This month, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that Stanford faculty members Mark Schnitzer and Jelena Vučković are among the nine faculty scientists and engineers selected as the 2022 Class of Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellows.

This fellowship focuses on advancing transformative, university-based fundamental research, with each fellow receiving up to $3 million over five years. These are “the department’s most prestigious research grant awards,” according to the fellowship’s program director, Dr. Jean-Luc Cambier.

Mark Schnitzer (Image credit: Josh Edelson for the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute)

Schnitzer is a professor of biology and of applied physics in the School of Humanities and Sciences and co-director of the Cracking the Neural Code Program in the School of Medicine. He is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a member of Stanford Bio-X and the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute.

Schnitzer’s research focuses on understanding the computations performed in brain circuitry and developing new forms of light microscopy with which to image brain activity in behaving animals. The Schnitzer lab has created some of the world’s smallest and some of the biggest fluorescence microscopes to date, and about 1,000 neuroscience labs across the globe use one or more of their inventions.

The Vannevar Bush Fellowship will allow the Schnitzer lab to expand its research on the control of movement and motor skill learning. The lab has developed new means of tracking neural activity concurrently in multiple areas of the brain’s motor system, such as the motor cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia. This capability will enable the lab to study how the brain normally controls the motion of the body and adds new movements to its repertoire, how these functions go awry in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and how brain-machine interfaces might be used to assist movement.

Jelena Vučković (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Vučković is the Jensen Huang Professor in Global Leadership and a professor of electrical engineering in the School of Engineering, where she leads the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab. She is also the Fortinet Founders Chair of the Electrical Engineering Department. Vučković was the inaugural director of Q-FARM, the Stanford-SLAC Quantum Science and Engineering Initiative, and is affiliated with the Ginzton Lab, PULSE Institute, SIMES Institute, Stanford Photonics Research Center (SPRC), SystemX Alliance, Bio-X, and the Wu-Tsai Neurosciences Institute.

The key resource that enables quantum technologies, such as quantum communication, quantum computing, and quantum sensing, is quantum entanglement between qubits. Currently, the record sizes of quantum entangled states are still quite modest in all studied platforms for quantum technologies. Vučković’s research will focus on developing a scalable semiconductor platform for generation and control of large entangled quantum states, and for implementation of a fault tolerant quantum computer. This will be enabled by efficiently optically interfacing spin qubits in a semiconductor called silicon carbide, designed and structured to facilitate qubit connections and interactions. Silicon carbide is a material already heavily used in power electronics, but also in abrasives, and as a less expensive jewelry alternative to diamond.