August 22, 2022

UNM Receives NSF Award to Further Quantum Science and Engineering Research

two students in the quantum lab

Students Fatih Ince (Graduate Research Assistant) and Carter Heinrich (Undergraduate Researcher) working with equipment in CHTM at UNM.


By Brittney Van Der Werff

The National Science Foundation has awarded researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and the University of Delaware (UD) an EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) Track 2 grant for $4 million to advance quantum photonic technology research and to establish a quantum science and engineering graduate program at UNM.

The award, Laying the Foundation for Scalable Quantum Photonic Technologies is led by principal investigator Ganesh Balakrishnan, director of NM EPSCoR and professor of electrical and computer engineering at UNM, in collaboration with UNM investigators Tara Drake, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, Terefe Habteyes, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology, and Marek Osinski, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, alongside faculty at UD. The research will be based in the Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM) at UNM. UNM Vice President for Research, Ellen Fisher praised the new award as exceptionally timely:

"This award dovetails nicely with UNM’s recent efforts with Sandia National Labs and other partners to build on our recognized history in the field of quantum information science and technology.  The EPSCoR Track 2 grant expands on the past success of CHTM and will help to empower New Mexico to be a quantum state, including serving as the central hub for our nation's future quantum workforce."

The new graduate program will be modeled after UD's QSE program. The recently-established UD program has proved wildly successful, taking an approach that introduces students to quantum mechanics and information processing fundamentals through hands-on, project-based learning. A portion of the UNM funding will support Native American students with assistantships in quantum photonics research to explore career opportunities in quantum sciences.

Quantum Information promises revolutionary advances in computation, communication, and sensing. Through this funding, researchers at both institutions will devise a new method of fabricating quantum photonic emitters which are LED-like devices that generate photonic qubits, the fundamental information unit of quantum science. PI Balakrishnan is very excited about the possibilities of achieving significant breakthroughs in this program, "UNM and UD have been at the forefront of quantum materials research for over three decades. This EPSCoR grant allows both EPSCoR jurisdictions to collaboratively address one of the biggest barriers to bringing quantum materials into commonplace consumer-level technologies."