Physicist Receives Grant for Research that May Shape Future of Quantum Computing

Cody Leary, assistant professor of physics at Wooster, is awarded $35,000 from Research Corporation

18 March, 2014 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — The future of quantum computing may be affected in part by a device designed and constructed by Cody Leary, assistant professor of physics at The College of Wooster. Leary, who along with several student researchers from the College, built a system of interferometers to study how photons interact with one another in such devices, has received a Cottrell College Science Award from Research Corporation for Science Advancement to study the process using his device.

"Objects making up a quantum system do not always have clearly defined positions at all times," says Leary, who joined the faculty at Wooster in 2011. "They may actually be, for example, in two places at the same time. A quantum computer can take advantage of this by doing computations that cannot be done on a normal computer. In our device, photons must be in two places at one time. Our work is predicated on that concept."

Normally, photons pass through one another, but Leary's device causes them to effectively interact, or collide. "In the course of this interaction, two of the photons' properties — polarization and shape — are altered when they exit the device," he says.

The reason this research is important, according to Leary, is that the altered photons could lead to more efficient computations in future quantum computers. "The output photons from this device contain multiple bits of information, and could possibly be used as building blocks for a quantum computation," he says.

The Cottrell College Science Award is intended for single investigators working with students, so Leary will not be alone on this project. He will enlist the services of two Wooster students — one each for the next two summers — who have the necessary credentials to assist with the research.

"The award will give undergraduates at Wooster an opportunity to participate in research that is at the forefront of quantum optics," says Leary. "It will provide very valuable experience."

Leary, who specializes in quantum optics, received his undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics at the University of Puget Sound before earning his master's and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Oregon. His professional affiliations include the American Physical Society and Optical Society of America. His previous research has been published in Physical Review A, Optics Express, and The New Journal of Physics.