Quantum technologies can revolutionise healthcare and the way we produce energy and food

Working alongside computer scientists, philosophers, neuroscientists, game developers and teachers pushes professor Sabrina Maniscalco to think outside the box.

What are your research topics?

My field of research is quantum science and technologies, in a very broad sense. My team studies both very foundational questions of quantum physics such as the nature of reality, consciousness and the origin of life, and more applied aspects such as quantum technologies and how they will revolutionise our society.

I love the fact that this is a truly interdisciplinary research field: I have collaborations with computer scientists, philosophers, neuroscientists, game developers, teachers, chemists, and many others. Since quantum physics is the fundamental theory describing our universe, we study the interface between this theory and several other disciplines. This is very relevant now because we have reached a level of technological development that allows us to manipulate and engineer the behaviour of individual constituents of matter and energy with extreme precision.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

Quantum technologies will change our society in a profound way, since they promise to make currently impossible computational tasks possible. More precisely, we do know that there are certain problems that computers cannot solve efficiently because they would either run out of memory or require extremely long execution times – times longer than the age of the universe – as the size of the problems to solve increases.

Quantum computers could resolve this bottleneck and therefore have a groundbreaking impact, for example, in AI, computational chemistry and drug development, as well as in the engineering of new materials and new fertilisers.

For each of these fields, we could devise solutions to the greatest challenges that humanity is facing, from climate action to sustainable production and consumption, from healthcare to the energy problem. It’s really exciting to realise that the potential impact is so huge. 

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

I am truly passionate about my job. I love the creative challenge coming from the fact that it requires collaboration with people coming from many different fields. I am very excited about the idea that the results we are obtaining within the scientific community can have a profound impact. Most of all I love the fact that quantum physics is so incredibly fascinating and bizarre compared to our everyday life experience. It pushes me to think outside the box and stimulate my creative mind in wonderful ways.

Every day I am in touch with the incredible wonders of nature, trying to solve some of the mysteries of the universe in which we live. This fills me with awe and inspiration. It’s like looking at a beautiful landscape, only we do it through the eyes of mathematical and physical equations. Nevertheless, the feelings of beauty and peace that this experience gives us are the same.

Sabrina Maniscalco is a professor of quantum information and logic at the Faculty of Science.

Watch Sabrina Maniscalco’s inaugural lecture as a new professor on 26.5. on YouTube.

Read about the other newly appointed professors here.