Tunneling (Physics)

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Video conference

Interview with Michel Devoret, the Frederick W. Beinecke Professor of Applied Physics and Director of the Applied Physics Nanofabrication Lab at Yale University. Devoret recounts his childhood in France where his father was a physician and his mother was a teacher. He describes his parents’ experiences during World War II and his early interests in many areas of science such as computers, artificial intelligence, and biology. Devoret explains some nuances of the French schooling system and how he followed an engineering track in his undergraduate studies before focusing on physics. He recalls pursuing his Master’s degree at Orsay University where he worked in a molecular physics lab, as well as the opportunity that led him to pursue a PhD while working in Anatole Abragam’s lab at the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in Saclay. Devoret talks about his thesis work on nuclear magnetic resonance in solid hydrogen. He then discusses his postdoc at Berkeley working with John Clarke on quantum tunneling and his subsequent return to Saclay where he eventually helped found the Quantonics Lab and later was named Director of Research at CEA-Saclay. Devoret recalls the circumstances around his move to Yale and his work with Steve Girvin. He reflects on several of his interest areas during this time, such as microwave reflectometry, nanofabrication, remote entanglement, and quantum computing. At the end of the interview, Devoret offers advice for how to avoid doing bad science, and he shares his recent interest in the popularization of science, particularly making quantum physics more accessible.