29 September 2020

Charles Marcus honoured with the H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal


The Society for the Dissemination of Natural Science is awarding an H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal in physics to Professor Charles Marcus. His research brings the world closer to applied quantum technology, which can become just as revolutionary as Hans Christian Ørsted’s discovery of electromagnetism two centuries ago. The award is made possible with the support of green energy company Ørsted.

Professor Charles Marcus in the QDEV LAB.
Ahead of the award ceremony, Charles Marcus will give a public lecture on 19 October 2020 at 19:00 in Auditorium 1 in the H.C. Ørsted building.

The Society for the Dissemination of Natural Science (SNU) is honouring Charles Marcus, the Villum Kann Rasmussen Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and Director of the Copenhagen Microsoft Quantum Lab, with the society’s H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal in physics and an accompanying travel grant of DKK 75,000.The award coincides with the bicentenary of Hans Christian Ørsted’s discovery of electromagnetism. The gold medal and the travel grant were made possible by the support of the energy company Ørsted.

The medal is awarded based on submissions from Danish universities and science institutions, and a committee consisting of five members of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters have reviewed the nominations.

Charles Marcus’ field of research is quantum coherent electronics. With thirty years of pioneering experiments, Marcus has played a key role in developing the field, which is now rapidly evolving towards outright quantum technologies that can harness and exploit quantum mechanics in the field of quantum computing. A quantum computer will base its calculations on principles different from those used by traditional computers, enabling it to solve certain complex problems much faster than currently possible. The potential is too vast to fathom completely, but for example, quantum computers can simulate large, complex molecules, allowing medicines and vaccines to be designed by simulation rather than developed by discovery. Quantum-enhanced simulations can also help in the search for new materials with desirable properties, for instance a material that superconducts at room temperature and conveys electricity without resistance, avoiding the loss of power in our wiring today.

Professor Dorte Olesen, President of SNU, says, “Charles Marcus is the quintessence of a modern scientist and a highly deserving recipient of the H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal. Just as Hans Christian Ørsted himself, Charles Marcus is a world-class scientist and communicator with a keen eye for how his research can benefit society. He is the first non-Danish recipient of the gold medal and he brought an amazing academic background with him to Denmark, so he brilliantly exemplifies our country’s ability to attract some of the best researchers in the world.”

Building a quantum computer

Charles Marcus also heads a remarkable working relationship between the University of Copenhagen and Microsoft, which have partnered to produce a topological quantum computer. The collaboration demonstrates Charles Marcus’ modern approach to research. He has realised that further technological development requires a financial and technological commitment from a multinational corporation such as Microsoft and the scientific expertise available at the university.

Henrik Poulsen, CEO of Ørsted and ambassador for HCØ2020, says: “When research and industry join forces, new opportunities arise, processes can be accelerated, and solutions can be directly applied for the benefit of society. Entirely in keeping with Hans Christian Ørsted’s spirit, Charles Marcus, the University of Copenhagen, and Microsoft have exploited these gains by collaborating to create a quantum computer capable of revolutionising the technology and helping us address both climate challenges and other problems we’re currently facing as a global community.”

Charles Marcus says, “I’m greatly honoured to receive a gold medal from the Society for the Dissemination of Natural Science for my research and efforts toward disseminating and advocating for science. I’m fond of seeing my work in quantum electronics as a natural extension of Hans Christian Ørsted’s discovery of electromagnetism two hundred years ago, so I’m deeply honoured by this recognition from the Danish scientist’s own society.”

Gold medal to be awarded by HM The Queen

SNU’s H.C Ørsted Gold Medal is awarded for outstanding scientific work in the fields of physics and chemistry. Eligible recipients of the medal are researchers working in Denmark, and the gold medal has so far been awarded to 18 researchers since 1909, including two Nobel laureates (Niels Bohr (1924) and Aage Bohr (1970)).

This year’s gold medal and travel grant will be presented by Her Majesty The Queen at the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters on 27 November 2020. A limited number of members of the press are welcome. Those who wish to attend are invited to sign up by email to the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters no later than 5 October. (please refer to the contact details below).

Ahead of the award ceremony, Charles Marcus will give a public lecture on 19 October 2020 at 19:00 in Auditorium 1 in the H.C. Ørsted building, Universitetsparken 5, 2100 Copenhagen Ø. Registration is mandatory, please sign up here. The lecture will also be live-streamed from the Copenhagen University Faculty of Science’s YouTube channel.

The gold medal and travel grant are made possible by means of support from the energy company Ørsted. The public lecture and the award ceremony are organised with the support of the Carlsberg Bequest in honour of brewer J.C. Jacobsen.

More about Charles Marcus

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Charles Marcus grew up in Sonoma, California, and studied at Stanford University, returning later to Stanford as a professor. He has a PhD in Physics from Harvard University, where he later was also employed as a professor. After a sabbatical stay in Copenhagen in 2010, Marcus left Harvard and moved to Denmark with his family to become the first Villum Kann Rasmussen Professor, sponsored by the Villum Foundation, and start the Center for Quantum Devices at the Niels Bohr Institute, sponsored by the Danish National Research Foundation. The centre has grown into its current capacity which, along with colleagues in related quantum fields, has enabled Denmark to leave a striking impression on the map of quantum technology. The centre has built up a special status in the field of exploring quantum mechanics and its applications in electronic circuits, echoing back not only to H.C. Ørsted, with its focus on electronics, but, with its focus on quantum, also to the golden age of quantum physics brought about by Niels Bohr when he founded the institute.

Charles Marcus’ many experiments have played a key role in developing the mastery required to manipulate quantum physics’ conditions in solid states at single-electron level. Over the years, his scientific research has been a driving force of breathtaking developments in all the techniques required both to produce samples with complex, nanometre-scale semiconductor circuits and to perform measurements at just a few hundredths of a degree above absolute zero.

Charles Marcus has trained many of the people who will comprise the next generation of leading international researchers, and he has made an enormous effort to communicate the tremendous perspectives inherent in this field to both the scientific community and the general public. One of the ways he has done this is by being highly active on the lecture circuit. His unique ability to captivate audiences with his abundance of imagery and precise language has probably been instrumental in generating great interest in quantum mechanics and the new field of quantum technology both in Denmark and abroad.