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2016 Dirac Medal for Physics to Chapman University’s Visiting Professor Sandu Popescu


Professor Sandu Popescu from the University of Bristol and Distinguished Visiting Professor and founding member of the Institute for Quantum Studies (IQS) at Chapman University in California, has won the 2016 Dirac Medal in Physics for his research on fundamental aspects of quantum physics.

Announced today by the International Centre for Theoretical Physics based in Italy, the prize recognizes Popescu for his work on quantum entanglement and non-locality, which led him to do pioneering work in what became the area of quantum information and computation and to establish some of the central concepts of this new field.

Upon winning the award today, Prof. Popescu said: "The way in which microscopic particles – atoms, molecules, elementary particles and so on, behave is extremely unusual and very different from everything we know in our daily lives. For example, an atom can be in two places at the same time. Science has known about this for over nine decades and we have a very good theory, called quantum mechanics, which describes it. However, it is one thing to describe what is happening. But it is much more difficult to really understand what's actually going on. It's hard for us to imagine what being in two places at the same time actually means. Unexpected–even paradoxical–new effects continue to be discovered on a frequent basis. The fact that we are so often surprised is a sign that we are still missing a deep and intuitive understanding. My main goal is to reach such an understanding. And doing this is fun. For me, it's like playing every single day!"

Prof. Popescu is the third IQS member to receive the Dirac Medal after Nobel Laureate David Gross and Sir Michael Berry.

IQS co-director and Chapman University Professor Yakir Aharonov noted, "Sandu is one of the world's top experts in quantum mechanics, undoubtedly the best of his generation. As a friend and collaborator, I'd like to congratulate Sandu and wish him the very best."

Dr. Popescu previously was awarded the Clifford Paterson Medal and Lecture Prize by the Royal Society in 2004, the Bell Prize in 2011 and later appointed a Wolfson Research Merit Award holder by the Royal Society in 2012. More information about Dr. Popescu and his work can be found at:

Chapman University Professor Jeff Tollaksen, Ph.D., co-director of IQS said, "Sandu is well known as one of the founders of, and most active researchers in new quantum technologies including new ultra-powerful computers. Such computers will have a revolutionary impact on our quality of life. In addition, it is both the breadth and creativity of Sandu's research that makes him truly remarkable. As a friend and collaborator, I am particularly delighted for this honor bestowed on him."

Prof. Popescu is one of a handful of physicists who conducted his Ph.D. with Yakir Aharonov at Tel Aviv University. Before University of Bristol, Prof. Popescu worked at University of Cambridge (UK), Boston University, and Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

According to the International Centre for Theoretical Physics: the Dirac medal was first awarded in 1985 and is given in honor of P.A.M. Dirac–"one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century" Dirac is also regarded as one of the principal founding fathers of Quantum Mechanics and has played a seminal role in the careers of many IQS members. For example, just after completing his PhD with David Bohm (who Einstein proclaimed was his 'intellectual son'), Aharonov was immediately venerated with the world's top physicists, including Dirac.

The medal is awarded annually on Dirac's birthday, August 8, to scientists who have made significant contributions to theoretical physics. The medalists also receive a monetary prize of $5,000.


About Chapman University's Institute for Quantum Studies

Founded in 2012, Chapman University's Institute for Quantum Studies (IQS) was created by co-directors Yakir Aharonov, Ph.D., and Jeff Tollaksen, Ph.D. IQS' membership includes Nobel laureate Francois Englert, Ph.D., Nobel laureate David Gross, Ph.D., Nobel laureate Sir Anthony Leggett, Ph.D., FRS, Sir Michael Berry, Ph.D., FRS; Paul Davies, Ph.D.., among others, who meet annually in the vein of the world-famous physics Solvay conclave to discuss and collaborate on theoretical physics. IQS has two major publications: Quantum Theory: A Two-Time Success Story and Quantum Studies: Mathematics and Foundations. More about IQS can be found here:

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