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Physicist receives Humboldt Research Award

Queen’s professor garners competitive international research honour.

Queen’s University physicist Stephen Hughes has been awarded the Humboldt Research Award, also known as the Humboldt Prize, which is granted to a maximum of 100 recipients worldwide, across all disciplines, each year.

The award recognizes Hughes’ significant contributions to optics and nanophotonics research, including quantum nanophotonics, research that is on the cutting edge of new quantum information technologies that work by manipulating light particles called photons.

The award, and a cash prize of 60,000 euros, is given to those whose research discoveries have had a significant impact on their own discipline, and winners are invited to spend up to one year in Germany cooperating on long-term research projects with specialist colleagues at research institutions in the country.

Dr. Hughes joins several Queen’s Humboldt Research Award laureates, including 2017 winner Tucker Carrington (Chemistry).

“A competitive international honour, the Humboldt Research Award recognizes researchers at the peak of their careers.” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “My sincere congratulations to Dr. Hughes and his team.”

During his time in Germany, Dr. Hughes will be working with nominator Andreas Knorr, and his group, at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, Technical University of Berlin. Dr. Knorr’s research team is one of the leading groups in the world in nonlinear optics and quantum electronics of nanostructured solids. Along with several planned trips to Germany over the next few years, Dr. Hughes will welcome Dr. Knorr to Queen’s for a six-week research stay in 2019.

“In my field of research, collaboration is essential, and the level of research going on in Germany is really world class,” says Dr. Hughes. “We will be able tackle several projects together that are particularly exciting and timely, mainly in the field of quantum nanophotonics and extreme quantum optics – which hold much promise for fundamental discoveries as well as emerging technologies. I am very grateful to Dr. Knorr and other colleagues in Germany for the nomination.”

One of the open questions for theoretical physicists in this field is how to quantize light in such extreme nanoscale geometries, and Dr. Hughes and Dr. Knorr have already initiated such a project together that could have a telling impact on fundamental quantum optics and emerging applications in quantum technologies. Just as electronic computers had world-changing effects in the last century, Dr. Hughes says he is confident that fundamental photonics research and emerging quantum technologies will have the same effect in the coming century.

The award will help to showcase Queen’s international research portfolio in optics and nanophotonics and will also advance the university’s goal of increased international collaboration in research. For instance, in addition to partnership with the Technical University of Berlin, Dr. Hughes will also collaborate with researchers at the Humboldt University of Berlin, and the Technical University of Munich. The Humboldt Research Award will also play a key role in boosting the profile of the recent Canada Foundation for Innovation-funded Queen’s Nanophotonics Research Centre.

For more information on the award, visit the website.