Perimeter Institute researcher Giulio Chiribella has won the 2010 Hermann Weyl Prize for his work on the application of group theoretical methods to the problem of quantum estimation of states and processes. This problem concerns the foundations of quantum mechanics and has important applications in quantum information theory.

The Weyl Prize recognizes scientists under 35 years of age who have performed "original work of significant scientific quality in the area of understanding physics through symmetries." It is awarded every two years by the International Colloquium for Group-Theoretical Methods in Physics.

On learning of the award, Perimeter Institute’s Director Neil Turok stated, "We are delighted to hear of this acknowledgment of Dr. Chiribella's excellent and innovative work. This is the first time that the Weyl Prize has been awarded for work in the field of quantum information, and it provides a timely recognition of the potential of this area of theoretical physics. Giulio’s work on symmetries is providing the field of quantum information at large with new and useful approaches to fundamental problems."

The work for which Dr. Chiribella won the prize, done while he was a member of the group "QUIT" of Pavia University (Italy), in collaboration with other members of the group, represents a very successful blend of quantum information concepts and group theoretical methods.

Group theory is the branch of mathematics that studies the symmetries of objects and the properties of their physical transformations. It has proved useful in understanding many physical systems, ranging from elementary particles to atoms, molecules, and crystals. Dr. Chiribella applied group theoretical methods to the problem of quantum estimation of states and processes. In particular, he investigated how quantum systems can be used as elementary gyroscopes that indicate directions in space or as elementary clocks that indicate moments in time. The results provided the optimal strategy for a sender to encode a physical transformation (a spatial rotation in the case of gyroscopes or a time translation in the case of clocks) into the state of a quantum system, in such a way that a receiver can decode the transformation at the limit of precision allowed by quantum mechanics.

Dr. Chiribella’s work also demonstrated the key role of a particular type of entanglement between different degrees of freedom associated to the action of symmetry groups. A striking application of this new concept is the optimal protocol to align the Cartesian axes of two distant observers using quantum gyroscopes. In general, the special type of entanglement discovered by Dr. Chiribella and colleagues allows for dramatic improvements in the precision of quantum measurements, with many applications in interferometry, magnetometry, GPS systems, and other problems concerning quantum reference frames.

The award will be presented to Dr. Chiribella in a ceremony during the 28th International Colloquium on Group-Theoretical Methods in Physics, which will be held at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, in July 2010.