Henry Yuen Wins NSF CAREER Award

The theoretical computer scientist will use the award to push the boundaries of quantum information science.

Feb 10 2022 | By Ellen Neff
Headshot of Henry Yuen

Henry Yuen, assistant professor of computer science

Henry Yuen, assistant professor of computer science, has won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to advance quantum information science. With the five-year, $675,000 grant, awarded to junior faculty in support of early-career development, Yuen will advance and connect multiple facets of quantum information theory, theoretical computer science, and pure mathematics. The work will help solve fundamental problems and has applications in areas including quantum device validation and quantum cryptography.

Yuen, who joined Columbia Engineering in January 2021, and his group are developing theoretical foundations that explain the difference between classical computers and emerging quantum computers, which could exponentially speed up computer calculations. At the heart of quantum computers are quantum bits, or qubits, which take advantage of two quantum properties: superposition, which means qubits can exist in multiple states simultaneously rather than a binary one or zero; and entanglement, wherein multiple qubits can become intrinsically linked with one another and share a single, larger quantum state.

The NSF CAREER Award will really help support my group’s pursuits of fascinating questions that jump between computer science, math, and physics.

Henry Yuen
assistant professor of computer science

The award will support Yuen’s development of verification protocols that will advance entanglement theory and help researchers verify that quantum computers are behaving as intended. He will also explore broader mathematical applications related to quantum entanglement and his recent noteworthy proof, MIP* = RE. Advancing techniques used in that proof, which shows that quantum entanglement can be used to solve enormously complex problems, will help researchers answer previously unsolved questions in an area of pure mathematics known as operator algebras. Finally, Yuen proposes a new direction in theoretical computer science called noncommutative property testing, which will take property testing, a well-studied subject in classical computing, into the quantum realm.

“The NSF CAREER Award will really help support my group’s pursuits of fascinating questions that jump between computer science, math, and physics,” said Yuen.

The award will also support Yuen’s outreach efforts, which include summer mentoring of undergraduate students, engagement with Columbia’s Engineering Speaks high school outreach program, and the production of Nonlocal, a quantum-themed podcast for a quantum-curious public audience.