Francesca Ferlaino and Wolfgang Lechner

On Tuesday, 21 November, the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) presented its annual awards and prizes. Two physicists from Innsbruck were among the awardees: Francesca Ferlaino received the Erwin Schrödinger Award for pioneering the new research field of dipolar quantum gases.  Wolfgang Lechner was awarded the Hans and Walter Thirring Prize for his research in the field of quantum optics, in particular, for developing a quantum annealing architecture.

On 21 November, the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) presented its most prestigious prizes and awards. One of the honors went to Francesca Ferlaino, an internationally leading scientist in the field of quantum gases. With her team she has successfully carried out trailblazing experiments with ultracold quantum gases. Ferlaino is a pioneer in the field of quantum gases showing dipolar magnetic interactions: She was first in creating an erbium degenerate quantum gas and in showing magnetic interactions in an optical lattice. Building on research done by physicists at the University of Stuttgart, Ferlaino’s observations of quantum droplets has crucially contributed to furthering knowledge in the field of quantum gases. These systems of quantum droplets behave differently: They are capable of preserving their form in absence of external confinement, for example a trap. This insight puts a new perspective on systems, such as self-organizing quantum systems. Ferlaino’s recent papers to this research topic are the most influential publications in the dynamic field of quantum gases internationally.
Francesca Ferlaino studied physics at the University Federico II in Naples. She received her diploma in 2000 with a theoretical work on Bose-Einstein condensates, written in Naples and at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste. She then directed her research interest towards experimental physics and received a PhD at the European Laboratory for Non-linear Spectroscopy (LENS) in Florence. She was involved in the first realization of a quantum gas mixture of different atomic species. In 2007, Ferlaino moved to Austria, first as a visiting scientist and then as postdoctoral researcher and Lise-Meitner fellow. Since 2014, she has been Professor for Atom Physics at the University of Innsbruck and Scientific Director at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI). The 39-year old researcher has received numerous prestigious prizes and distinctions, including the Feltrinelli Prize for Junior Scientists in physics, the Alexander-von-Humboldt Professorship, which she declined, the Science Prize of the City of Innsbruck, the Ignaz L. Lieben Prize, and the Fritz-Kohlrausch Prize for experimental physics. In addition, she received the START Prize, an ERC-Starting and an ERC-Consolidator grant.

Theoretical physicists receives the Thirring Prize

The Hans and Walter Thirring Prize is awarded for outstanding achievements in physics. This year the prize has been awarded to Wolfgang Lechner from the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Innsbruck and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
The award honors Lechner’s notable achievements in two different fields: He investigates the physics of soft matter and also studies current problems in quantum optics and quantum information. In 2015, his work resulted in the development of a new quantum annealing architecture, which has become a game-changer in the field. With this new model scientists will be able to realize a fully programmable and scalable adiabetic quantum computer. In this type of computer the problem is not encoded in the interaction between the qubits, which was the case before, but in local fields acting on physical qubits. In addition, all interactions are limited to the closest qubit, which is a key requirement for developing a scalable quantum computer.
Wolfgang Lechner studied physics in Vienna completing his PhD under the supervision of Professor Christoph Dellago. From 2009 to 2011 he worked as a Post-Doc at the Van’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Science at the University of Amsterdam. In 2011 Lechner moved back to Austria, where he joined Peter Zoller’s Quantum Optics Theory Group at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI). Since 2013 he is Senior Scientist at the IQOQI. In 2017, he has received a START Prize and become Assistant Professor at the University of Innsbruck, where he leads an independent research groups.