Talking about the protagonist of the Albuquerque-set “Breaking Bad” brings a little chuckle to quantum physicists like Ivan Deutsch.
“One of the funny things is that in ‘Breaking Bad,’ Walter White’s pseudonym was Heisenberg,” he said. “Heisenberg is actually a quantum physicist. It’s always a joke to us in physics when we hear Heisenberg as the bad guy. He’s actually one of the most important people of the early 20th century.”
Deutsch, a professor in physics and astronomy, will help communicate that delight to the University community as he delivers this year’s 59th Annual Research Lecture, titled “Breaking Heisenberg, Controlling the Quantum World.” He will deliver the public lecture on April 28.
Deutsch said he is thrilled and honored to be this year’s lecturer. He said that in his lecture, he will talk about the wonders of quantum physics with some segues into “Breaking Bad.”
“If you think about the microscopic world of atoms and molecules, the laws of physics are very different than the experiences of our everyday life,” he said. “Those laws of physics, they explain things like lasers and materials that go into computers. We have come to understand that these microscopic processes have the power to process information.”
Since he arrived to teach at UNM in 1995, Deutsch, 48, has worked with the University’s Center for Quantum Information and Control. He said he works with doctorate students with their dissertations.
Quantum physics sparked Deutsch’s interest when he attended college, he said.
“When I was a student learning about quantum physics, it’s a very strange kind of theory that particles could be at two places at the same time. There are all these paradoxes about its puzzles, but it was very intriguing. But I was curious about it, and that’s something that motivated me.”
Deutsch got his bachelor’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his masters and PhD in the field from the University of California Berkeley. He said he has worked with France Telecom in Paris and was a post-doctoral fellow in Washington, D.C. before coming to UNM.
Originally from New York City, Deutsch said he moved to Albuquerque to join UNM’s advanced physics program. He said he gradually fell in love with the state.
“Before I came to New Mexico, I was always a big city boy,” he said. “It took me a while to adjust. I think New Mexico is a wonderful place. I enjoy everything about the lifestyle and the landscape.”
In the future, quantum physics will allow for the creation of advanced supercomputers, although this would not happen until the next couple decades, Deutsch said. He said that at the moment he is working with other researchers in the country to lay out the research that would serve as a foundation for these technologies.
Deutsch said he advises students to peruse and pursue their passion while at UNM.
“You really should follow your curiosity, your passion. I got into this field because I was just fascinated by it, and that’s what got me here,” he said. “Not everybody is lucky enough, but if you’re passionate enough and have deep curiosity, then that can help to pursue things that you really care about.”