Photo by Jean Lachat
Photo by Jean Lachat

Fred Chong, the Seymour Goodman Professor in Computer Science and the College, was one of five recipients of this year's Faculty Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring, one of the University's highest faculty honors.

There are few scientific frontiers more open and exciting these days than quantum computing. But how do students get a foothold in a field that is just taking flight, one that derives its potential from the outer boundaries of physics, computer science and mathematics?

In both Prof. Fred Chong’s graduate-level course on quantum computer systems and his research group, he gives students the confidence to leap into this fertile landscape, which Chong himself only started working in a decade into his research career.

“Someone once gave me the advice that being a faculty member is all about committing to doing things that you're not yet completely qualified to do,” Chong says. “Doing research is all about taking on areas that you’re going to have to learn more about and building your confidence.”

Chong makes intimidating concepts accessible by offering students multiple points of engagement: engineering physical devices, applying math to theory and algorithms, or developing new approaches for software.

“We have students from molecular engineering, physics and math, and computer science all taking my class, and that's a great thing, since quantum systems are really a synthesis of all these disciplines,” Chong says.

That interdisciplinary approach transfers to his lab, where he mentors 10 graduate students and two postdoctoral scholars. Each researcher is expected to oversee their own project, but also support each other’s work—from hardware to theory.

“I definitely give them a lot of room to run with the things they want to do,” Chong said. “There has never been a day that I did not think I was in the right job for me. My students can see that I really enjoy my work, and I think that has led many to become faculty and researchers.”

Read about the rest of the faculty award recipients at UChicago News.

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