SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and IBM Quantum have selected Wesley Sims, an assistant professor of physics at Morehouse College, as this year’s recipient of the IBM-SPIE HBCU Faculty Accelerator Award in Quantum Optics and Photonics. Sims is also the director of the college’s Micro/Nano Optics Research & Engineering Laboratory.
The $100,000 annual award, presented jointly by the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center and SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, supports and promotes research and education in quantum optics and photonics within IBM-HBCU Quantum Center member institutions, currently 24 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The IBM-SPIE joint annual award is expected to provide a shared total of $500,000 over five years. The inaugural recipient was Renu Tripathi, a professor of physics and engineering at Delaware State University.
“We are particularly proud of this partnership with IBM and our shared contribution in quantum research programs at HBCUs,” said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. “Quantum science is going to have an increasingly large impact on society, and a diverse population of skilled and knowledgeable students will greatly enhance the critical science and technology of the future. We are grateful for leaders like Dr. Sims and look forward to seeing the results from his group at Morehouse.”
The technical goal of Sims’ proposal is “to study integrated photon-photon correlation architectures that can provide ultrafast sensitivity and thus examine both coherent and incoherent excitation mechanisms in a plethora of quantum materials, from solid-state to soft condensed matter systems.” In addition, he will be leveraging an established collaboration between Morehouse, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory: the California institutions will provide additional mentorship and training, as well as hands-on summer research opportunities for Morehouse physics undergraduates.
“I’m extremely excited about our continued partnership with SPIE,” said Academic Alliance Lead, Partner Ecosystem at IBM Quantum Kayla Lee. “The work that Dr. Sims is doing at Morehouse College is a perfect example of how we define impact within the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center. His collaborative research across institutions creates opportunities for students to enter and thrive in this emerging discipline of quantum information science and engineering.”
“I am extremely humbled and excited to receive the IBM-SPIE HBCU Faculty Accelerator Award,” said Sims. “Not only does it grant me the opportunity to increase research capacity at Morehouse College, it enables me to involve undergraduate students in our optics and photonics research. Morehouse has a long history of producing underrepresented minorities in STEM, but there is still the need to develop and build upon existing research programs and infrastructure, particularly in optics and photonics.
“In addition, the collaborative approach with other institutions will expose and prepare our students for graduate-level rigor as well as building a quantum-focused network that will provide many opportunities for them. The training they receive within this program will help close the gap between workforce needs and available talent in the quantum field. If we can create a pipeline from Morehouse to UCLA — and ultimately to the quantum workforce — we can consider the program a success.”
Sims holds a PhD in applied physics from Alabama A&M University, an MEng from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a BS in physics from Morehouse. His research interests encompass cross-phase optics, micro/nano optics fabrication, optical quadrature microscopy, extreme ultraviolet lithography, terahertz imaging, and nanostructure characterization. In addition, Sims’ background work includes laser applications such as interferometric lithography of diffractive materials and fabrication of plasmonic nanostructures. He has also worked with phase change materials (PCM) for switchable photonic devices which involved characterization of asymmetric split ring resonators in the THz region.