START Prize for Parity Constraint Based Quantum Computing

Wolfgang Lechner from the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Innsbruck and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) received the prestigious START Prize for young scientists.

 

START Prize

Federal Minister Harald Mahrer (l.) with Wolfgang Lechner and FWF President Klement Tockner at the award ceremony (Credit: FWF / Martin Lusser)

Today the Austrian Science Fund in Vienna awarded Wolfgang Lechner from the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Innsbruck and the IQOQI of the Austrian Academy of Sciences a START prize, which is endowed with up to 1.2 million Euros. The START Programme supports outstanding young researchers for the duration of up to six years. The Wittgenstein Award, valued at up to 1.5 million Euros and the most prestigious science award in Austria, was given to Hanns-Christoph Nägerl from the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck.

Wolfgang Lechner’s research goal is to develop the theoretical foundations for a quantum computer that is capable of solving optimization problems efficiently. Optimization problems are widespread not only in science but also in everyday life. They range from finding the ground-state electron structure of molecules and protein folding to logistical problems in industries. A promising development is the notion that the learning of neural networks by artificial intelligence could be interpreted as optimization problem. Lechner‘s research focuses on a novel architecture for quantum computers, which he has developed with colleagues in Peter Zoller’s research group. This architecture will allow scientists to build a fully programmable quantum computer for quantum optimization. The physicists filed a patent for this concept and it has already drawn wide interest. With the funding by the START Programme, Lechner will apply this architecture for developing new approaches for using quantum computers for artificial intelligence. Wolfgang Lechner, born in 1981, studied physics in Vienna completing his PhD under the supervision of Professor Christoph Dellago. After working as a researcher at the University of Amsterdam (2009-2011) he joined Peter Zoller’s Quantum Optics Theory Group at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. In 2016 he started a tenure track position for quantum research funded by investor Hermann Hauser at the University of Innsbruck.