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Pan Jianwei: legendary Chinese quantum scientist

(en.sh-italent.com)Updated : 2018-09-03

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Pan Jianwei, a leading Chinese quantum scientist. [Photo/sh-italent.cn]

I must return home and make a contribution for my country, said Pan Jianwei, a renowned Chinese physicist who is known as the "Father of Quantum Science in China".

Pan, born in a village of Zhejiang province in 1970, has won numerous awards and honors thanks to his outstanding scientific achievements.

His research was selected among the Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of the Year unveiled by US journal Science at the age of 27, and one of his papers was included in a collection of the most important discoveries in physics over the past century by Nature, when Pan was just 29.

He became a professor at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) at 31, was China's youngest academician at 41, and won first prize in the National Natural Science Award at 45.

However, Pan denies being a smart student and attributes his achievements to simply finding a path in life that suited his talents.

While he performed well at school, it was in physics where he really excelled.

It's a subject that I find easy, and I am attracted to how so many things can be deduced from a formula, he said.

In 1987, he was admitted into the physics department at USTC and has been concentrating on quantum physics ever since.

His academic journey continued at Austria's University of Innsbruck in 1996, where he completed a doctorate –– with Anton Zeilinger, the world's leading quantum physicist, as his PhD adviser.

While studying overseas, Pan never forgot his home country and dreamt of building a world-class quantum physics lab in China when he returned.

During vacations, he would go home and teach at USTC to share the latest developments in quantum physics, with the aim of getting more researchers interested in the field.

In 2001, Pan returned and built a physics and quantum information lab at the university, making the first move to realize his dream.

Later, he gathered a top scientific research team composed of top scientists such as Peng Chengzhi, Chen Yu'ao, and Chen Zengbin, and together they made a series of truly remarkable discoveries.

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Mozi, the world's first quantum satellite, is launched in August 2016. [Photo/sh-italent.cn] 

Pan and his team were responsible for one of China's most impressive technological achievements in August 2016 –– the launch of Mozi, the world's first quantum satellite.  

In May 2017, Pan and his teammates built the world's first quantum computing machine that outstripped the processing power of conventional computers, paving the way for the ultimate realization of quantum computing.

Pan's team continues to be at the forefront of the development of global quantum computing, but they are still dreaming of more.

"We are researching the entanglement of 50 quantum bits and hope to develop a quantum computer faster than current supercomputers within five years," enthused Pan.    

A quantum computer with 50 quantum bits would be more adept at solving quantum sampling problems than the fastest supercomputer currently available.

Despite his numerous honors and awards, Pan dislikes the public attention, feeling that people should pay more attention to science –– not personalities.

It is only the pursuit of scientific knowledge that truly makes me happy, said Pan.