Gefen Baranes is 25 years old Technion undergraduate whose enviable research record resembles that of an advanced graduate student. Her extensive research in quantum technology has led to exciting global breakthroughs. In fact, she has already authored scientific papers for prestigious journals and won numerous prizes for her work.
Gefen’s precocious success is surely not surprising for those who know her well. The youngest of five children, she grew up in Kfar Bilu and joined a program for gifted children when she was in 3rd grade. She always loved Mathematics, and in high school Gefen attended the Program for the Advancement of Mathematically Talented Youth at Bar-Ilan University, in addition to completing the highest level matriculation exams in Math, Physics and Chemistry. After serving as a data scientist officer in the IDF Intelligence Corps, she was accepted to the Technion’s Excellence Program. This unique track enables an elite cohort of especially talented students to enjoy a personalized, flexible study curriculum. Students in the Excellence Program can devote all their time and energy to their studies, as they receive generous financial support that includes free room and board. She is set to graduate this summer.
Needless to say, Gefen has thrived at the Technion, pursuing degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering while immersing herself in the world of research. “I’m passionate about quantum technology. All I want to do is create new technologies. And I really love research – I even dream about it,” she admits, adding that, “since I started doing research, I feel that my brain is more stimulated and so I also study better.”
Gefen is especially grateful to Prof. Ido Kaminer, who has encouraged her to take part in several of his cutting-edge research projects. “I really like working with Prof. Kaminer; he is extremely supportive and kind,” she says. In fact, she must soon decide whether to remain at the Technion next year so that Prof. Kaminer can be her doctoral supervisor, or move to one of the top U.S. universities which have already accepted her to direct PhD tracks. Not an easy decision…
Proving that free electrons can entangle light
In her second year at the Technion, Gefen approached Prof. Kaminer and asked him if she could join one of his research projects. He agreed and she enthusiastically joined a research team – which also includes Ron Ruimy and Alexey Gorlach – working on a project aimed at understanding Photon-Induced Near-field Electron Microscopy (PINEM). “The goal was to use this effect to induce entanglement between two spatially separated photonic modes. We proved that free electrons can entangle light,” she elaborates. “We showed, theoretically, how you can create entanglement, particularly bell states or cat states, and how the electron actually transfers quantum information from the first cavity to the second one.”
For this project, Gefen received the Helen Diller Quantum Center Award of Excellence for undergraduate students 2020-2021, the Technion Excellence Program award for best undergraduate project 2021 and the Apple Award of Excellence 2021. She was also selected to speak at the 2021 CLEO conference, which was held virtually, and hopes to talk this year at two important conferences in the U.S. In addition, she is the first author on a paper that was accepted by the journal npj Quantum Information.
Prize for best talk
At the recent Helen Diller Quantum Center Retreat Day, Gefen won first prize for her presentation on another research project: “Creating cat and GKP states for optical quantum computers.” This project is also headed by Prof. Kaminer, and other members of the team include Raphael Dahan, Alexey Gorlach and Ron Ruimy, as well as Nicholas Rivera from MIT. It is highly unusual that an undergraduate student is selected to present a research project, let alone win the prize for best talk!
The project focuses on shaping quantum light states for optical quantum computers. “Based on the experimental platform of Ultrafast Transmission Electron Microscopy, we developed a scheme using strong electron interactions to shape novel quantum photonic states, such as cat and Gottesman-Kitaev-Preskill (GKP) states,” Gefen explains. “The concept is very simple – a proper modulation of the electron’s wave function allows it to radiate light in the form of a cat state. You can even take it one step further, to create a GKP state in the optical regime, which is something that hasn’t been demonstrated experimentally yet.” The group submitted papers for the 2022 CLEO conference and the Quantum 2.0 conference, and they are currently writing a paper for a journal.
Gefen’s third research project with Prof. Kaminer focuses on super radiance – the phenomenon whereby a collective emission of an ensemble of excited atoms or ions radiates a short and intense pulse of light. Her partners on this project are Alexey Gorlach and Ron Ruimy from the Technion, Michael Faran from Tel Aviv University, and Andrea Pizzi from the University of Cambridge. She is the first author on a paper submitted on this subject for the 2022 CLEO conference.
“The goal of the project I lead is to investigate the quantum statistics of the emitted light in the super radiance process and shape it. We found the Wigner function of the emitted light and a transition in which the light statistics shift from classical to quantum,” Gefen explains.
Vital for quantum computers
As though all these remarkable projects weren’t sufficient, Gefen recently began working on a fourth research project which studies quantum information fundamentals. This time it is led by Prof. Itai Arad, with the collaboration of Raz Firanko. The team is designing an algorithm that addresses Kraus maps with a steady-state approximated by a Gibbs state of a local Hamiltonian.
Gefen reveals that she very much enjoys working with Prof. Arad. “This project is vital for quantum computers because it allows a scalable verification of the final quantum state after applying the same noisy channel multiple times. This research strengthens my theoretical grounds of quantum information and improves my programming abilities, using Python.”
Clearly, Gefen Baranes’ exceptional accomplishments as an undergraduate are only the opening shot, and regardless of where her career takes her in the future, she will undoubtedly continue to contribute to quantum science with extraordinary talent and enthusiasm.