As of 15 December 2023, director of QuSoft and famous quantum researcher Harry Buhrman will start a new position. After leaving his position at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) he will begin as Chief Scientist Quantum Algorithms & Innovation at the world’s largest integrated quantum computing company Quantinuum, based in their London research centre. “I still have ten years until I retire. It is time to hand over my work to a new generation and for me a chance to start a new adventure and work on new things, close to the development of physical quantum computers,” Buhrman says.
A bright career
Harry Buhrman started in 1994 as a post-doc researcher at CWI – the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands – in Paul Vitányi’s group. In the second half of the 1990s he set up his own quantum group at CWI, the current Algorithms & Complexity group. Buhrman: “While most research at that time was about physical quantum computers, I focused on quantum software and quantum information, from the perspective of computer science. You could say that the quantum software research in the Netherlands was set up at CWI.” In Europe and worldwide Buhrman is also considered as one of the founding fathers of the field. Starting in 2000, Buhrman also became a professor at the University of Amsterdam, in addition to his work at CWI.
One of the things Buhrman is proud of is that the quantum field has grown from a small group of interested scientists, mainly physicists, to a large group of people, including in computer science, mathematics and now even business. In 2015, he founded QuSoft, the Research Center for Quantum Software, a collaboration of CWI together with the UvA, with which approximately 80 people are now affiliated. Buhrman became director of QuSoft, along with Kareljan Schoutens.
Harry Buhrman says:
QuSoft is the first institute in the world with a focus on quantum software. I am very proud that this research has taken off so well in the Netherlands. QuSoft is respected worldwide; it really put the Netherlands on the map.
Buhrman then started a collaboration from QuSoft (CWI and UvA) with QuTech (TU Delft) and Leiden University in the Quantum Software Consortium (QSC) – a large Gravity program of NWO – where Buhrman became chairman of the QSC Executive Board. This collaboration culminated in the even larger National Growth Fund programme Quantum Delta NL. In Amsterdam, the ecosystem continued to grow with a local hub, Quantum.Amsterdam (founded by QuSoft, CWI and UvA) and then the Quantum Application Lab (founded by QuSoft (CWI/UvA), eScience Center, SURF and TNO and companies such as IBM, among others).
Partly because of this ecosystem, the Netherlands has been put on the map so well. I am very happy that it worked out so well thanks to the support of the CWI and the UvA. The important thing about programs like this one is that they receive support at an early stage and can then grow into something wonderful.” He adds: “The role of CWI is that new knowledge is developed here and when the time is right, knowledge flows out to academia and society and then independently ends up elsewhere. That’s why it’s great that CWI exists! Now it’s time to hand over the keys to a younger generation. CWI is a wonderful place. I’m really leaving with pain in my heart. At the same time, I am very much looking forward to my new work in London, where I will be closer to the development of the quantum computer and to look with new ambitions at the quantum industry, to which I can hopefully contribute.
Harry Buhrman was the group leader of the Algorithms & Complexity research group at CWI for more than 20 years, and distuinguished research professor of computer science at the UvA. Buhrman has written more than 200 papers and supervised 18 PhD students, including Ronald de Wolf, Jop Briët, Peter van der Gulik, Florian Speelman and Jeroen Zuiddam, who now work at CWI and/or QuSoft, and Stephanie Wehner (QuTech). Buhrman has set up the research field of quantum software and quantum information in the Netherlands. In 2020 he became a Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) based on his exceptional scientific achievements. He is also a co-founder of the company Fermioniq, founded in 2021. His research focuses on the intersection of computer science, mathematics and physics. A common thread running through his career is mapping the computing power and capabilities of both classical and quantum computers and communication networks. He does this by designing new algorithms and communication protocols, and by developing techniques that demonstrate their optimality. He gained international fame for his work on quantum communication and quantum lower bounds.
At CWI, Buhrman will be succeeded by Ronald de Wolf as the group leader of the A&C research group. Buhrman will remain employed one day a week at the UvA and will remain involved with QuSoft, of which Christian Schaffner (UvA) is now director. In the course of 2024, CWI will organize an event to mark Harry Buhrman’s farewell. The date and theme are yet to be announced.