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NEWS | Oct. 11, 2013

Dr. Sophia Economou Honored with NRL Sigma Xi Young Investigator Award

By Donna McKinney

Dr. Sophia Economou, a research physicist in the Electronics Science and Technology Division at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), is a recipient of the 2013 Young Investigator Award from the NRL Edison Chapter of the Sigma Xi scientific research society. Sigma Xi's Young Investigator Award recognizes scientists for outstanding research within 10 years of their highest earned degree and their ability to communicate their research to the public. Dr. Economou is recognized for developing novel techniques to control coherently spins in quantum dot nanostructures.

Dr. Economou received her bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Crete (Greece) and then her master's degree in physics from the University of California, San Diego. She went on to complete her doctorate in physics at University of California, San Diego, under the supervision of Professor Lu J. Sham. Dr. Economou was awarded an NRC Research Associateship and came to NRL in 2006. Then in 2009 she became a member of the permanent staff at NRL, joining an active group in work on spins in quantum dots for implementations of quantum information.

In her work at NRL, Dr. Economou has developed novel theoretical concepts and tools for the coherent control of semiconductor nanostructure systems such as quantum dots. The ability to control quantum systems coherently is at the heart of new quantum technologies in the vibrant field of Quantum Information Processing around the world. There is a strong tradition of semiconductor physics and quantum information work in NRL's Electronics Science and Technology Division, and Dr. Economou has introduced a new component, her expertise in coherent control. Her theoretical designs form a new paradigm that experiments in this field are using to perform spin manipulations, which are the basic logic gates in this new kind of information processing. This work has enabled the fundamental and often abstract theoretical ideas of quantum information to be implemented in real systems in simple and experimentally intuitive ways.

The spin degree of freedom of carriers confined in nanostructures holds great promise for new information processing technologies, such as spintronics and quantum computing. The viability of these technologies requires a high degree of control of the spin, using external electromagnetic fields, while preventing the quantum information carried by the spins to leak into the environment. One of Dr. Economou's main contributions was to design new control protocols that implement fast and precise spin manipulation, greatly increasing the amount of processing that can be performed before the information is lost to the environment. Her designs have quickly become a standard tool in the experimental community owing to their effectiveness and simplicity. She has also developed a new theoretical formalism for treating and understanding dynamical nuclear polarization in these systems, where nuclear spins comprise a spin bath to which information can be lost. With Dr. Economou's theory, the spin bath can be engineered so that information losses are prevented.

Dr. Economou's accomplishments have been recognized by publications in prominent journals, by two NRL Post Doc Best Paper Awards, and by a number of invited talks in conferences and universities. Her work has also attracted considerable attention by leading experimental and theoretical groups around the world, and she has established collaborations with several of them.

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