0 or 1?

For a layman a statement is either true or false, a body is either living or dead, the digit is either 0 or 1. But some enlightened souls believe in a mixture of truth and false, combinations of 0 and 1. Prof Amit Rai is one such one such new age physicist. One of a kind in this institute, Prof Rai is geared up to inspire NITians to venture into the field of quantum physics. Team MM caught up with this passionate physicist and explored different facets of his life.

The young lad from Banaras had to keep changing schools owing to his father’s transferable job. After completing his Master’s degree in IIT Delhi, Prof Rai headed to Oklahoma State University to earn his PhD in quantum optics. He later joined National University Singapore as a post doctoral fellow.

A food lover, Prof Rai’s best memories from his college days are the hours spent relishing the delicious savories from the south campus canteen. He enjoys cooking, biryani being one of his specialties and is of the opinion that there should be more canteens and restaurants within the campus. Watching movies is another favourite pass-time of Prof Rai.

Prof Rai is in awe of the freedom that students in US universities enjoy. In India the number of credits for each semester is fixed by the university coordinator and students have little or no say in this regard. But in US universities students have discretion over their academic load for a semester and can complete the degree requirements at their own pace.

Here at NIT Rourkela, Professor Rai shall be working in the field of quantum information and quantum computation, concentrating primarily on quantum optics and photonics. Quantum computation is the future of information processing as it uses the laws of quantum physics which are radically different from that of classical physics. Quantum theories are usually pretty counter-intuitive and the ordinary would find it highly inconvenient to think and explain things in terms of their quantum behavior. However, quantum physics effectively explains all macro and microscopic phenomena. 

Classical computers use binary systems comprising of either 0 or 1. This is where quantum computers deviate fundamentally. Quantum bits (qubits) can simultaneously be in 0 and 1 states. Using properties of entanglement and superposition, it is possible to attain exponential gains in computational power. Professor Rai shall be working in this area of Physics and he shall be using an approach based on the quantum properties of light, i.e. quantum photonics. He is presently the sole professor who is specializing in this field in our institute. In fact, the whole domain of quantum computation has very limited number of researchers in India. Our institute is thus highly privileged to have a professor of such repute. Professor Rai is very optimistic about the growth and opportunities in this sector and would like to encourage a greater of undergraduates to develop an interest and undertake higher studies in this area of Physics. Not only Physics, Quantum Computation is equally applicable for students of Electrical, Electronics and Computer Science. 

When asked about reforms Prof Rai said that we need better laboratories especially for the post graduate students. He would also like to have a few retail shops in the institute premises so that residents don’t have to go out to buy petty things.

Team MM wishes Prof Amit Rai success in all his endeavours! And hopes he never parts ways with his charming and down to earth personality.