Spotlight on new faculty: Wolfgang Pfaff, Quantum Physics

Jessica Raley for Illinois Physics

Professor Wolfgang Pfaff works in the laboratory of the QuTech/Microsoft collaboration at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.
Professor Wolfgang Pfaff works in the laboratory of the QuTech/Microsoft collaboration at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.

Professor Wolfgang Pfaff

Wolfgang Pfaff is a quantum information physicist who will join the University of Illinois at the end of Fall 2020. His research focuses on developing ways to transfer quantum information between superconducting qubits, as well as trying to understand how quantum information might be communicated by cable in networks of multiple chips. Wolfgang is well aware of the ongoing race to build quantum computers and hopeful about their future potential. However, he is even more excited about the fundamental questions that physicists may be able to answer as a result of developing these machines. He wants to know, “What are the limits of artificial quantum systems?” We don’t yet know how large we can make devices, how many chips could be included in the system, or how much noise they could potentially tolerate. Wolfgang thinks that twenty years from now we may or may not have built a machine that lives up to the hype around quantum computing, but through this research, “we will have learned to what extremes we can push quantum mechanical machines, and that’s what [he is] really excited about.” 

Wolfgang will be seeking graduate and undergraduate students to work in his lab starting at the end of the Fall 2020 semester. Please contact him directly at if you are interested in joining his research group.

Recent News

  • In the Media

Walking to school as a child, UC San Diego visiting professor Smitha Vishveshwara asked her father, a black hole physicist, what he did for a living.

“He’d say, ‘Oh, I show that you can’t really kick a black hole.’ He’d be very playful,” said Vishveshwara, who lives in Solana Beach. “What he really meant was that he showed that black holes were stable entities.”

Through her father’s work, she learned about Margaret Burbidge, an influential astronomer, astrophysicist and the first director of UC San Diego’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences. Coming full circle, Vishveshwara now serves as the university’s Margaret Burbidge visiting professor of physics.

  • Education

When Physics senior lecturer Eugene Colla begins remotely teaching his Modern Experimental Physics course in June, he’ll be ready. Colla and his co-instructor, Prof. Virginia (Gina) Lorenz, collaborated with physics teaching lab specialist, Jack Boparai, and a team of teaching assistants to successfully convert the course to virtual instruction midway through spring semester in response to COVID-19.

Online conversion was no small feat for Colla, who has taught Physics 403 since 2004 and has watched the class size more than double in that time. The spring semester saw 28 students, including three exchange students from the United Kingdom.

  • Research Funding

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, through its Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems Initiative (EPiQS), has awarded substantial research funding to two experimental condensed matter physicists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Physics Professors Peter Abbamonte and Vidya Madhavan will receive EPiQS Experimental Investigator awards of $1.6 million each over the next five years.

EPiQS prioritizes high-risk, high-reward fundamental research programs in quantum materials, to foster scientific breakthroughs. EPiQS experimental investigators have the freedom to pursue challenging and novel research directions of the scientists’ own choosing.

  • research

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering have experimentally demonstrated a new way to transport energy even through wave-guides that are defective and even if the disorder is a transient phenomenon in time. This work could lead to much more robust devices that continue to operate in spite of damage.

Gaurav Bahl, associate professor in mechanical science and engineering, and Taylor Hughes, physics professor, published their findings in Nature Communications. This important work was led by postdoctoral researcher Inbar Grinberg, also in mechanical science and engineering.