Today, the Blusson QMI community came together to honour the achievements of our members as part of UBC’s Fall 2023 graduation ceremony (November 22-24, 2023).

Image: Blusson QMI Investigator Alannah Hallas (left) receives a Killam Prize for Teaching from UBC Vancouver Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Dr. Gage Averill (centre), with UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Benoit-Antoine Bacon in the background (right).

“Congratulations to all students and faculty in our community for your incredible achievements. I’m immensely proud of our students’ dedication to unraveling the mysteries of quantum materials through their scientific pursuits. Additionally, I’m deeply inspired by our faculty, who have been recognized for excellence in training Canada’s next generation of quantum leaders,” said Blusson QMI Scientific Director Andrea Damascelli.

This Fall, Blusson QMI Investigator Alannah Hallas collected a Killam Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which is awarded annually to faculty nominated by students, colleagues and alumni. Blusson QMI Investigator Sarah Burke received a Killam Award for Excellence in Mentoring in 2022.

Another highlight was Rafael Haenel celebrating the completion of his PhD, making him the first graduate of the joint PhD program between UBC’s Blusson QMI, the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research and the University of Stuttgart.

“The joint PhD program does an excellent job of fostering a collaborative research environment. By creating conditions that allow students to interact with supervisors and researchers in two different institutions, it succeeds in broadening their horizons significantly,” said Blusson QMI Investigator Marcel Franz, who supervised Rafael’s research at UBC.

The joint PhD program offers unparalleled opportunities to study in the fields of quantum materials and quantum materials-based devices. The program’s highly collaborative nature exposes graduate students to a wide variety of topics in materials systems beyond their immediate research projects, enabling them to contribute to a rapidly evolving research frontier.

“During his joint PhD, Rafael worked on a wide range of projects spanning from applied physics to fundamental science. Working with Rafael and watching him grow as a scientist and a person has been a great privilege,” Franz said.

Now a Quantum Software Engineer at the quantum computing company Photonic, Rafael credits his PhD experience for providing a solid foundation.

Image (left to right): Alannah Hallas, Investigator; Andrea Damascelli, Scientific Director; Rafael Haenel, PhD graduate; Stepan Fomichev, PhD graduate; Mona Berciu, Investigator. Image by Paul Joseph.

“My current role involves doing quantum physics for half of the time and computer engineering in the other half, which is not too different from my work as a PhD student that also involved running numerical simulations and writing scientific codes,” said Rafael.

“As part of the joint PhD I got to spend time at both Blusson QMI in Vancouver and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, allowing me to participate in cutting-edge research at both institutions and interact with lots of people during summer schools and conferences.”

Although Rafael’s studies have been primarily focused on theory, he has made several forays into experimental physics and engineering during his joint PhD. Notably, he has designed and built an electrical circuit simulating a Chern insulator – a type of topological insulator that behaves as an insulator in its interior but conducts electricity along its edges or surfaces.

In another project, Rafael worked with Oguz Can (also a PhD student at Blusson QMI) to build a highly efficient Josephson diode – a superconducting electronic device with unique properties. Rafael and Oguz not only devised the idea but were also able to implement it as a practical design by participating in the workshop Build Your Own Superconducting Quantum Device organized jointly by Blusson QMI and CMC Microsystems. As a result, a chip now exists with the Josephson diode circuit imprinted on it and awaiting its test run.

Blusson QMI applauds the outstanding achievements of all students who graduated this Fall, including Anna Ciocoiu, Joshua Fabian, Stepan Fomichev, Katherine Herperger, Rafael Haenel, Dhruv Kush, Jared Popowski, Gaurav Tenkila, Donald Witt and Oliver Yam.