MSI Friends and Alumni: Computation, quantum mechanics, and topology

Scott Morrison

Dr Scott Morrison will be presenting a special lecture for MSI's Alumni, friends and colleagues. The presentation will be followed by drinks, hors-d’oeuvres and a chance to meet and chat with the speaker and other members of the MSI.

Attendance at these special lectures is by invitation only, so if you would like to attend, please register as a friend of MSI to receive your invitation.


Building quantum computers is a fundamental challenge for this century. Quantum computers offer a new paradigm of computation, offering amazing speed-ups for certain classes of problems. So far there aren't many problems where quantum computers are known to do better than classical computers, but there's a very important one --- the simulation of other quantum systems, for example superconductors or photosynthesis!

Building a quantum computer is seriously difficult! But it's so important, that it's worthwhile to explore ambitious, and perhaps crazy, solutions. One such potential solution is "topological quantum computation". This is based on the recent discovery of "topological phases of matter", exotic condensed matter systems that display topological symmetry. I study mathematical models of topological phases of matter, with the goal of classifying examples and discovering interesting new ones.

I'll explain what a quantum computer is meant to look like, and how we might be able to use a topological phase of matter to build one.

About the speaker

Scott Morrison is a mathematician working on category theory and quantum topology. He's an ARC Research Fellow at the Mathematical Sciences Institute, and has previously worked in Microsoft's quantum computing group at Station Q, and held a Miller Fellowship at UC Berkeley.

He's dragging the study of tensor categories out of the wastelands of abstraction with a relentless focus on small, concrete, examples. He's happiest when thinking about mathematics that requires pretty pictures or big computers, and prefers to do research collaboratively, ideally at the pub.