Mikhail Lukin Named University Professor

The co-director of the quantum science and engineering initiative receives Harvard's highest faculty honor.

Mikhail Lukin

Mikhail Lukin, a global leader in quantum physics, has been named a University Professor. University Professors hold the highest faculty rank at Harvard, reflecting the eminence of their scholarship, and may teach and conduct research in any University school. Beginning July 1, Lukin will hold the University professorship endowed by Joshua Friedman ’76, M.B.A. ’80, J.D. ’82, and Beth Friedman that was previously held by chemist Charles Lieber, who retired at the beginning of February.

Currently Leverett professor of physics, Lukin is co-director of both Harvard’s quantum science initiative and the Center for Ultracold Atoms, run jointly with MIT, a longstanding collaborator in Harvard’s quantum science research.

Lukin is best known for his work in quantum optics: how photons—which are specific quanta of light, in the form of either a particle or a wave—interact with matter at the scale of atoms and molecules. The ability to control quantum effects in these interactions has made him a leader in the field of quantum information science—notably in the development of Rydberg atom-based quantum simulators, often referred to as quantum computers. He has also created nanoscale quantum sensors that will have applications in many fields. Such sensors could be used, for example, to detect biomolecules for diagnostic purposes in medicine.

Born and raised in Russia, Lukin earned his master’s degree from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. After receiving his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 1998, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Institute for Theoretical Atomic and Molecular Physics from 1998 to 2001, when he was appointed an assistant professor of physics.

In a statement, President Larry Bacow described Lukin as “a pioneer in applying quantum optics for quantum computing purposes” and noted that he is “central to the University’s ambitions in quantum science and engineering.” Harvard launched its quantum science initiative in 2018, and announced one of the first Ph.D. programs in quantum science and engineering in 2021. The University is in the middle of a major two-year renovation of 60 Oxford Street that will transform the building into a quantum science and engineering hub.

Bacow described Lukin’s work as “not only elegant and beautiful but also enormously promising in its capacity to create innovations that are likely to change many of our lives. It is a pleasure to welcome one of the best quantum information scientists in the world into the ranks of the University Professor.”

Read the University announcement here.

Read more articles by: Jonathan Shaw

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