Engineering professor named one of five inaugural Moore Inventor Fellows


University Park, Pa. — Xingjie Ni, the Charles H. Fetter Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, has been named a Moore Inventor Fellow by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. This is the first year for the Moore Inventor Fellowships program, which recognizes early-career innovators at U.S. universities with a high potential to accelerate progress in scientific research, environmental conservation and patient care.

Ni is a pioneer in the emerging field of metasurfaces and has demonstrated a capacity to transform fundamental physical concepts using novel metasurface-based optoelectrical applications. The fellowship will advance Ni’s work on developing a brighter, purer quantum light source that could ultimately lay the foundation for increasing the speed, scale, and security of information transmission in quantum communication and computing.

“Every day I think about how we could use light to make our lives better. It was exciting when the first quantum optical network become a reality, but I was quite unhappy with its unreasonably slow data rate and limited range,” Ni said about why he started working in this area. “I looked into the problem and found that one of the key issues is the efficiency of the quantum light source. I happily noticed that this could be potentially solved using my expertise on the manipulation of light.”

Ni is one of five inaugural Moore Fellows, all of whom will receive a total of $825,000 over three years to drive their inventions forward, including $50,000 per year from their home institution as commitment to these outstanding individuals. The foundation will invest nearly $34 million during the next ten years to support a total of 50 Moore Fellows.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s belief in the promise of basic research is essential to supporting such rapid development of inventions at this stage.

“This gift is especially significant because of its focus on early-stage investment in compelling science,” Penn State Vice President for Research, Neil Sharkey, said. “Philanthropic support from forward-looking foundations, such as the Moore Foundation, provide our faculty with the freedom to pursue creative work at its formative stage, when securing funding proves most challenging. The fellowship will propel this work past the initial stages and place Dr. Ni in a strong position to secure future investment from both government and private sources.”

Ni, who joined the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 2015, said that he believes quantum systems will be the best solution in protecting national, business, and personal security.

“Brighter, purer quantum light sources will make the quantum network bandwidth larger and further reaching, enabling quantum optical computers to run faster,” Ni said. “It also makes those systems more compact and energy efficient, bringing us closer to the day when every electronic device is connected to the quantum network and our information is transferred with unconditioned security across the globe.”

Ni will be recognized with the other Moore Fellows at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA today (November 2).

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and the preservation of the special character of the Bay Area.

Private supporters like the Moore Foundation are invaluable partners in fulfilling the University’s land-grant mission of education, research and service. Discovery is at the core of this mission, and Penn State is positioned to play a leadership role in mapping a revolutionary global digital future. Private gifts expand the capacity of our faculty to seek new knowledge, foster creativity and innovation, and confront persistent and emerging problems of regional and global significance for society’s benefit.


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Rebekka Coakley

“Every day I think about how we could use light to make our lives better. It was exciting when the first quantum optical network become a reality, but I was quite unhappy with its unreasonably slow data rate and limited range.”
—Xingjie Ni



The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science was created in the spring of 2015 to allow greater access to courses offered by both departments for undergraduate and graduate students in exciting collaborative research fields.

We offer B.S. degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, computer engineering and data science and graduate degrees (master's degrees and Ph.D.'s) in electrical engineering and computer science and engineering. EECS focuses on the convergence of technologies and disciplines to meet today’s industrial demands.

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