UC Merced said physics Professor Lin Tian has been awarded the National Science Foundation's esteemed Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, the fourth professor from the campus in four years to earn the honor.
The $450,000 award supports Tian's theoretical research into how quantum optics can be applied to understand the behavior of nanoscale devices with the ultimate goal of establishing a foundation to build a quantum computer.
"The four CAREER awards given to UC Merced's junior faculty in the last four years reflect the university's growing reputation as a leading research institution and the talented faculty members it attracts," said Samuel J. Traina, vice chancellor for research. "The awards assist our professors in their cutting-edge research, which serves the San Joaquin Valley, state and nation."
Tian joined UC Merced in July 2008 and has established a theoretical research lab with one postdoctoral student, two Ph.D. students and one master's degree student. She plans to bring two more students to her lab with the grant.
"It also gives me more freedom to explore other exciting territories," Tian noted.
Quantum optics, which can probe atomic systems, has been well developed but is just beginning to be applied to solid-state, nanosize devices. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. The nanosize devices are promising building blocks for a quantum computer, which -- if built -- could solve some problems much faster than existing super computers, remaking the information technology landscape and having significant impacts on national security.
For example, it takes years for a conventional computer to crack certain encrypted codes. A quantum computer could do it in months.
UC Merced announced earlier this month that engineering professor Elliott Campbell received a CAREER Award to study the capacity of abandoned agricultural lands to grow crops used to produce biofuels.