Robert Schoelkopf Is Named the First William Norton Professor

Robert J. Schoelkopf, newly named as the inaugural William A. Norton Professor of Applied Physics and Physics, is noted for his research on quantum transport, single-electron devices and charge dynamics in nanostructures.

When he won the American Physical Society’s 2009 Joseph F. Keithley Award for Advances in Measurement Science, Schoel­kopf was described by Steven Girvin, Yale’s deputy provost for science and technology and the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics, as “a master in the study of nanoscale quantum systems using micro­waves.” The award recognized Schoelkopf’s “advances in measurement science or products that im­pact the physics community by providing better measurements.”

Schoelkopf’s techniques usually emphasize high-speed, high-sensitivity measurements performed on nanostructures at low temperatures. He and his laboratory team invented the Radio-Frequency Single-Electron Transistor, an electrometer capable of measuring sub-electron charges on nano­second timescales, allowing them to study electrical transport at the single-charge level in various systems. He is also developing new types of sensors and detectors that employ these capabilities.

In 2007, a team of scientists led by Schoelkopf and Girvin made a major breakthrough in quantum computing when it engineered a superconducting communication “bus” to store and transfer information between distant quantum bits, or qubits, on a chip. Their work is the first step to making the fundamentals of quantum computing useful.

Schoelkopf’s current research focus, together with Girvin and Professor Michel Devoret of applied physics, is to further develop superconducting circuits that might serve as practical quantum information processors. Other projects are directed at developing “hybrid” quantum systems based on integrating cold atoms, molecules or electrons with solid-state circuits.

A graduate of Princeton University, Schoelkopf earned his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology. From 1986 to 1988 he was an electrical/cryogenic engineer in the Laboratory for High-Energy Astrophysics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where he developed low-temperature radiation detectors and cryogenic instrumentation for future space missions. He came to Yale as a postdoctoral researcher in 1995 after earning his Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty in 1998, becoming a full professor in 2003. Schoelkopf serves as director of the Yale Center for Microelectronic Materials and Structures and as associate director of the Yale Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering.

The Yale physicist was a visiting professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia last spring. He has been an invited lecturer at universities and professional organizations throughout the United States and in Canada and Europe.

Schoelkopf was a semi-finalist for Discover magazine’s Technological Innovation of the Year in 1999. His other honors include NASA’s Technical Innovator Award. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society.

The William A. Norton Professorship in Technological Innovation was created through a gift from Donald S. McCluskey ‘42, ‘59 M.Eng. to ensure that Yale is pursuing pioneering engineering research that exceeds the boundaries of our current scientific understanding of the world. Norton is credited with establishing the first engineering program at Yale in 1852.

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