Jyrki Piilo: quantum memory and quantum systems

We talk to Dr Jyrki Piilo from the Non-Markovian Processes and Complex Systems group at Turku Centre for Quantum Physics about his work, the future of his field and his advice for a younger generation of scientists.

Q: Which research projects are you and your group currently working on?

In my group, we are mostly working on projects which deal with open quantum systems including how memory effects influence their dynamics. The projects cover fundamental aspects of how small quantum systems lose their quantum properties by interacting with their environments. This is combined with features allowing the quantum systems to regain their earlier lost properties by non-Markovian memory effects. For applications, we are interested in how to protect and improve quantum information protocols by exploiting memory effects, and also how to construct quantum simulators by controlling how open systems interact with their environments within specific optical platforms. We are also interested in using genuine complex networks in a quantum physical context and exploring the possibilities these provide for the developments in quantum dynamics. Even though not directly related to physics, I am also involved with some general complex system and financial market experts, and political scientists, in number crunching projects on complex socio-economic systems and classical networks.

Q: What motivated you to pursue this field of research?

Quantum physics and dynamics are extremely fascinating areas which keep providing very stimulating research problems on fundamental aspects of nature and also on how to design robust schemes to use quantum features for applications. For open system dynamics, and the concept of memory and non-Markovianity, one might be tempted to state that if the past influences what happens at the current moment of time, then memory effects influence the system dynamics. In contrast to classical processes, quantum processes with coherences, superpositions, correlations, and measurements influencing quantum states, this innocent looking statement and problem setting becomes highly nontrivial. And yet again demonstrates the rich and surprising features of quantum systems and dynamics. Moreover, developing a comprehensive understanding in this field requires the use of analytical, numerical, and simulation tools helping to keep the mind open for new perspectives and ideas.

Q: Where do you think the field is heading?

During the last 10 years, there has been tremendous theoretical progress in understanding how decoherence, recoherence, and in particular non-Markovian memory effects appear and influence quantum dynamics. Even though the first experiments controlling memory effects appeared already about 5 years ago, so far experiments have mostly been done by using photons. As far as I see it, this is starting to change and wider variety of physical platforms are becoming available both for fundamental tests and applications. This is also important because of the ubiquitous role that quantum properties and their control, play no matter what is the physical system at hand. A major part of the recent results originate from open quantum system community and I expect that this progress will also influence the research of other communities since there is now increasing number of general theoretical and practical tools available to study decoherence and memory effects. Recent progress has been a fascinating interplay between formal mathematical problems and more practical and applied approaches. Considering the increasing complexity of the problems one faces when dealing with non-Markovian open systems, I hope and expect that this fruitful interplay between various approaches continues. Going beyond open systems, I am very curious to see if and what kind of developments are possible when merging aspects from highly successful multidisciplinary field of complex networks and quantum physics.

Q: If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be?

In the dream world beyond various limitations the optimal choice would be a highly skillful and successful reggae musician.

Q: What advice would give to young scientists?

As far as I see it, perhaps the most important ingredient is the passion for science and discovery. However, at the same time it is worth keeping in mind that pursuing a life as scientist requires several other features that one needs to pay attention to and cultivate. Most often science requires large amount of patience and also resilience due to its competitive nature. Science is suppose to be objective but its progress is designed by human beings. Therefore, it requires the ability to listen to opposing arguments, figuring out if and how these influence one’s own scientific thinking, and trying to make objective observations from your own work and those of others. I do not think that coming up with a significant idea or results necessarily requires overly complicated initial idea or approach. However, the challenge is to identify which one of those ideas are actually correct, have potential, and can eventually lead to significant impact on research.


On behalf of JPhys+ I would like to thank Dr Piilo for answering our questions and for a fascinating discussion.

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Image 1: copyright Jyrki Piilo; used with permission.

Categories: Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics

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