UCL News


Institute of Physics awards for two UCL researchers

5 October 2005

UCL researchers have been awarded two of the top physics prizes in the UK by the Institute of Physics.

The 2006 Dirac Medal & Prize for theoretical physics, has been awarded to Professor Mike Gillan (UCL Physics & Astronomy), for his contributions to the development of atomic-scale computer simulations, which have greatly extended their power and effectiveness across an immense range of applications. His computer simulations have been applied to a huge variety of subjects, including recent research which has helped scientists work out the exact conditions inside the Earth's core - essential for understanding how the surface of the Earth has evolved over time, and how the magnetic field, which shields us from the solar wind, is generated by the outer core.

The 2006 Guthrie Medal & Prize has been awarded to Professor Marshall Stoneham (UCL Physics & Astronomy), for his wide-ranging theoretical work on defects in solids, in particular his seminal work on the consequences of defects for the electronic properties of materials such as diamond and silicon. Professor Stoneham believes he can build a viable desktop quantum computer by 2010.

Quantum computers have extraordinary potential, promising to crack complex codes and solve age-old mathematical puzzles, but prototype quantum computers fill entire rooms and have to be cooled to near absolute zero before they can be used. Professor Stoneham's work, which tries to marry the worlds of silicon chips and quantum computers, has allowed him to design a novel quantum computer which can be built with the tools currently available and should be powerful enough to do useful calculations, perhaps even at room temperature.

The awards will be presented at the Institute of Physics Awards Dinner 2006 on 19 January 2006. The institute is a leading international professional body and learned society with more than 37,000 members, which promotes the advancement and dissemination of a knowledge of and education in the science of physics, pure and applied.