Tell us about your background — where did you grow up? What drew you to a career in science and physics?
I grew up in a small village in the south of Italy with a population of about 2,000 people. I knew basically all of the kids that were my age; we went to the same school, same playgrounds and the same bar to hang out at and play video games. It was a small, tight-knit community.
Since I was a kid, I wanted to be either an archaeologist — I guess living a few kilometers away from Pompei drove this passion — or a scientist, at least, a very generic idea of one. In primary school, we designed and started to build a robot, like the ones we would see in the anime we all watched — we never completed it though, ha!
Since then, my curiosity toward nature has kept growing. Honestly, I do not remember an exact decision, it just happened naturally. I have always felt lucky to be able to work in physics. I still have a hard time considering it a job like the jobs my parents or grandparents had — it is too much fun.
What was the focus of your Ph.D. work at Chalmers? Did you have any early mentors who guided you in a significant way?
My PH.D. project focused on styling properties of high critical temperature superconducting devices, including qubits, to shed light on the physical. mechanisms leading to superconductivity in these materials. A lot of cleanroom work and cryogenic testing.
I am a very lucky person for many reasons, but especially for my university career. I have met several people that I look up to including my Ph.D. supervisor Professor Thilo Bauch and Professor Jukka Pekola at Aalto University. Their attitude, passion and enthusiasm towards research really inspired me.
When were you first introduced to SEEQC? What's it like working with international teams?
When I was at CERN someone told me they were establishing a collaboration with a US company working with superconducting electronics in Napoli, which made sense considering the long history in superconductivity at the physics department there. Then, in September 2019, I had just returned back to Italy after my experience at CERN, and I was approached by Professor Tafuri, who was very excited to introduce me to SEEQC's program.
In our field, working with international teams is not just practical, but essential. For SEEQC, being located across different countries gives us access to a global pool of talents in the field to connect and collaborate with. It creates a positive cultural mix, resulting in a more stimulating working environment and at the same time contributes to creative diversity, which makes companies more productive and profitable. Really — it's been studied!
How would you describe your role as a researcher and lab manager at SEEQC? What's a normal day like for you?
I am very grateful to John, Oleg and Matt for giving me the opportunity to do the job I love in the country I was born. Before joining SEEQC, I always thought this would be impossible. My job holds a lot of responsibility, but that motivates me each day. Our team is growing, and we are expanding the test facility. I am very proud of what we have achieved here in Napoli.
I try to spend most of my day in the lab, as much as I can — especially when I want to escape from Italian bureaucracy. A normal day is full of calls with colleagues across the world to share results, exchange information and brainstorm on different topics. Calls can never replace meeting in person, but it fills the void. Through the research collaboration with the University of Napoli, I also have the chance to interact with all types of students regularly. They always bring a lot of enthusiasm, which adds to our team's overall motivation.
Much of your work is done with Ph.D. students. What has that been like for you?
It has been a big motivation, and also a big responsibility. Thanks to Professor Tafuri and SEEQC, these young minds have the opportunity to approach a research field that was not accessible in Napoli until recently. We want to make sure that they get the most out of this opportunity. And, after an initial tough training period which we had to do remotely due to COVID restrictions, they have become essential for the successful fulfillment of SEEQC R&D activities in Italy.
You and the SEEQC EU team recently developed and measure a two-qubit gate, for the first time in Italy. This is a huge milestone. What was this process like? What does this mean for the future of quantum in Italy?
First of all, let me say that this has been made possible only thanks to a huge effort of the whole quantum team at SEEQC. For example, Caleb (Jordan) did an impressive job in designing the chip for such an experiment. It has been a complex process, and contributions from the whole team were crucial. It has been very exciting not only for its contribution to our entire system, but also, manipulating the interaction of two quantum systems is really cool!
It is really a huge milestone in Italy. Compared to the US and other European countries, Italy has a lack of facilities, investments and research and development resources for quantum, and science in general. Demonstrating the capability to measure state-of-the-art gates with superconducting qubits has opened a lot of doors for quantum in Italy. SEEQC and the low-temperature laboratory at the University of Napoli have advanced Italy's technology by five years, and we can now compete with the rest of the world. Which such a quick development, this is priceless — with this new momentum, we are going to work hard to contribute to the world of quantum on behalf of Italy.
What major breakthroughs do you think quantum technology will bring in our lifetime?
Right now, we are in what experts call the "2nd quantum revolution", which consists of the manipulation and detection of quantum systems, mainly concerning four key application areas: communication, computing, simulation and metrology. Quantum technology in these areas will have a disruptive impact on society and the economy most likely in our lifetime. As possible direct applications, we could think of new materials, medicines, faster optimization of engineering problems such as traffic flows and financial strategies.
What makes SEEQC's approach so different from the competition's?
SEEQC's core technology, the SFQ-based digital electronics, enables us to scale quantum for commercial use in the near future. SEEQC's proprietary technology is energy efficient, and it drastically reduces power consumption and consequent heat load, latency and costs. It can operate at a much larger clock speed. All its unique characteristics lead SEEQC concretely to a scalable quantum computer for the future. At the same time, our application-specific approach is definitely the most efficient also in the short term.
What was working through COVID like for you? How did the Italian government handle your work during lockdowns?
I am a very lucky person, and being able to carry on my work among the restrictions during a worldwide pandemic proves that. Like most people, COVID disrupted my work routine and for a couple of months — it was mostly remote working, sharing internet bandwidth. It was tough not seeing my coworkers. However, thanks to the support of the director of the department of physics at UNINA, Professor Tafuri and his team, we could keep our experiment running, which was invaluable.
Restrictions were hard during the first lockdown. Nevertheless, the policy was to keep running ongoing fundamental and technology research, and again, in this respect, the collaboration with UNINA was crucial for SEEQC R&D activities. Regular access to the lab was granted, which was amazing, considering that most of the people were forced to work remotely, or not work at all. I felt obliged to do my best and get the most out of that opportunity.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love sea activities, especially deep-sea diving. It is where I feel I am in my natural environment. I like reading novels and comics, including manga, listening to music (I am missing live concerts!) and watching movies. I enjoy cooking, and during lockdown, we experimented in the kitchen — I am not bad, but I am better when it comes to eating and drinking good wine! I love humanistic studies, and when I get time I like to take online classes in ancient history, Chinese philosophy and classic literature. I enjoy all these things when I have free time from tidying and cleaning — I am kind of obsessed with that.