Michel Devoret, a world-renowned physicist, will soon leave his hometown of Paris to work side-by-side with the Applied Physics Department in Becton Laboratory.
Currently working at Saclay, a government laboratory in a suburb of Paris, Devoret will join the department in January, physics professor Steven Girvin said. Girvin accepted Yale’s offer just after Devoret did, but has already joined the department.
The recipient of several international awards, Devoret specializes in mesoscopic physics, which is the study of matter that is larger than atoms yet smaller than visible objects. Recently, Devoret has contributed to experiments dealing with the development of a quantum computer. If successful, such a computer could solve problems and crack codes exponentially faster than current machines.
“Michel Devoret is one of the most outstanding physicists studying small quantum systems,” Physics Department chairman Ramamurti Shankar said. “People thought there was no use in pursuing him because he’s so pre-eminent.”
In a letter addressed to Douglas Stone, chairman of Applied Physics, an undisclosed Nobel laureate wrote that Devoret’s status in the world of physics would make it difficult for Yale to land him.
But after an extended stay at Yale two years ago, Devoret told the department this summer he would join it, Stone said.
“He’s one of the most sought-after physicists, in any field, in the whole world,” Stone said. “I think people are stunned that he’s coming to Yale.”
Girvin said the appointment has attracted much positive attention for the department.
“A lot of other people were very impressed that Yale was able to land Devoret,” Girvin said.
Applied physics professor Nicholas Read said one of the most challenging aspects of the process was convincing Devoret to join an institution in the United States.
“The main issue was that he was a Frenchman living in Paris,” Read said. “It’s a marvelous place to be, so to get him to leave Paris was quite a challenge.”
Girvin said Devoret’s acceptance influenced his own decision to come to Yale in the fall, after receiving offers from several other institutions, including Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University.
“The fact that he was coming made Yale all the more tempting for me,” he said. “My decision was partly based on the fact that [Devoret] had already accepted.”
Because the two have common interests and overlapping projects, Girvin said he is excited to work with Devoret this winter.
“He’s an experimentalist, and I’m a theoretician,” Girvin said. “He’s very much a world leader in this field, and I enjoy interacting with experimentalists, so I’m really looking forward to his arrival.”
Shankar said these two new appointments will greatly bolster the reputation of both the Physics and Applied Physics departments.
“We expect these two guys to really put us on top,” Shankar said. “These people are not only world-class, but they have common interests. So between them, they’ll do unprecedented things.”