Irish quantum physicist Séamus Davis wins prestigious Oliver E Buckley prize

UCC professor honoured by American Physical Society for his pioneering work in development of quantum computing

Prof Séamus Davis of University College Cork (UCC) has been awarded the prestigious American Physical Society’s Oliver E Buckley prize in Condensed Matter Physics.

Prof Davis, who graduated from UCC in 1983, is a leader in a global scientific race in the field of quantum physics where advances are expected to revolutionise the speed and power of computing.

Prof Davis is also a professor of physics at the University of Oxford in the UK. He is currently pioneering a research programme at UCC and Oxford in a joint appointment supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

The Buckley prize recognises 25 years of work and his development of quantum microscopes that allow direct atomic-scale imaging of quantum matter. The prize has been awarded annually since 1953 and 18 recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.


Commenting on his work, Prof Davis predicted that quantum computing will replace silicon-based semiconductors. Several technology companies in Ireland are already working in the area, he said.

“Scientists have long held theories about our galaxy and beyond – but now we are sending huge telescopes into space which are capturing images which are giving us the proof of what is out there. We are doing something similar with the inner space of quantum materials.

“We’re in the basement of the Kane Building at UCC, which is the science building, and this lab used to be a civil engineering lab. But UCC very generously rebuilt it for us into an ultralow-vibration, high-precision lab for studying quantum materials. That took a couple of years, during Covid, but now it’s all built, our instruments are built, and we’re ready to go.”

UCC president Prof John O’Halloran congratulated Prof Davis on the “deserved recognition” of the Buckley prize. He also thanked Science Foundation Ireland for its support in facilitating the research at University College Cork.

Prof John F Cryan, UCC vice-president for research, also congratulated Prof Davis. “Séamus continues to lead some of the world’s greatest discoveries in quantum physics and this award is a testament of the extraordinary work he does in this area,” he said.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist