"Their yet unidentified hidden power is fascinating."
Inspired by quantum physics
Who are you?
I am Mikko Möttönen, Docent, Academy Research Fellow and the head of the Quantum Computing and Devices (QCD) research group at the School of Science, Department of Applied Physics. My group is a part of the Centre of Excellence in Computational Nanoscience (COMP).
What was your childhood dream job?
I never really had one. As a child, I remember telling my mother, who was writing a PhD thesis at home and was not to be disturbed, that I would not become a poor researcher!
What was your first computer?
I was given a Commodore Vic-20 before I started school. I wrote some small programs, but mostly used it for gaming. I finally got a Commodore 128 in elementary school. It had a lot more memory than the Vic-20!
How did you end up in the Department of Applied Physics?
My sister was a student at the Helsinki University of Technology, and I decided to apply there after upper secondary school because I was keen on physics and mathematics. I chose the physics degree programme because it was so difficult to get admitted. I thought that only the best could get in.
How did you become a quantum computer scientist and the head of the QCD group?
I was doing my PhD in a research group headed by Professor Martti Salomaa at the Materials Physics Laboratory (MPL). My thesis dealt with quantum physics, but its topic was not associated with the quantum computer.
A friend completing a PhD in the same group showed me a problem associated with the quantum computer. We ended up publishing a few papers on quantum algorithms.
Professor Salomaa passed away two weeks before my thesis defence. The defence was nevertheless organised and my PhD thesis was accepted. I left for a research post at UC Berkeley, but returned after only six months because students at the MPL needed supervision.
At first, I had no research group of my own, but in October 2007 Professor Risto Nieminen decided to establish the new QCD research group within COMP. We started with just a few members, but our number will reach fifteen by next summer.
What is so fascinating about the quantum computer?
Quantum phenomena are complex, and it is not possible to understand all of the details associated with large quantum systems. Their yet unidentified hidden power is fascinating.
Text: Tea Kalska
Photo: Veera Lipasti
The original article has been published in the Aalto University Magazine issue 07.