Speakers Profile - Professor Michael J. Biercuk

Quantum Physicist

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The future of technology lies in harnessing the most exotic phenomena in quantum physics – the rules that govern the behaviour of light and matter at the most fundamental levels. Associate Professor Michael J. Biercuk is a quantum physicist and public intellectual working at the forefront of knowledge and innovation to bring us into the quantum future.

Michael is the Director of the Quantum Control Lab at the University of Sydney and a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems. His group is discovering how to exploit systems obeying the strange rules of quantum physics as a new resource powering next-generation technologies – Quantum Tech.

As an experimental quantum physicist, Michael has been able to avoid getting a real job for years, and his labs are the ultimate grown-up playground, specially designed to help advance technology at the absolute limits of human capability. His group’s favourite toys are individual atoms confined in a special electromagnetic “bottle” (something he learned about while working with 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Dr. David Wineland at NIST), home-built laser systems, and a suite of techniques derived from control engineering.

Michael’s research has been recognized with major accolades including the 2015 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Outstanding Young Researcher, selection as one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s 100 Most influential people 2012, and award of the 2011 NMI Prize for Excellence in Measurement Science. His team’s efforts have been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, Forbes, Wired, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Slashdot, and a host of other major media outlets.

His experiences include both research at the bench and strategic consulting on innovation and advanced hardware. From 2005-2008 Michael served as a full-time technical consultant to DARPA, the premier research funding agency in the US. At DARPA – an agency that brought you mobile phones, the internet, stealth, and night-vision goggles among other things – Michael advised on strategic technological investments in quantum technology and advanced microprocessor architecture.

A prolific writer and speaker, Michael now drives public policy debates around innovation and technology, having written for ABC Science, The Conversation, and The Australian Financial Review. From 2012-2015 he spearheaded a lobbying effort to amend Australian Defence legislation with the potential to stifle local innovative research and frequently contributes to public discourse on the role of science in society and the innovation ecosystem. On the side Michael is a veterans advocate and founder of the STRIVE program for contemporary veterans education, and is passionate about the intersection of science, technology, and fashion.

Michael was educated in the United States, earning his undergraduate degree in Physics from the University of Pennsylvania, and his Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Harvard University.