Google’s Head of Quantum Computing Hardware Leaves

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Martinis quantum
Credit: Matt Perko/UCSB

John Martinis, a key figure on Google’s Quantum Computing Programme has resigned from Google. We first were tipped off to this earlier this week, when a canny observer spotted that the BCI summit talk, where he is speaking later today, titled him as “ex Google AI Quantum”.

Martinis is a physicist who worked at both Google and the University of California, Santa Barbara. As leader of Google’s quantum computer efforts, he spent many years honing the hardware that underpins the firm’s quantum computer. Martinis will retain his position as a professor at the UC Santa Barbara, which he held throughout his tenure at Google, and says he will continue to work on quantum computing.

 “Since my professional goal is for someone to build a quantum computer, I think my resignation is the best course of action for everyone”

Hartmut Neven will continue to lead Google’s Quantum programme. He previously noted that Martinis used to be a mountain climber, and that he applies that same careful, deliberate approach to building hardware, in which every sequence of moves must be thought out in advance.

“John’s idea of a relaxing Sunday is to go into the lab and solder something together…Martinis has many more ideas he’s hoping to pursue.”

Martinis made Nature’s 2019 Top Moments in Science for his work after Google claimed to demonstrate Quantum Supremacy last year. Nonetheless, according to Wired, he was shortly after moved to an advisory, rather than executive role, at Google. The change purportedly led to disagreements with Neven.

Google’s quantum computing project was founded by Neven in 2006, and initially focused on software. Martinis joined with several members of his university research group in 2014 to establish Google’s quantum hardware lab. This team’s work has been important in demonstrating the potential of using superconducting circuits to build qubits, the building blocks of quantum computers. Others working on this approach to qubits include Rigetti, Oxford Quantum Circuits and IBM.