Ignacio Cirac has been Director of the Theory Division at the Max-Planck Institute for Quantum Optics since December 2001. He was originally trained in theoretical physics at the University Complutense of Madrid (BS, 1988), and then obtained his PhD in theoretical quantum optics in 1991. He was Professor Titular at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain, from 1991 to 1996, and carried out a postdoc at the same time at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (University of Colorado). He then moved to the University of Innsbruck, Austria, as a professor of theoretical physics. He has also been honorary professor at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, since 2002. His main areas of research are the theoretical description of atomic systems interacting with light, and the development of a theory of quantum Information. In those fields, he has proposed several ways of constructing quantum computers, quantum simulators and quantum repeaters, using ions, atoms and photons. He has also participated in the development of the theory of entanglement. During the last few years, he has been interested in using the mathematical techniques developed in the context of quantum information theory to describe quantum many-body systems. In particular, together with Frank Verstraete, he introduced a family of states called "projected entangled-pair states." Those states encode very well the physics of spins and fermions in lattices, as long as the interactions are short-range. He and his collaborators have analyzed these states, proved that they can approximate well the ground states of certain systems, classified phases of matter in one spatial dimension, and analyzed symmetries and topological properties of lattice models.
Ignacio Cirac holds a visiting professorship at the Miller Institute on campus.