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SEAS To Invest In Quantum Engineering and Quantitative Biology

SEAS Sign
The John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences sign stands in front of Pierce Hall.

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will make efforts to expand two research areas—quantitative biology and quantum science and engineering—in the coming years, Dean of SEAS Francis J. Doyle III said in an interview last week.

According to Doyle, the fields represent areas “where [SEAS] really can excel.”

Doyle described quantitative biology as an interdisciplinary field that integrates the use of quantitative methods, such as statistics, mathematics, and computer science, into biology research. Doyle said efforts to apply these tools to biology were “moving at a very nice clip.”

“The idea there is interrogating nature at a fundamental level. It involves data, it involves modeling, it involves quantitative analysis of measurements of images,” he said.

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According to Doyle, these research efforts have been led by a “group of very interdisciplinary faculty” from across SEAS, the Sciences division of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Harvard Medical School. Doyle, who in part works in biomedical engineering, said he is also involved in the effort.

“I think we leveraged a big interdisciplinary cross-section at Harvard to great advantage,” Doyle said. “Getting down to understanding the mechanism, understanding biology, by bringing quantitative methods to bear on that.”

Doyle also said that SEAS faculty have “proactively been building an initiative” in the field of quantum science and engineering, which applies the principles of quantum physics to various disciplines, such as “information processing, signal processing, sensing, including applications to medicine, and of course computing.”

In the interview, Doyle said that SEAS faculty have brought in two new grants in the past month to work in this area.

This push towards fostering quantum technology research at SEAS comes as the federal government prepares to invest more heavily in quantum science. In September, the House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act, a bill that would create a 10-year federal program to advance quantum science development across the United States. The Senate has yet to vote on the bill.

Doyle said he thought the government’s interest in advancing quantum technologies heralded a “perfect time” for SEAS to ramp up its efforts.

“I would dare say we are behind many parts of the world in having the private sector or federal investment in this topic,” he said. “So it's refreshing, exciting, exhilarating that we'll be able to celebrate these efforts.”

—Staff writer Luke W. Xu can be reached at luke.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @duke_of_luke_.

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