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IonQ Employee Profile: Kai Hudek, Senior Physicist

Kai with one of his sons in Colorado | Photo by Dawn Nguyen Hudek

Dr. Kai Hudek is a Senior Physicist at IonQ. He joined IonQ co-founder Jungsang Kim’s lab at Duke University as a postdoc in 2013, and then co-founder Chris Monroe’s lab as a research scientist, and was part of the company’s genesis as ideas about using trapped ions for quantum computing turned into a business plan.

“I joined Jungsang’s group because I was really impressed with him as a person,” Dr. Hudek says. “I saw him give a couple of conference talks and was really inspired by him. I took that step conscientiously because I wanted a mentor to learn from, to work for somebody that I respected. Working and being a postdoc at Duke started the arc to IonQ.”

“I like to say I was part of IonQ before it started. This felt like having a world changing promise. I’m still doing physics, I’m still doing science. And I’m also doing it with people I like, and I have a lot of free rein. I’m literally doing the same type of research I used to do, but now with double the people and ten times the funding and five times as fast.

“This has been my perfect job. I get everything I want out of a company, which is budget, people, speed, effectiveness, right? Nobody here feels like grad students getting ignored. Sometimes I hear PhD candidates say, “oh, I haven’t seen my advisor for two months.” I’m like, ‘yeah, that wouldn’t happen here. Somebody would put you to work!’”

Dr. Hudek has worked on miniaturization and integration, on building amazing teams, and on bringing together R&D projects. But his heart belongs to lasers.

“The thing I’ve worked on here that I’m most proud of is the Raman system on IonQ Aria. It was the first system where we had formed this newly functioning team where I was the team lead. The system was immediately commissioned for use and is orders of magnitude better than anything built before. This is like the best parts of grad school.”

Dr. Hudek’s technical contributions to IonQ have been significant – his name recently appeared on a US patent awarded for optical alignment using reflective dove prisms (it involves lasers). But he is always looking ahead to the next iteration, the next use of light to create something.

“I’m very critical of my own work. I build something and then I immediately dislike it. This is why I could never be a painter. I actually really like photography, and most of the photos you see in the press that have IonQ tech are my photos. I love photography because it captures the world as I see it.”

“If we are able to build a quantum computer that is the best in the world at something, that provides value to someone, that gets me really excited. Because I’ve been a part of a group that is doing something in a totally new way, something that’s competitive. That just gets me excited!”

To learn more about joining the IonQ team, read about our benefits and currently open positions.