Computer scientist Scott Aaronson of The University of Texas at Austin has been selected as a 2017 Simons Investigator in Theoretical Computer Science by the Simons Foundation for his work in quantum computation.
The Simons Investigator program is designed to support outstanding scientists during their most productive years, when they are establishing creative new research directions, providing leadership to the field and effectively mentoring junior scientists. Awardees receive substantial research support of $100,000 per year for a period of five years, with the possibility of renewal for an additional five years if their work shows scientific promise. An additional $10,000 per year is provided to the Investigator's department.
Aaronson is the second theoretical computer scientist from UT Austin in two years to receive the prestigious designation. David Zuckerman, also a professor in the department, was one of two Simons Investigators in computer science in 2016. UT Austin is the only public university to have more than one computer scientist named a Simons Investigator in Theoretical Computer Science (the other institutions with more than one are Harvard, Stanford and MIT).
Much of Aaronson's recent research has concerned developing tasks that should theoretically be easy for quantum computers, but difficult for conventional computers, and that might be doable in the near future. Google and IBM have both announced plans to work toward this "quantum supremacy"—an as-yet-unattained milestone—within the next few years.Aaronson, together with his students, have proposed some of the main examples of quantum supremacy experiments, and proven the difficulty of simulating them with conventional computers.
Aaronson received his bachelor's from Cornell University and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley before proceeding to postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University as well as the University of Waterloo. Before coming to UT Austin, he spent nine years as a professor in electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His first book, Quantum Computing Since Democritus, was published in 2013 by Cambridge University Press. He's received the National Science Foundation's Alan T. Waterman Award, the United States Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and MIT's Junior Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The Simons Foundation was founded by Jim and Marilyn Simons in 1994 to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences.