QuICS Fellow Yunger Halpern Is U.S. Nominee for ASPIRE Science Prize

Jul 14, 2023

Nicole Yunger Halpern, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) who is embedded full-time on the University of Maryland campus, is the 2023 U.S. nominee for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) award.

The annual prize recognizes young scientists who have demonstrated a commitment to both excellence in scientific research, as evidenced by scholarly publication, and cooperation with scientists from other APEC member economies, including inclusive and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Yunger Halpern’s nomination for the ASPIRE award by the U.S. State Department’s Office of Science and Technology Cooperation comes with its own $3,000 prize, making her eligible for the final competition later this year that awards a prize of $25,000.

“I'm extremely grateful to NIST and the University of Maryland for their support for my work,” says Yunger Halpern, who is a fellow in the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science (QuICS), a senior investigator in the NSF Grand Leap Challenge Institute for Robust Quantum Simulation, and a founding member of the Maryland Quantum-Thermodynamics Hub.

At UMD, Yunger Halpern leads a theoretical research group that is modernizing thermodynamics, which traditionally describes large things like steam engines. Her team uses the tools of quantum information theory to make a theory of quantum thermodynamics that describes small things like individual molecules and the qubits that are the basic building blocks of quantum computers. She applies her quantum thermodynamics perspectives to problems from a broad range of fields, including atomic, molecular, and optical physics; condensed matter physics; chemistry; high-energy physics; and biophysics.

This year, the U.S. is hosting the APEC meeting that will include the final ASPIRE award selection. As host, the U.S. chose the theme for this year’s competition to be “Inclusive Science, Technology, and Innovation for a Resilient and Sustainable Environment.” Finalists to the competition are selected based on criteria including how their work contributes to the annual theme.

—This article is adapted from a news release written by Bailey Bedford, Joint Quantum Institute communications group.