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Gilles Brassard appointed to the Order of Canada

by CIFAR
Feb 3 / 14

The Governor General has appointed Senior Fellow Gilles Brassard an Officer of the Order of Canada for his innovative work in applying quantum physics to information processing, including the discovery of quantum teleportation.

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Senior Fellow Gilles Brassard, Officer of the Order of Canada

“It was unexpected, I did not know I was nominated,” Brassard said. “It was a pleasant surprise.”

Brassard, a member of CIFAR’s Quantum Information Science program since 2002, has been lauded for his research in areas such as quantum cryptography, a system by which two people could communicate in secrecy so absolute that it would be unbreakable even by an eavesdropper with unlimited computer technology.

His current researcher focuses on quantum mechanics.

“More precisely, my interest is in trying to understand what’s going on the universe,” Brassard says with a laugh.

Brassard began conceiving ideas about transferring information securely after receiving his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1979. He met his colleague Charles Bennett by chance while swimming in the ocean off the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and together the two embarked on years of research, along with other colleagues, that eventually led them to publish the first paper describing a process for quantum teleportation — the transfer of quantum information from one point to another without having to transfer a physical particle.

Brassard says being a computer scientist gives him an advantage in quantum physics — a fresh perspective that is heightened by bi-annual meetings with QIS, a group of computer scientists, experimental and theoretical physicists and mathematicians from diverse backgrounds who don’t always have the chance to share ideas.

“Breaking the language barriers between these communities and encouraging us to talk to each other, to give talks that would be comprehensible by the other people, that’s very unique to the CIFAR program,” he says.

Brassard has been on the faculty at the University of Montreal for his entire career, during which he has been elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London, earned the Killam Prize for Natural Sciences and won the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.