UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


European Research Council grant success for the faculty

5 March 2015

LCN and Maths buildings


Researchers in the Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences have been awarded three major new grants from the European Research Council (ERC). These are in the areas of mathematics and nanotechnology.

Mark Buitelaar - London Centre for Nanotechnology/UCL Physics & Astronomy

Mark Buitelaar is a physicist specialising in quantum information processing at the London Centre for Nanotechnology. He has been awarded a grant to develop new ways of coupling quantum bits or qubits in solid-state electronic devices using carbon nanotube quantum dots. Quantum dots are small devices of which the electrons can be used to encode quantum information, for instance through the orientation of their spin.

Creating a quantum computer requires entanglement, a phenomenon in which the properties of two qubits are linked. One approach currently used is to use the direct interaction of neighbouring electron spin qubits, thanks to the positioning of their electrons overlapping. But this is impractical for large scale quantum processors: any qubits distant from each other can only be entangled if there are qubits in between them.

Mark Buitelaar will work on a measurement method for entangling distant electron spin qubits with each other while using the nuclear spins of carbon-13 atoms as quantum memories.

Sarah Zerbes - UCL Mathematics

Sarah Zerbes is a pure mathematician who specialises in number theory. She has been awarded a grant to work on Euler systems and the Birch--Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture.

The Birch--Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture, one of the Millennium Prize Problems, is one of the central unsolved problems in mathematics. This conjecture concerns the existence of rational solutions for certain types of polynomial equations. More precisely, it predicts that the existence of solutions to such equations is governed by the behaviour of certain complex-analytic functions called "L-functions". Some special cases of the conjecture were proven by Kolyvagin; the main ingredient in his proof is an algebraic construction called an Euler system. Even though Euler systems are extremely powerful tools, so far only five examples are known to exist.

The goal of this grant is the construction of several new examples of Euler systems, and to use them to prove new cases of the Birch--Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture.

Guillaume Charras - London Centre for Nanotechnology and UCL Department of Cell and Developmental Biology

Guillaume Charras works at the interface between physics and biology at the London Centre for Nanotechnology. He has been awarded a grant to carry out research into the mechanics of epithelial monolayers.

Epithelial monolayers are amongst the simplest tissues in the body. They are sheets of interconnected cells that are just one cell thick (about 10 microns thick). Despite their simplicity, they play fundamental roles in adult tissues, where they act as physical and mechanical barriers to separate the internal environment from the external environment. They also play prominent roles during development, when the forces they generate shape the embryonic tissues. Hence, generating and resisting mechanical forces represent integral parts of monolayer function in vivo.

Despite this, our knowledge of monolayer mechanics remains poor. The goal of this grant is to bridge the molecular, cellular, and tissue-scales to understand monolayer mechanics from the bottom up.

Photo: London Centre for Nanotechnology (left), UCL Physics & Astronomy (centre) and UCL Mathematics (right) buildings on Gordon Street. Photo: (c) UCL, All rights reserved