18 September 2018 Hugues Vincelette
The Royal Society of Canada presents its awards

The Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics for Alexandre Blais

Professor Alexandre Blais, awarded the Rutherford Memorial Medal.

Photo : Michel Caron - UdeS

Professor at the Physics Department and Director of the Institut Quantique, Alexandre Blais is this year’s laureate of the Rutherford Memorial Medal (physics) awarded annually by the Royal Society of Canada in recognition of eminent research projects in any area related to physics.

“It’s a great recognition and I’m honored to see my name added to the list of people who’ve contributed significantly to the progress of physics. They would undoubtedly tell you the same thing as me, which is that the work leading to this distinction is not done alone. It’s the sum of all the efforts of an entire team. So, this Rutherford medal is also for my team members,” says Professor Blais.


Professor Blais’ scientific achievements are many, but the most striking is his contribution to the development of circuit quantum electrodynamics as he is an author of the seminal article in the field, Cavity quantum electrodynamics for superconducting electrical circuits: An architecture for quantum computation. He is a member of two programs at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), that is, quantum information and quantum materials, and he has also been the scientific director of the Institut Quantique since its inception in February 2016.

After earning his Ph.D. in physics at the Université de Sherbrooke, Professor Blais took up postdoctoral training at Yale University under the supervision of Professor Steven Girvin, who has great memories of the period. “Blais was a postdoctoral associate in my group at Yale approximately in 2003-5 and remains among the absolute best of the approximately 50 postdocs I have supervised in my career. When Blais arrived at Yale, it became instantly clear that he is an exceptional intellect and he has gone on to a spectacular research career.”

Numerous collaborations

Our award-winning researcher collaborates with various institutions ranging from QuTech in Delft in the Netherlands, to Eth Zurich in Switzerland, Yale, University of Calgary and closer to home, McGill University. As Mr. Daniel Estève, director of the research center in Saclay, France notes: “Alexandre Blais is now a physicist whose exceptional status in the field of quantum electrical circuits is recognized in an extensive community of which my group is a part. We call on him when there is a problem that is difficult to solve and we understand that his ideas often bear fruit at the experimental level. Alexandre Blais has demonstrated his ability to take charge of a field, develop all the theoretical aspects in an original way and bring physics concepts to bear.”

A mentor

Shruti Puri had the opportunity to do postdoctoral work with Alexandre Blais’ team. She describes the role that he played in her career. « I moved to Alexandre’s group for a postdoc after my Phd at Stanford and this was perhaps the best decision for my career. Alexandre is not only a gifted physicist but also a wonderful mentor. His ability to distill the most complex of ideas into their essence has always inspired me and continues to guide me in my career. As a mentor the respect, patience and trust that he shows in his students is uplifting and has allowed me to grow as a physicist. I greatly value the experience I’ve gained with him and carry many of his ideas as I proceed in my career

Going forward

The field of quantum physics is growing rapidly and as Professor Blais explains, the main challenge is remaining creative and relevant. “It’s an exciting time because change is happening at a tremendous speed and we’re seeing the emergence of companies that are using results from fundamental research in this field. Given this context of scientific expansion, it’s essential to reinvent ourselves constantly.”

Rutherford Medal of the Royal Society of Canada

The Rutherford Medal is awarded annually by the Royal Society of Canada in memory of Professor Ernest Rutherford. A physicist and chemist born in New Zealand, Professor Rutherford spent part of his career at McGill University. Since his discoveries were made when he was relatively young, the CRS favours young researchers for this award in recognition of outstanding research in any field of physics. Professor Alexandre Blais will receive his medal in mid-November in Halifax.




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