Canada (Simon Fraser University) SFU physicist one of six in Canada to receive prestigious national fellowship

SFU physics professor Stephanie Simmons has been recognized with a prestigious Arthur B. McDonald Fellowship, one of only six awarded nationally. The $250,000 fellowship is given by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to early-stage academic researchers who focus on the natural sciences and engineering, to support their research as they become leaders in their fields.

It’s the latest accolade for Simmons, who is already a world-leading expert in the development of quantum technologies. She holds a Canada Research Chair in Silicon Quantum Technologies, which was renewed (and renamed to the current title) this past summer. In late spring her breakthrough research in the development of quantum technology was published in the prestigious journal Nature.

“The whole world is now solidly in the information age – we have never had more abundant information access,” says Simmons, who spoke on behalf of awardees during the Oct. 25 ceremony. “Being a successful researcher today means curating and distilling information, of probing the edges of what information can do for us, of reprocessing this information into new critical knowledge.”

Quantum computing offers revolutionary capabilities, performing certain key tasks exponentially faster than the world’s top supercomputers. Simmons’ research focuses on developing cutting-edge silicon photonics, and their potential as a platform for ideal quantum processing and transmitting interfaces for future quantum networks.

Her lab in SFU’s Department of Physics was the first to search for high-performance silicon-based interfaces for quantum technologies. Her team has since developed an entirely novel platform—silicon telecom colour centres—that she believes will form the centerpiece of future global quantum technology.

Simmons has also had a voice in discussions on Canada’s quantum technology strategy and in other international consultative roundtables. Serving on multiple boards and committees, she is directly impacting government policy and investments in her field.

Simmons joined SFU in 2015 and along with professor emeritus Michael Thewalt, leads SFU’s Silicon Quantum Technology Lab, where she continues to work on producing a network of quantum computers able to solve difficult problems beyond the capability of today’s supercomputers.

In addition to her lab, Simmons works collaboratively with the Quantum Algorithms Institute (QAI), hosted at SFU, and with the federal government’s Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) mission on quantum communications networks in space. She was recently appointed to the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Quantum Technologies and she is the Chief Quantum Officer at Photonic Inc.

Her work has garnered multiple honours, including a Physics World Top Ten Breakthrough of the Year award in 2013 and 2015, and has been covered by the CBC, BBC, Wired Magazine, Scientific American, the New Scientist, and the New York Times.

“Now, when information is this rich and abundant, time is the most limited resource,” Simmons noted. “Distilling useful knowledge takes time – time to think clearly. That is the element which unites us all the most in the information age – we are all so short on time. It is the most precious of possible gifts, and the gift of time well spent will allow us to soar far beyond what we have already accomplished.”