Meet the Intern: Ali Eshaghian Dorche Discusses Photonics and Quantum Computing

Ali, please tell us about your background and field of study.

I’m currently pursuing my Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, with a major in integrated photonics and a minor in physics and business development (technology ventures).  I obtained both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering with a major in nanophotonics from Sharif University of Technology.

Can you tell us more about photonics and how it relates to your work at PARC?

If you look at the building blocks for the everyday electronic devices that we use, such as cell phones and laptops, their functionality is based on the flow of charge carriers (electrons), which are small atomic particles that enable information transmission across the device circuitry. With photonics, we’re using a different approach which involves the use of photons. Photons are the smallest particles that make up light. The key advantage to using light is greater processing speed and computational power for our electronic devices.

I’m working on two projects during my internship at PARC. Firstly, I’m designing integrated photonics-based circuitry for the Group III Nitride (AlGaN) semiconductor platform that could be used to generate wideband optical signals within the ultraviolet (UV) and near visible spectrum. This novel approach would allow us to make optical devices such as compact atomic clocks that operate with much higher precision.

Secondly, I’m looking at using integrated photonics to enhance capabilities in quantum computing. Presently, there is a basic framework established for quantum computers. Our goal is to go beyond the current limitations to improve computational performance.

What exactly is quantum computing and what are some of its applications?

Whereas traditional computing processes and stores data in the form of bits that alternate between 0 and 1, quantum computing uses quantum bits or qubits, which can exist in two states simultaneously and interact with each other through a unique property called entanglement. This allows quantum computers to process massive and complex datasets more efficiently than traditional computers to perform specific tasks.

Quantum computing opens the door for a whole new set of complex problems that we can solve, yet there is still much to be discovered on its potential applications, since many algorithms have not been developed. This new kind of computing is expected to show its significance in certain fields, namely artificial intelligence (AI). There are also applications for quantum optics to produce ultra-secure communications that would enhance cybersecurity and cryptography. Drug discovery and genomics are some other potential applications for quantum computing.

The integrated photonics and quantum computing markets are not very developed at the moment. However, we expect that they will grow exponentially over the next few years.

What do you enjoy most about your internship?

The internship at PARC fits very well with my background in integrated photonics and it gives me the opportunity to collaborate with others who specialize in this field. Also, the atmosphere at PARC lends itself to brainstorming and bringing new ideas to the table. At the same time, there is a strong emphasis on ideas that translate into practical business applications and new market opportunities.

What inspired you to pursue a career in science and research?

I’ve always had a curiosity for learning how things work and how to solve problems, which I think stems from my parents. Growing up, I didn’t have easy access to the Internet. My father would take me to the local library and show me how to go through archived articles and research various subjects.

Are you enjoying your stay in California so far?

Yes, it is very nice! I especially like the Bay Area because of its entrepreneurial spirit. People are open to taking risks and investing in novel ideas.

The other day I was walking down the street and the guys next to me were having a discussion about lasers and optical devices. I was both surprised and delighted to hear a technical conversation that touched upon my own field of work during a leisurely walk.

If you designed your own quantum computer, what problem would you want it to solve?

Considering the potential capabilities of future quantum computers, I am passionate about using such a technology for biomedical applications where information processing is vital to designing efficient, or even customized medicine for each patient. We could use these advancements to reduce costs in treatments and save more lives.

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