Birgitta Whaley

Birgitta Whaley

Director of the Quantum Information and Computation Center; Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

Birgitta Whaley directs the Quantum Information and Computation Center at Berkeley where she investigates quantum mechanisms that are at work in living organisms. At the intersection between physics and life sciences, quantum biology studies how bacteria, plants and even birds use quantum mechanics for performing key tasks such as energy harvesting and navigation. By exploring biological quantum systems as engineering models, Birgitta Whaley and her colleagues hope to find clues to design novel quantum computers and devices.


BREAKING THE WALL OF QUANTUM LIFE. How Quantum Biology Lays the Groundwork for Organic Technology

Birds are perhaps one of the oldest subjects of human study. From marvelling at their effortless flight to mapping their transcontinental journeys, we gain ever deeper insights into their biology as scientific progress advances. One of the most recent discoveries now shows yet another astonishing facet: quantum mechanisms at work in the eyes of certain bird species may underlie their ability to navigate along the earth’s magnetic field. The plant world is also revealing quantum secrets, as new probes reveal that the highly efficient conversion of sunlight into electronic energy in photosynthesis also relies on quantum dynamics. UC Berkeley professor Birgitta Whaley, one of the leading figures in the relatively young field of quantum biology, explores phenomena like these, happening at the intersection of quantum physics, chemistry and life sciences. This intersection has been recognised since the 1940s, when Erwin Schrödinger published a book on biophysics titled What is Life?. But it was only in the last decade that researchers have made a number of groundbreaking discoveries on quantum systems active in living organisms such as plants and bacteria. By studying the underlying mechanisms, they hope to gain clues for designing highly efficient “biological” quantum devices. At Falling Walls, Birgitta demonstrates the status quo of quantum biology studies and the possibilities they unleash for organic quantum technologies of the future.