For his role in pushing forward the development of quantum communications, Chinese physicist Pan Jianwei has been included in Nature's 10, the annual list of ten people who mattered in science in 2017, which was released online Monday by the prestigious journal Nature.
From quantum communications and genome editing to the threat of a nuclear crisis and the dismantling of environmental protections in the United States, "this list covers the highs and lows for science and scientists in 2017," said Brendan Maher, news features editor at Nature.
Dubbed "Father of Quantum" by some in China, Pan Jianwei and his team harnessed quantum laws to transmit information securely, called quantum communications.
In July, Pan and his team reported they had broken the record for quantum teleportation. In September, the team used a satellite to beam photons to Beijing and Vienna, generating quantum encryption keys that allowed teams in these cities to video chat securely, according to Nature.
More experiments have been planned by Pan and his team, and in the next five years, "many wonderful results will come, It's really a new era," Pan was quoted as saying in the Nature feature.
Renowned scientist and president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences Anton Zeilinger, seen as a pioneer in the field of quantum information and of the foundations of quantum mechanics, believes the landmark quantum-encrypted intercontinental video call between China and Austria is very important and impressive.
"I see this as a part of the goal of building a future quantum internet, where in this case China enabled a worldwide quantum-secure communication," the physicist told Xinhua earlier.
Another scientist featured in the list is David Liu. The biologist and his team at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have dedicated efforts to improving the powerful CRISPR genome-editing technique. Such tools could one day save lives, as cell-based therapies can be enhanced by the method.
"I'm deeply honored to be selected for this distinction, and I'm especially grateful to the remarkably talented and dedicated members of my research group. Their insight and hard work are what really mattered, and they are the true recipients of this recognition," Liu told Xinhua.
This year's list also includes Marica Branchesi. The astronomer is a member of the Virgo collaboration, which operates a gravitational wave detector near Pisa, Italy. Branchesi helped bring together more than 3,500 researchers who captured the collision of two neutron stars in detail, according to Nature.
Meanwhile, Khaled Toukan, a physicist who kept the Middle East's first synchrotron light source on track, is among Nature's top ten.
Nature's 10 are not just about scientists, and policy makers are also featured in the list. Lassina Zerbo, head of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, is included for his hard work on encouraging nuclear non-proliferation.