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Jones Earns Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

For just the second time in the prestigious award's 24-year history, an Eastern Illinois University student has been recognized as a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar.

Jonathan Jones, a Physics/Pre-Engineering major and also a member of the Honors College, was recently selected as one of 282 sophomores and juniors from across the United States to receive this renowned scholarship. A Charleston native, Jones is one of only eight Illinois students to make the cut. The Goldwater scholarship program is considered the premier undergraduate award of its type in the areas of science, math and engineering and can be worth up to $7,500.

"I was very honored and very surprised to receive the Goldwater scholarship," said Jones. "It felt great to see my hard work and that of everyone who helped me in the application process pay off. However, more than anything it has encouraged me to set goals for myself that I would not have expected to be able to accomplish before."

At EIU, Jones' research has primarily revolved around quantum mechanics. He and his research advisor, Amitabh Joshi, specifically examine the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, which Jones describes as "a unique and somewhat counterintuitive feature of quantum mechanics."

Jones says Eastern, and specifically Joshi, played an integral role in earning the Goldwater nod.

"I'm certain I would not have been a competitive applicant for the Goldwater scholarship if it had not been for my experience at EIU," Jones elaborated. "Dr. Joshi approached me to begin research with him while I was still a freshman, and he was willing to spend the time to teach me quantum mechanics and differential equations long before I would learn them in class.

"Furthermore, Sara Schmidt at the Honors College played a major role in encouraging me to apply for the scholarship in the first place. She was indispensable in helping to critique and revise my application, even though most of the work had to be done over winter break."

Schmidt notes that Jones joins Rebecca Grove as the only EIU representatives to earn Goldwater recognition. Grove, a chemistry student, was a 2008-09 recipient. For his part, Joshi was quick to return praise in Jones' direction.

"Jonathan is a blend of excellent work ethic, pleasant personality, and adaptability, which is a rare combination," said Joshi. "He is adept at learning concepts discussed in the lecture classes/laboratory and successfully applying them to generate new ideas. He'll solve extra problems over the assigned work and keep working with challenging problems in physics and math, and he will also think of alternative methods for a lab experiment and compare the outcome with that of the existing method. This is an exceptional quality not found in most students."

Following is the brief summary of Jones' project, which is still in progress, included in his Goldwater application:

With my research advisor [Dr. Amitabh Joshi, Department of Physics], developed equations governing the generalized dynamics of natural and artificial atoms interacting with photons and used these equations to generate quantum logic gates.

Upon conclusion of this research project, we expect to have developed a method of efficiently implementing a one-way quantum computer using cluster states composed of generalized atoms in Λ-type and tripod-type energy level configurations. Since this quantum computer can simulate any appropriately sized quantum circuit, is comprised of much more stable qubits, and can be implemented using both natural and artificial atomic systems, it would represent a substantial contribution to the current body of research.

A 2009 Charleston High School graduate and the son of Daniel and Lisa Jones, Jones plans to transfer to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the 2012-13 academic year; he is currently part of a co-op program between Eastern's physics department and UIUC. When all is said and done, Jones will have a degree in engineering physics from EIU and a degree in electrical engineering from UIUC.

"From there, I plan on getting my doctorate in electrical engineering," said Jones. Dr. Joshi also weighed in on his student's future.

"This career path required very hard work, and I am quite sure Jonathan is capable of doing it very successfully," added Joshi. "Though he is in the early stages of his career, he is clear about what he would like to do and has already shown some typical qualities of an academician. Jonathan's extraordinary qualities, such as his intellectual capabilities, leadership, skillful aptitude, and a strong desire to do research, make him a unique student."

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