Dr Nicholas Chancellor

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Job title: Fellow
Division: Physics
Organisation: Durham University
Tags: Durham University, Early Career Forum, Fellowship: Innovation Fellowship, Researcher


My formal training is in physics (undergraduate degree in engineering physics) and I work in the field of quantum computing. I am mainly a theorist, but have also done remote experiments using the hardware produced by D-Wave Systems Inc. 

My Fellowship

I hold an EPSRC UK Research and Innovation fellowship to study energy landscape based quantum computing. The main focus of my work is to develop algorithms to solve important real-world problems which can be mapped to the energies of quantum systems, and then the problems solved by simulations of the quantum systems on real quantum machines. Think, for instance, travelling salesperson type problems. Specifically, I examine hybrid quantum/classical algorithms, which can use the very powerful classical algorithms we already know to get the most out of early quantum machines, which are relatively small and imperfect. I strive to fit these algorithms into a total picture, paired with algorithms and use cases, seeing the whole picture is important to finding the first 'killer app' for these machines.

There are many reasons I love my work, but I think one of the biggest is that it is such an exciting time for the field, with real devices getting closer to practical applications every day. Looking for all of the potential tricks which may help this come about sooner is very exciting. Another reason is that it is very multidisciplinary, and exposes connections between things which are not obvious, for instance the connection between the solubility of hard problems and the physics of glass.

I had many independent ideas which I wanted to be able to take a lead on developing. I saw a fellowship as the natural way to achieve this, as well as a potential stepping stone toward a permanent position and running a group of my own. 

I believe that having a fellowship gives me an opportunity to prove myself as a research leader in a way I could not when I was a postdoc, it allows me to show that I can run my own (small) group and fully take the lead on a research package. It has also already allowed me to demonstrate that I can successfully apply for scientific funding. All of these things help move me closer to being able to obtain a permanent academic position.