Caltech physicists, engineers, and other faculty and students across campus soon will be able to come together in a collaborative, state-of-the-art space designed specifically to inspire and enable breakthroughs in quantum science and technology.
Today, philanthropists Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg joined Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Pasadena mayor Victor Gordo, Assemblymember Chris Holden, and other distinguished guests and members of the Caltech community to break ground for the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Center for Quantum Precision Measurement. The Ginsburg Center will accelerate the exploration of quantum phenomena across all scales as well as the invention of instruments to measure these phenomena with unprecedented sensitivity. These concepts and tools, in turn, will enable researchers to advance fundamental research across many scientific disciplines.
The new building was made possible thanks to a naming gift from Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg of Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and a major grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation to create the Kip Thorne Laboratories, which will be housed in the Ginsburg Center. Additional funding from a generous anonymous donor enabled Caltech to establish the Institute for Fundamental Quantum Sciences, a research hub that will span the Ginsburg Center as well as spaces in the nearby George W. Downs Laboratory of Physics and Charles C. Lauritsen Laboratory of High Energy Physics (which houses the Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics), the W. K. Kellogg Laboratory, and the Ronald and Maxine Linde Hall of Mathematics and Physics.
The placement of these facilities adjacent to one another will quicken discovery by strengthening formal partnerships as well as spontaneous interactions among Caltech's diverse community of quantum researchers, including computer scientists, engineers, biologists, chemists, and physicists.
A Deeper Understanding of Physics, Ourselves, and the Cosmos
From living cells to black holes, nature is built on quantum physics, the study of the fundamental building blocks of matter and energy. Individually as well as collectively, atoms and subatomic particles obey the rules of quantum physics—behaving far differently than objects at the scale of humans' everyday perception. New knowledge about these behaviors and how to manipulate them is ushering in a potentially transformative technological era—much in the way advances in our understanding of physics and engineering led to the development of semiconductors and transistors that fueled the information age.
Caltech is a leader in quantum science and technology, home to theorists as well as experimentalists who are making pathbreaking discoveries in areas ranging from quantum computing and biomedical imaging technologies to innovative detectors for measuring gravitational waves. Scientists at the Institute also are investigating quantum materials with interesting electronic, magnetic, optical, and superconducting properties that cannot be described using classical physics.
The Ginsburg Center will unite researchers focused on precision measurement, quantum information, and the detection of gravitational waves—accelerating the creation of quantum devices that have the potential to revolutionize agriculture, consumer electronics, energy production, medicine, and the sustainability of our planet.
A Second Quantum Revolution
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum, the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and professor of physics, described how quantum science developed before World War II led to the world we know today in terms of transistors, computers, magnetic resonance imaging, and many other technologies we take for granted.
"We now stand on the verge of a second quantum revolution, and it is this vision that inspires Charlotte and Allen," he said. "It includes, of course, the technologies and the understanding that will come from recording gravitational waves, from measuring brain waves, from creating quantum computers, from developing new materials. But if you talk to Allen and Charlotte, they light up when they talk about educating the next generation—the importance of people, the importance of collaboration. And that is what the Ginsburg Center will do. It will create knowledge, and it will be a centerpiece of our efforts in quantum studies on campus."
Allen Ginsburg affirmed the couple's commitment to the education that will take place within the new building. "Regardless of what you've done in life, where you've gone, and whatever you expect to do, you really haven't done your job unless you've enlisted young people in the world with beautiful minds to get started as early as you can," he said. "It is the greatest contribution to humanity that we can make, and to the planet."
A Focal Point for Quantum Innovation on Campus
Slated to open in fall 2025, the Ginsburg Center will be located on the north side of California Boulevard, adjacent to Caltech's physics, mathematics, astronomy, and engineering buildings. Transparent façades inflected inward on the center's south and west sides will suggest a prism or the bending of spacetime—an allusion to the research and education that will take place inside. Above ground, four stories comprising nearly 37,500 square feet will encompass research offices as well as a nucleus of collaborative spaces and seminar/meeting rooms infused with natural light.
Below ground, two basement levels will provide approximately 31,500 square feet of experimental facilities. The design will promote collaboration by putting scientists in close proximity to one another while also ensuring the silence and stability required to accommodate leading-edge quantum measurement techniques. These facilities will include shared experimental and collaboration spaces as well as the state-of-the art Kip Thorne Laboratories, funded and named by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation in honor of Kip Thorne (BS '62), Caltech's Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus. Thorne was one of three scientists who shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for developing the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), which made the first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves.
Maximizing the Ginsburg Center's function as a nexus for innovative research, a passageway below ground will connect the building to Downs-Lauritsen, which houses teaching and research programs in physics and high-energy physics.
A Catalyst for Progress Benefiting the Community and the World
Both Mayor Gordo and Chris Holden, who represents California's 41st Assembly District, looked to the impact of Caltech and the new building on the Southern California community.
By attracting the best and brightest minds, and keeping them here, Gordo said, Caltech has helped make Pasadena a world-renowned science center. "We have more than 300 science and tech companies, and we're seeing more and more want to be in Pasadena," he said.
Holden added: "This new building will be a catalyst not only for scientific progress, but also for economic development and community enrichment throughout our region and beyond. I eagerly anticipate the breakthroughs the Ginsburg Center will make possible."
The event concluded with a dramatic visual presentation. Flat-screen displays showed a video of two black holes merging, and a hologram of the new building emerged from the resulting massive black hole projected above the speakers on the stage.
"We're thinking of beautiful minds, not just in our generation, but for generations to come," Charlotte Ginsburg said. "This building will do so much for research, beautiful minds, and our world. We are thrilled to be involved with it."