Quantum specialist Matt Eichenfield named as first holder of SPIE Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences

The position, established in 2019, marked the initial gift of the SPIE Endowment Matching Program
30 June 2022
Daneet Steffens

Matt Eichenfield, a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), has joined the University of Arizona’s Wyant College of Optical Sciences as the inaugural SPIE Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences. The $2 million endowed position was established with a $500,000 gift from SPIE that was matched by a factor of three with funds donated by Wyant College founding dean James C. Wyant and his family. The University of Arizona (UA) endowed chair was also the inaugural gift of the SPIE Endowment Matching Program.

“I am honored to be joining the Wyant College of Optical Sciences as the SPIE Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences,” said Eichenfield. “SPIE is truly an outstanding institution in the world of optics that does important work in advancing optical technologies and education. I am humbled to have been chosen for this prestigious position, and I will strive to make my work in quantum information sciences and engineering, photonics, and communications technologies positively represent the University of Arizona, Wyant College, and SPIE.”

Eichenfield joins the college as a tenured associate professor from his position as a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at SNL, leading programs in multiple instantiations of experimental quantum computing architectures, quantum and classical sensors, photonic microsystems, and microwave frequency communications, among others. He will also be the first faculty member in a new Master Agreement established by University of Arizona Provost Liesl Folks and SNL’s Chief Research Officer Susan Seestrom: in that role, Eichenfield will engage in research across both enterprises.

“Sandia is excited to kick off its new Faculty Loan Program for Joint Appointments as a way to strengthen relationships with our university partners,” says SNL Deputy Chief Research Officer Basil Hassan. “This program will allow Sandia scientists and engineers, and professors from academia, to leverage the capabilities of each institution to enhance our collaborative research and ultimately support the talent pipeline to Sandia. As one of our first participants, Matt Eichenfield, through his appointment with the Wyant College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona, will help blaze a trail for the future in prototyping a successful relationship between Sandia and other academic collaborators.”

Eichenfield received his BSc in physics from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in 2004, where he was the Honored Graduate for the College of Sciences. He received his MSc and PhD in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 2007 and 2010, respectively. His doctoral thesis on cavity optomechanics in photonic and phononic crystals was awarded the Demetriades Prize for Best Caltech Thesis. After finishing his doctoral work, Eichenfield became the first Kavli Nanoscience Institute Prize Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech in 2010, where he continued work on nano-optomechanical systems and their application to the measurement of microwave frequency mechanical vibrations of oscillators in their quantum mechanical zero-energy states.

He moved to SNL in 2011 as a Harry S. Truman Fellow in National Security Science and Engineering, where he worked on piezoelectric actuation and detection of phonons in optomechanical systems, among other topics. He founded and built the MEMS-Enabled Quantum Systems group at Sandia from the ground up and has been the group leader since its inception. That group now has 20 full-time members, including five staff, six postdocs, and multiple technologists, graduate students, and undergraduate student interns.

“We are thrilled to see the SPIE Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences awarded to Matt Eichenfield,” says SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. “The SPIE endowment program was established to develop talent and advance research. Matt's history of achievements in both — as well as his particular focus on the critical area of quantum — show he’s a terrific choice for this position, and we look forward to hearing of his team's work at future SPIE events.”

In addition to the SPIE Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences, the Wyant College of Optical Sciences also announced the appointment of three other endowed chairs.


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