Interview with Teiko Heinosaari: A Quantum Unconference

teiko heinosaari headshotTeiko Heinosaari  is currently a researcher at the Turku Centre for Quantum Physics, University of Turku, Finland. He was recently involved in the organisation of a Quantum ‘Unconference’, described as a participant-driven meeting where the emphasis is on discussion instead of presentations. Heinosaari is a theoretical physicist with interests in mathematics and quantum theory. We are pleased that he has also recently joined the journals advisory panel.


1. Your work broadly covers quantum theory; what are you more specifically interested in?

My research is theoretical research on quantum measurements and quantum information. In a wider perspective, I am interested in conceptual foundations and the mathematical structure of quantum theory. On a more specific level, my typical research topics are related to some properties or relations of quantum observables, instruments and channels. A general question that inspires my research is: What is possible and what is impossible in quantum world?

2. What are you currently working on?

Two topics that most of my research is currently related to are limited information quantum tomography and quantum incompatibility. The latter topic is explained in a topical review article: An Invitation to Quantum Incompatibility, that I have recently written with my colleagues, Takayuki Miyadera and Mario Ziman, and that will be published in JPhysA.

3. You have just been involved in organising the Quantum Unconference 2015 in Lapland. Could you explain the purpose of an ‘Unconference’? What were your highlights?

I believe that many scientists have been in a conference where coffee breaks were the best part of the event in a scientific sense. That does not necessarily mean that talks were bad, but sometimes a free discussion with a bunch of colleagues that you don’t meet so often can be very fruitful. The idea of our Unconference was to reverse the structure of a conference and spend most of the time in team working. I think we all enjoyed the intensive period that was just devoted to research. Perhaps the highlight was the exceptionally strong aurora that we were lucky to see on two of the evenings.

4. How were the topics chosen in the Unconference?

We wanted to get participants involved in planning the event as much as possible. On the first evening, anyone could propose a topic or open problem and briefly explain it to others. We got more than ten proposals and then we had a couple of hours for free discussion on these topics. In the end, everyone chose his/her topic and four teams were formed. The topics were related to quantum phase transition, open quantum dynamics, dilations of quantum channels and quantum observables. The Unconference was a relatively short and intensive event. We arrived at the venue on Thursday evening and left for the airport early on Sunday morning, so we had only two full days to work on the topics. One additional day could have been good, but the limited time made everybody to work vigorously.

5. Why was the Unconference organised in Lapland, above the polar circle? 

Naturally, it was an exotic place for most of the participants and gave an extra spark to our working atmosphere. Next time I would organise this kind of event in some remote and isolated place where it is easy for everyone to forget everything else but quantum physics and concentrate on discussions with the other participants. And definitely you need daily trip to a Finnish sauna to have a successful Unconference!


TH night sky

‘Perhaps the highlight was the exceptionally strong aurora that we were lucky to see on two of the evenings.’

TH group

A group picture from the Unconference











CC-BY logoThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Images courtesy of Teiko Heinosaari.



Categories: Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical, JPhys+

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