Derek S. Wang

Derek S. Wang

Research Scientist

IBM Quantum


As a research scientist at IBM Quantum, I unravel fundamental problems in physics by simulating many-body systems on quantum computers. For my PhD, I engineered quantum optical materials with applications in quantum computing and chemical reactivity. My methods of choice lie at the intersection of theoretical and computational quantum · (chemistry, optics, simulation).

I’m open to working with researchers of all experience levels, including those who are new to my field or to research in general. I’ve listed some open Problems as a potential starting point for a discussion. To get a sense for what I’ve worked on in the past, see Publications.

I get to do what I do only because of a pantheon of mentors that have guided me through many hoops. Feel free to contact me about preparing and applying for the chemistry olympiad, college, summer programs (REUs) and jobs (Google, Apple, venture capital, Rigetti), graduate school, scholarships (Goldwater, Marshall), and fellowships (NSF GRFP). I’m happy to share tips and my application materials.

  • Quantum computing
  • Many-body physics
  • Polariton chemistry
  • Electronic structure theory
  • Quantum optics
  • Materials science
  • PhD in Applied Physics, 2022


  • MSc in Theoretical and Computational Chemistry, 2019


  • BS/MS in Materials Science and Engineering, 2017



Engineering Quantum Optical Matter--Defects, Entanglement, and Chemical Reactivity

The discovery of quantum theory has led to explanations for nearly all physical phenomena from the smallest to largest length scales. In recent decades, as quantum theories have become better understood, scientists and engineers now seek to apply the unique advantages of quantum systems to solve practical problems. The purpose of this dissertation is to engineer quantum light-matter systems, or quantum optical matter, for practical applications by using theoretical and computational methods at the intersection of quantum chemistry and quantum optics. This dissertation consists of three parts. In the first, we design and control a class of quantum optical matter, defects in solid-state materials, that can be used as a nanoscale interface between quantum light and quantum matter degrees of freedom. In the second part, we click together simple and generic systems of quantum optical matter, where the particular features of specific systems like defects in solid-state materials have been abstracted away, to form more complex composite systems. We then show that certain composite systems can emit entangled photons and perform multi-qubit gates on photons with applications in photonic quantum computing. Finally, in the third part, we study another application of quantum optical matter–chemistry. In particular, we propose an explanation for experiments in the field of vibrational polariton chemistry where it has been observed that molecules packed into a cavity with fundamental modes resonant with molecular vibrational resonances exhibit altered chemical reactivity.