Theoretical physicist Giulia Ferrini brings new competence to Chalmers. She is one of the researchers who will work to realize the vision of a quantum computer with far greater computational power than the best supercomputers of today. Photo: Johan Bodell

Italian researcher strengthens the quantum computer project

The goal is to build a large quantum computer within ten years. But the task is extremely complicated and Chalmers University of Technology needs to recruit world-class expertise in a number of fields. First up is Giulia Ferrini – an expert in quantum computations in continuous variables.
The beginning of the year marked the launch of the Wallenberg Centre for Quantum Technology – a SEK 1 billion initiative to set Sweden on course to a global top position in quantum technology. The focus is on developing a quantum computer with much greater computing power than the best supercomputers of today; read more in Engineering of a Swedish quantum computer set to start.

Only a few days after the starting pistol was fired the theoretical physicist Giulia Ferrini is in place in her new university, Chalmers, where she is an eagerly awaited part in the quantum computer project.
“It’s amazing to become part of this adventure! Sweden is one of the places I would like to live. I like the culture and the society is advanced – it feels like living in the future”, says Ferrini, who was previously a Marie Curie fellow at the University of Mainz in Germany.

As a physics student, she was amazed by the strange phenomena of quantum physics and this aroused her interest in quantum information. She is attracted by the potential of using the peculiarities of quantum physics to create practical benefits in the form of new technology, while this also gives her an excuse for exploring the fundamentals of quantum physics.
“I’m very curious. I like to start from an intuitive idea and then do the hard work required to formalise it and come up with proof or a model that others can test in the lab”, explains Ferrini.

She is mainly interested in encoding quantum information in continuous variables such as in an electromagnetic field. The other main thrust in quantum computers is to encode information in what are known as qubits, with two quantum states representing zero and one. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, but so far Chalmers has focused mainly on qubits.
“Nobody knows yet what will work best in the end, and we need to know both methods. With Giulia Ferrini we are acquiring completely new expertise which fits very well with our own,” says Göran Johansson, Professor of Applied Quantum Physics, and one of the principal investigators in the quantum computer project.

First of all, Ferrini together with Johansson will investigate and evaluate a new proposal on how to design a superconducting quantum computer, published by researchers in Canada. In parallel with this she will study where the boundary lies between what a standard computer and a quantum computer can do. The aim is to develop a criterion for what the minimum requirements are to achieve what is known as quantum supremacy, in other words to reach the point at which a quantum computer outperforms a standard computer.

Two doctoral students are on their way in and Ferrini is looking forward to starting to build a research team, as well as collaborating both with the experimentalists at Chalmers and with other groups.
“Collaboration is fun and important for getting new ideas so that you can do relevant research,” says Ferrini.

Beyond research, dance – in different styles – is her great interest. She describes herself as distinctly a city person, but has noticed that she appreciates the green space outside her new home in Gothenburg. In addition to finding a good place to dance, exploring the Swedish countryside is now also high up on her list.

Text: Ingela Roos
Photo: Johan Bodell

Read more about quantum computers in Quantum technology – popular science description

Read more about the Wallenberg Centre for Quantum Technology

Published: Tue 16 Jan 2018.