Joshua Guttman, Javier Thayer, Priscilla Henry, Marvin Drake,
and Gerry Gilbert at Bedford's Quantum Information Lab.
Dr. Quantum: Qubits of Thought from Gerry Gilbert
For Gerry Gilbert, a theoretical physicist with a penchant for
quantum mechanics, his first day of work at MITRE in the fall of
1996 was both disconcerting and yet crammed with opportunity. Back
then MITRE's quantum presence was virtually non-existent although
the need for one was clearly evident. Bell Labs' Peter Shor
and his quantum algorithm had just shocked the world of cryptography
by quickly cracking a previously uncrackable computer code. Computer
security was now in disarray and vulnerable. The race was on!
Today, Dr. Gilbert is Director of the MITRE Quantum Information
Science Group and Principal Investigator of the MITRE Quantum Information
Processing Project. However, the story preceding this transformation
is remarkable for both Gilbert and MITRE alike. Luck, pluck, persistence
and hard work have brought MITRE from a zero-sum presence to a share
of world leadership in quantum science.
As inventive and determined as his former research fellows Nobel
Laureate Steven Weinberg and Stephen Hawking, Gilbert resourcefully
put together a topflight team—and what in research circles
is akin to a quantum flash of time—quickly guided MITRE to
prominence in quantum cryptography. "At first it was a team
of one: me." he remembers. "I was constantly knocking
on MITRE doors and giving my quantum pitch, hoping all the while
that I could leap from Innovation Grant to Innovation Grant until
I landed something substantial like MITRE Sponsored Research."
Michael Hamrick, Anthony Donadio, Robert Ewing, Gerry Gilbert
at Eatontown's Innovative Solutions Lab.
His MITRE Technical Report in 1998 titled, Quantum Computing and
the MITRE Mission was his breakthrough document, gaining for him
in August of 1999 MITRE Sponsored Research (MSR) that has since
been renewed through 2003. In July of 2000—now with a team
of researchers, algorithm developers and experimental physicists
at his side, as well as offices at MITRE New Jersey and a laboratory
at MITRE Bedford—Gerry's team succeeded in demonstrating
quantum cryptography. That demonstration catapulted them into recognition
and also into an intense spotlight of attention from the armed services,
the intelligence community, and information security specialists.
Quantum computing had finally arrived at MITRE and in a very big
way. "To the company's great credit," says a very
thankful Gilbert, "MITRE funded us, gave us space and equipment…then
backed off and let us do our thing."
Gilbert has come a long way from his days of pounding doors trying
to find a willing ear or two for his quantum ideas. Recently, he
received a Director's Award for Technical Excellence, and
this past June was one of only three MITRE programs to receive a
prestigious Program Innovation Award.
And just as he has spread the word of quantum computing, he has
also spread encouragement among fellow MITRE researchers. "I
was totally inspired by Gerry's story," enthuses Qian
Hu, lead engineer in Artificial Intelligence and recent recipient
of MITRE Sponsored Research in audio hot spotting. "It gave
me confidence to push for an MSR to support my own small area of
work. I did…and I got one!"