering institute and facility. In an update to the University's strategic framework, the trustees noted that the evolving trajectory of fields such as quantum science "play to Princeton's strengths at the intersection of the applied and natural sciences."
In 2019, the University took the first formal step to connect quantum-related research across Princeton's campus, creating the Princeton Quantum Initiative. Bringing together over 30 faculty members from natural sciences and engineering departments, the initiative aimed "to foster research and training across the spectrum from fundamental quantum science to its application in areas such as computing, sensing, and communications."
Princeton's success in quantum research reflects the University's multidisciplinary approach and its capabilities in the critical areas of physics, chemistry, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, and materials science. Andrew Houck, professor of electrical and computer engineering and a pioneer in quantum computing technologies, has said, “One of the big challenges in quantum computing is that it’s a massively multidisciplinary enterprise." According to Houck, "The functioning of the final product depends on the materials, the devices, and the software architecture. All of these areas rely on expertise that doesn’t necessarily overlap.”
Educating the Next Generation of Quantum Leaders
Over the past 20 years, Princeton has pioneered a core curriculum that makes quantum information science and technology accessible to students from many technical fields, including computer science, math, engineering, and physics. Since 2003, Princeton faculty have developed undergraduate and graduate curricula that explore the variety of approaches used to build quantum computers. This curriculum framework opens the field to students who do not have a strong background in quantum mechanics. Since their development, the courses have been adapted and replicated across dozens of universities and been regularly updated to include critical advances in commercial programming languages, new material systems, and other areas of rapid innovation.
Princeton has partnered with IBM to offer undergraduate students a summer experiential learning option in quantum research. The highly-selective QURIP summer internship program invites a small group of students from colleges and universities throughout the United States to spend six weeks on Princeton's campus and six weeks at IBM's research facility in Yorktown Heights, NY. QURIP is designed to provide these aspiring scientists and engineers with rigorous research opportunities and exposure to the connection between academic investigation and industry applications.
For advanced scholars, Princeton offers a postdoctoral fellowship and a new quantum science and engineering doctoral program.
Princeton in Service of the Nation's Quantum Initiative
Princeton scientists and research are integral to the federal government's national quantum initiative.
Princeton faculty lead one of five multi-institution centers founded by the Department of Energy to advance quantum science research. Headquartered at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage (C2QA) involves 24 research institutions and over 70 primary investigators.
- Andrew Houck serves as director.
- Nathalie de Leon leads the Materials thrust, one of three main areas of inquiry.
- Jeff Thompson leads the "Qubits for Computing and Networks" topic.
- Robert Cava leads the "Materials Purification, Crystal Growth, and Processing for QIS" topic.
- Margaret Martonosi is a key scientist in the Crosscutting Co-Design Integration Team.
- Ali Yazdani and Stephen Lyon are both participating researchers.
The Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, a federal lab managed by the University for the US Department of Energy, has joined C2QA as an affiliate member. PPPL provides two advantages: the capacity to host experiments of a scale beyond what is practical on Princeton's main campus; and the possibility of using plasma to fabricate quantum devices and processors.
Collaborating with the Moore Foundation
Through its Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems Initiative (EPiQS), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has provided extensive funding to Princeton investigators for fundamental research on quantum materials.
Learn more about Quantum Science and Engineering at Princeton.
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