National Science Foundation Honors Isaac Kim with CAREER Award


National Science Foundation Honors Isaac Kim with CAREER Award

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Isaac Kim has received the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development, or NSF CAREER, Award.  

The CAREER Award is offered to early-career faculty who demonstrate the potential to act as academic role models in research and education by performing innovative research at the forefront of their field and through their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM.   

Kim's research focuses on how easy or hard it is to simulate and predict properties of quantum mechanical systems. By leveraging the insights from quantum computation and information theory, Kim aims to develop novel methods that can accurately predict the properties of strongly entangled quantum mechanical systems.  

In entangled quantum mechanical systems, the properties of two or more particles become so interdependent that the state of one particle instantly affects the other regardless of how far apart they are. This instantaneous correlation challenges traditional notions of locality. Predicting the properties of the systems in which they reside can be extremely difficult for classical computers.   

"The presence of quantum entanglement, historically, has posed a significant challenge in characterizing and understanding such systems," said Kim. "The computational cost for characterizing and predicting properties of such systems can scale exponentially with the number of particles, which can be prohibitively expensive." 

With this NSF CAREER Award, Kim will be exploring what he calls the "entanglement bootstrap program," a research program that aims to explicate the subtle structure within the entanglement between many particles.  

Kim expects this approach will make many long-standing open problems in this area more tractable. Problems like "How do we learn and predict properties of quantum many-body systems efficiently?" and "How can we classify such systems," Kim notes, converge into a single, more solvable problem under the umbrella of the entanglement bootstrap program.  

The NSF CAREER Award is both validating for Kim for dedicating years to the topic and a gratifying opportunity to continue on the current path.  

"I've always felt that the success of my research program would be a long shot because the underlying problem we are trying to solve is so challenging," said Kim. "The fact that my collaborators and I are overcoming these challenges is exciting. Getting a CAREER award for this is icing on the cake."  

Kim joins Harishankar Maninkantan, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, as the second College of Engineering faculty member to win an NSF CAREER Award this year.