Adrian Lopez keeps pretty busy.

He’s taking two highly advanced courses in quantum science and engineering, each of which assigns complex problem sets that take about five hours apiece to complete. In his free time Lopez can usually be found in the lab of Harvard Professor Kang-Kuen Ni, whose chemistry and physics lab designs new experiments to study fundamental chemical reactions and physical dynamics by slowing them down in super-cold environments.

He sits in on three hours of meetings per week at the lab and also works on his own quantum project when time allows. That project is to build a laser that can cool and trap molecules and control their quantum state interactions.  The work involves hours of tinkering with wiring and electronics as well as putting the physical parts together and aligning them all.

All in all, Lopez’s first semester at Harvard has a bit of a hustle, but the first-year graduate student from Santa Barbara, California — who dreams of one day being a professor at a research university — says it’s worth it. He feels fortunate to be getting the kind of unique background he’s getting as an inaugural member of Harvard’s new Ph.D. program in quantum science and engineering.

“The weeks fill up, but I’ve been learning a lot and really enjoying it,” he said. “I can definitely get [where I want to be].”

Launched in spring 2021, the new quantum program is one of the world’s earliest Ph.D. programs in the subject and is designed to prepare future leaders and innovators in the critical and fast-emerging field.

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