Daniel Gottesman, 33
Works to improve quantum computers so they can speed drug design and perform other massive computing tasks
Daniel Gottesman is increasing the chances of building quantum computers that could solve certain large-scale computing problems much faster than current-day machines. Atomic particles can exist in many states at once, and if those states can be controlled, they could provide far more computational power than the simple on-off states of electronic bits. The problem is that quantum computer elements are highly susceptible to errors. While a grad student at Caltech, Gottesman helped develop a systematic method for correcting those errors, thereby stabilizing quantum computers. His methods are used worldwide by researchers designing the first rudimentary quantum machines. Now a research scientist at the Perimeter Institute, a nonprofit research facility in Waterloo, Ontario, Gottesman is writing protocols that will use quantum mechanics to provide extremely secure data encryption codes- in part because quantum computers will be powerful enough to break current encryption codes. Although practical quantum computers are still years away, Gottesman says their computational speed could “revolutionize” the design of drugs and new materials such as high-temperature superconductors.