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The Globe and Mail

Michele Mosca, 39: set up quantum computing department

MICHELE MOSCA, Deputy director, co-founder, Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo.

University of Waterloo

Each year, Caldwell Partners International chooses 40 Canadians who were under 40 in the past year to honour for their outstanding achievements. Click here to learn more about the program, and find more winners in the list below.

The simple reality is that most people don't understand what Michele Mosca does. But what he does will greatly affect how we do everything from banking and sending e-mail to applying for a passport.

Dr. Mosca is a founder and deputy director of the Institute for Quantum Computing, an interdisciplinary facility dedicated to figuring out how quantum theory can be applied to create exponentially more powerful computers and programs.

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A math graduate from the University of Waterloo, which today houses the institute, Dr. Mosca went to Oxford University in the United Kingdom for graduate studies in quantum computer algorithms.

"I was interested in it because I'd be able to join a leading classic cryptography department," he says. "When I left Canada in 1995, there were major funding cuts. It wasn't clear I'd be able to come back to Canada and have a job."

That funding problem began to turn around in the late-'90s. He was lured back to the University of Waterloo by the opportunity to set up a new quantum computing department. He set out to re-create the environment he'd loved at Oxford.

"If you want to do quantum computing, you have to be interdisciplinary," he says. "We use tools from math, physics, chemistry and engineering to make the whole. I wanted to not only work on the mathematical aspects, but also to apply them and work with the physicists. At Oxford I benefited from the broad range of experts around me."

In 2000, he also learned about plans for the Perimeter Institute, the university's now-famous home for theoretical physics research, backed by BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis. The Institute for Quantum Computing became a parallel research institute and Mr. Lazaridis provided a matching grant, which to date has provided the centre with more than $100-million in funding.

In addition to establishing the institute and its guiding principles, Dr. Mosca recently helped set up a new, collaborative graduate program in quantum information, together with six other graduate programs. This allows, for example, a student to earn a PhD in computer science with a specialization in quantum information, a program that is attracting students from around the world.

Dr. Mosca also spends a great deal of time on recruiting and considers himself lucky to be able to hand-pick his colleagues. Today, the institute has 17 faculty, about 80 students, 20 post-doctoral students and 20 staff.

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More winners:

  • Karen Bakker, 39
  • Keith Bilous, 39
  • Leonard Brody, 39
  • Naman Budhdeo, 38
  • Michael Burns, 39
  • Craig Campbell, 34
  • Norie Campbell, 39
  • Jody Campeau, 39
  • Cody Church, 39
  • Brian Coombes, 36
  • Matthew Corrin, 29
  • Frederick Dryden, 39
  • Dominic Giroux, 35
  • Deirdre Horgan, 38
  • Kyle Jeworski, 36
  • Nicholas Johnson, 38
  • Dr. Kirsten Johnson, 39
  • Kevin Li, 39
  • Stewart Lyons, 37
  • Muhammad Mamdani, 39
  • Andy McCreath, 35, and Christian Darbyshire, 35
  • Calvin McDonald, 39
  • Duke McKenzie, 35
  • Glori Meldrum, 37
  • Michele Mosca, 39
  • Suresh Narine, 39
  • Sean O'Reilly, 36
  • John Poulos, 36
  • Andrew Reid, 34
  • Gregory Roberts, 38
  • Angela Santiago, 39
  • Bradley Schwartz, 39
  • Leerom Segal, 31
  • Som Seif, 34
  • Natasha Sharpe, 39
  • Andrew Smith, 38
  • Steve Sousa, 39
  • Marie-Pier St-Hilaire, 33
  • David Vocadlo, 37
  • Nolan Watson, 31
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