Physicist named Simons Investigator in support of quantum research

Prof. Aashish Clerk awarded $100,000 annually for five years to explore fundamental questions

University of Chicago physicist Aashish Clerk has been named a Simons Investigator, an honor given to outstanding theoretical scientists which also enables them to undertake long-term study of fundamental questions.

The Simons Foundation provides investigators $100,000 of research support per year for five years, with the possibility of renewal for an additional five years at the end of the term. Investigators are selected from nominations sent by their institutions and current investigators.

“It was both a surprise and a very nice honor,” said Clerk, a theoretical physicist and professor of molecular engineering. “It’s an amazing group of people who have been selected in the past, and I’m thrilled that someone thought I should be part of that list.”

“Aashish’s research into phenomena occurring in man-made quantum systems is vital to creating quantum technology,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. “We’re pleased the Simons Foundation has recognized his work and chosen to support it.”

Clerk’s research focuses on understanding complex phenomena in quantum systems that are both strongly driven and subject to dissipation. Such effects are not only interesting from a fundamental perspective, but can also enable quantum technologies to transcend the limitations of purely classical systems. His group’s work intersects the fields of condensed matter physics, quantum optics, and quantum information.

Because Clerk’s research has applications in quantum sensing, communications, and computing, his group has close collaborations with several leading experimental groups.

“The questions we’re asking are exactly the kinds of question you need to grapple with if you want to use the unusual features of quantum mechanics to build real technology,” said Clerk.

Last year Clerk co-authored a study that found a new way to create a controllable, one-way channel for the flow of vibrational energy and heat; the approach applies to both quantum and classical systems. The finding could pave the way for designing new devices targeting a variety of applications, ranging from mitigating heat flow to new kinds of communication systems.

Clerk’s other honors include a Sloan Research Fellowship, an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from Canada’s National Science and Engineering Research Council, the Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics from the Royal Society of Canada, and a Simons Foundation Fellowship in Theoretical Physics.

—This release was first published on the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering website