Recent Williams Grad Wins Physics Award

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Chris Chudzicki
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Chris Chudzicki has become the fourth Williams College student in recent years to win the Leroy Apker Award from the American Physical Society for outstanding achievement in physics by an undergraduate. He joins Nathan Hodas, class of 2004, S. Charles Doret, class of 2002, and Brian Gerke, class of 1999.

The Apker Award is presented to only two undergraduates each year – one from a Ph.D. granting institution and one from a non-Ph.D. granting institution.

Chudzicki is now a Ph.D. student in physics at MIT, in the Interdisciplinary Quantum Information Science and Engineering program. As an Apker recipient, Chudzicki will receive a $5,000 prize and a certificate citing his work. The college’s physics department will receive an award of $5,000 as well.

"That our students have so often been chosen as finalists and winners for this award speaks to the high quality of the scientific research done by Williams students,” said Kevin Jones, the William Edward McElfresh Professor of Physics and chair of the department. "The college has made a sustained effort to support student/faculty research in the sciences – not an inexpensive proposition – and that shows in the quality of students we recruit and the quality of the work they do while here. This external award is a nice affirmation of the success of our efforts in educating promising young scientists.”

Chudzicki's research, completed under the supervision of Assistant Professor of Physics Frederick Strauch, was a thesis on “Parallel Entanglement Distribution on Quantum Networks.” The work built upon research by Strauch and Bill Wootters, the Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy. In the summer of 2008, Chudzicki conducted research with Wootters, the results of which were published in "Physical Review Letters."

"Chris was one of the first students I met when I came to Williams, and he immediately struck me as amazing," Strauch said. "Working together on a year-long research project was immensely enjoyable. We posed and solved a question that I had been thinking about for some time, and seeing it come together was a reward in and of itself."

Strauch and Chudzicki developed a methodology to address how a particular quantum network could be used to distribute entanglement between users.

"Enabling different parts of a quantum computer to talk is very difficult because "quantum information" is very fragile, very easily disturbed, and very different from classical information," Chudzicki said. "Professor Strauch and I were working on a way to efficiently and faithfully send quantum information in parallel between different parts of a quantum computer."

The work was based on Strauch's studies of superconducting quantum circuits and was supported by a research grant from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

"I am very honored that Chris has received an Apker Award based on our study," Strauch said. "In this case, Chris brought his own impressive habit of clear, persistent thought to a problem that had never been solved. [He] was a natural researcher, whether it was through working on the computer, working at the board, or simply thinking hard."

"The research culture in the sciences at Williams, and physics in particular, is quite successful at bringing in students like Chris and giving them an opportunity to thrive that is very difficult to do at an undergraduate institution," Strauch said. "I see the Apker Award as honoring us all: the student, the advisor, the physics department, and the institution."
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