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Quantum Physicist Mikhail Lukin Appointed University Professor

Quantum physicist Mikhail Lukin will become a University Professor, Harvard's highest faculty rank, on July 1.
Quantum physicist Mikhail Lukin will become a University Professor, Harvard's highest faculty rank, on July 1. By Courtesy of Sophie Park / Harvard University
By Rahem D. Hamid and Elias J. Schisgall, Crimson Staff Writers

Quantum physicist Mikhail Lukin has been appointed a University Professor, Harvard’s highest faculty rank, the University announced Tuesday.

Lukin will become the Joshua and Beth Friedman University Professor on July 1, replacing former chemistry professor Charles M. Lieber, who quietly retired last month after being convicted of lying to federal investigators in 2021.

In a Thursday press release, University President Lawrence S. Bacow said that Lukin is “central to the University’s ambitions in quantum science and engineering.”

“He produces work that is not only elegant and beautiful, but also enormously promising in its capacity to create innovations that are likely to change many of our lives,” Bacow said. “It is a pleasure to welcome one of the best quantum information scientists in the world into the ranks of the University Professor.”

In an email, Lukin said he was “deeply honored” to be selected among his “truly amazing, incredibly accomplished colleagues” at Harvard.

“I found out about this very recently and to be honest did not have [time] to either fully digest the news or think about if and how this can change my research in the coming years,” Lukin wrote. “But I can tell you that it is a very special time in our field and Cambridge is [a] very special place right now.”

First established in 1935, the University Professorship allows its appointees to teach at any of the University’s 13 schools.

Lukin’s post was established in 2017 by Joshua S. Friedman ’76 and Beth C. Friedman, most recent among all University Professorships.

Lukin’s appointment follows the naming of three scholars to University Professor at the beginning of this year. Lukin will join 24 other University Professors, including President Emeritus Lawrence H. Summers and President Emerita Drew G. Faust.

Lukin graduated from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology summa cum laude in 1993 with a degree in applied physics and mathematics, and received his Ph.D. in physics from Texas A&M University in 1998. He first came to Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow in 1998 before starting as an assistant professor in the Physics Department in 2001. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a co-founder of two startups that work with quantum technology.

At Harvard, Lukin directs both the Harvard Quantum Initiative in Science and Engineering and the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms, along with the Lukin Group, his research lab.

His work is focused on quantum optics and atomic physics, which deals with controlling photons, electrons, and atoms in quantum systems. His research also touches on quantum information science — the application of quantum mechanics to computer science and information science.

“We are trying to build new kinds of quantum machines and understand if and how they can be used to advance both cutting edge scientific frontier and to solve practical real world problems,” Lukin wrote in his email. “This is one of the most exciting fields in science and engineering.”

The University has recently launched multiple new initiatives in quantum science, including starting one of the world’s first Ph.D. programs in the field and partnering with Amazon Web Services to drive research and innovation in quantum networking.

“At Harvard we have a truly extraordinary community that includes an exceptional group of students, postdocs, and faculty that closely collaborate across many departments and Schools, making it a very special place to do this work,” Lukin said in the University’s press release.

“With this professorship, I hope to be able to help elevate this work even further by bringing together scientists and engineers to explore new scientific directions, make new discoveries, and realize applications that address the biggest challenges facing the world,” he added.

—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at

—Staff writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @eschisgall.

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