Heriot-Watt University is delighted to congratulate Alain Aspect, John F Clauser and Anton Zeilinger, for winning this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics.
Professor Aspect received an Honorary Doctorate from the University in 2008 while two Heriot-Watt academics have worked with Professor Zeilinger in the past.
The Prize was awarded to the trio for their pioneering research in quantum physics and photonics, probing the fundamental laws of nature, but also laying the foundation for quantum technology which will lead to next-generation computers, sensors, and secure communication systems.
Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, said: “My sincere congratulations go to this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics, with a special mention for Professor Aspect and Professor Zeilinger who have long-standing and strong ties with this University.
“Their collective impact on the field of quantum physics and photonics opens a new chapter in future technologies for sensing, computing and communications, offering exciting opportunities for individuals and companies in future innovation and enterprise.”
Professor Alessandro Fedrizzi and Professor Mehul Malik from Heriot-Watt’s physics department, worked in Professor Zeilinger’s research group for many years.
Following the announcement of the Nobel Prize winners, the science journal, Nature, published a collection of research papers to highlight their key achievements and some advances they helped inspire. This included four papers by Professor Malik that he authored with Professor Zeilinger as well as independently at Heriot-Watt, and another by Professor Fedrizzi when he was working on his PhD with Professor Zeilinger.
Reflecting on his time with the Nobel Laureate, Professor Malik, said: “The five years that I spent working with Anton in Vienna have had a profound impact on my own research in Quantum Technologies at Heriot-Watt. Perhaps the most important thing I learned from him was to not only appreciate the beauty that lies within Physics, but to actively pursue it with all of one’s passion."
Professor Fedrizzi also shared fond memories of working with Professor Zeilinger, adding: “I remember a press conference, in which Anton Zeilinger was asked why we had done a particular research project. He answered, 'because it was fun’. That’s the most enduring lesson I learned from him—not all research needs an immediate application, we should be led by our curiosity instead. The applications will follow, one way or another."
Heriot-Watt University has a strong track-record in photonics and quantum technologies, and earlier this year was recognised with the highest honour in UK education, the Queen’s Anniversary Prize, for its research in Photonics. This was bolstered further when Heriot-Watt’s expertise in quantum technology was singled out as a key contributor towards the University being named the best in Scotland for research in physics in the influential Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.
This work has contributed real practical and economic benefits, achieved by working closely with industry and business, and by supporting students in undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral degree programmes.