Project Description

Olivier Landon-Cardinal

Olivier Landon-Cardinal

“Quantum information is a genuinely multidisciplinary area of science. I like that it’s a young field and that people come to it from diverse scientific backgrounds. One of the reasons I came to IQIM was because I wanted to be exposed to ideas from many different fields, and I have had that opportunity here.”

  • IQIM Postdoctoral Scholar in Theoretical Physics
  • PhD, 2013
  • Postdoctoral Associate, McGill University
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What can you tell us about your research?

Basically I’m trying to define a system to build a quantum hard-drive for a quantum computer. This would be a system of atomic particles that would preserve quantum information for a long period of time. Ideally it would encode information in such a way that it can be safely stored and easily retrieved. Think about a file on your conventional laptop: You create it, save it, and when you come back a few days later, all the information is still there. That’s what we’re after, but there are huge challenges. The most critical one is figuring out how to protect a quantum hard drive from environmental disturbances—what we call decoherence and which can instantly destroy its “quantumness”—while maintaining its thermal stability, i.e., its ability to withstand energy fluctuations that could wipe out the encoded information. We really don’t know how to accomplish that yet but we are steadily improving our understanding of what approaches do not work!  My research involves modeling and simulating various possibilities in two, three, and four dimensions and trying to determine which ones have actual potential.

What appeals to you about this work?

Quantum information is a genuinely multidisciplinary area of science. I like that it’s a young field and that people come to it from diverse scientific backgrounds. My training is diversified, yet centered on mathematical and theoretical physics, and it’s great to be able to interact and collaborate with people working in areas like quantum optics, condensed matter physics, computer science, and information science. Coming from a physics background means that when I’m talking to a colleague in, say, computer science, we both need to think and learn about how to adjust our language to communicate effectively. Once you’re capable of doing that, you have many interesting and fresh approaches that you can use to tackle common problems. That has a lot of appeal for me.  One of the reasons I came to IQIM was because I wanted to be exposed to ideas from many different fields, and I have had that opportunity here.

What do you do when you’re not doing physics?

I’m a big outdoors enthusiast. I like rock climbing, and I’ve been able to do a lot of it since I arrived in California. I also enjoy hiking and skiing, and I read a lot, especially classics and science fiction. I’m trilingual—my native tongue is French and I picked up English while growing up in Quebec, and learned Spanish at school. I left Montreal at the age of eighteen to study in France for several years before coming back for graduate studies. I enjoy traveling, music, and arts in general. I also practice yoga a lot, to relax and clear my mind.