SFU physicist Stephanie Simmons is pictured in 2019 with Alexander Kurkjian, left, and Kevin Morse.

Awards and recognition

SFU physics professor recognized as Top 40 Under 40 in Canada

October 29, 2020
Stephanie Simmons

By Diane Mar-Nicolle

Stephanie Simmons’ quest to build the world’s first large-scale universal quantum computer is gaining attention.

Simmons already has two Physics World ‘Top Ten Breakthroughs of the Year’ and numerous patents under her belt. Now she is included in Caldwell Partners’ Top 40 Under 40 list of outstanding Canadian leaders and innovators who have made significant impacts in their fields before the age of 40.

Top 40 is a national awards program that shines the spotlight on many successful Canadian notables. Alumni include hundreds of nationally and internationally prominent leaders and entrepreneurs. This year, Simmons and her peers were selected from more than 900 nominees by an independent advisory board of more than 25 business leaders from across Canada.

Simmons is engaged in a global race to create the world’s first large-scale quantum computer. Her innovative idea that spin/photon interfaces in silicon—the very backbone of modern telecommunications and computation—could provide the missing ingredient for creating a global quantum network, is attracting global interest.

High-quality quantum systems will support tasks that are otherwise impossible for current and even future supercomputers to carry out, based upon classical physics.

“The rules of quantum mechanics are so different and so exciting,” says Simmons. “The exponential computational capacity of quantum computers opens up a whole new world.

“Once a scalable quantum architecture is available—and that’s what our team is closing in on— so many hard problems will become efficiently solvable. Drug discovery, financial modelling, cybersecurity, material modelling, artificial intelligence, you name it. We’re unleashing a branch of physics.”

Simmons founded Photonic Inc. in 2016 as the pathway for commercializing the spin-photon-based quantum architecture developed at her Silicon Quantum Technology Lab at SFU. The B.C.-based company, where Simmons serves as the chief quantum officer, is building a world-class team to tackle the challenge of achieving scalable quantum computing—and ultimately quantum services—in the near term.

Simmons is an assistant professor in SFU’s Department of Physics and holds a Canada Research Chair in Quantum Nanoelectronics. She is also a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Fellow in Quantum Information Science.