Isaac Chuang, 30
IBM Almaden Research Center
Computers have been an industrial miracle for a couple of decades--becoming exponentially more powerful and cheaper. But miracles aren’t forever, and it will soon become impossible to continue this trend with the current silicon-based technology. One possible solution is an entirely new model for computing, "quantum computing," in which data are encoded in the quantum spin of atoms and molecules. But what is intriguing in theory can be difficult in practice; quantum computing is no exception. The creative leaders who can reduce the concept of quantum computing to practice may go down in the history of technology. Isaac Chuang might be one of them.
While still a graduate student at Stanford, Chuang was one of the developers of a basic, two-bit quantum computer. Since then he’s demonstrated that a quantum computer can run simple algorithms and perform database searches. He continues his work on the topic at IBM’s Almaden Research Center, trying to scale up quantum computing. Some think Chuang could be one of the ones to move from vision to reality in this field. "His omnivorous curiosity, mastery of so many levels of description, and profound contributions really are exceptional," says a collaborator, MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld. "If anyone is going to turn quantum computing into a reality, it will be Ike."