Iris Cong

Hertz Fellow: Iris Cong

Harvard University

Area of Study


Fellowship Years

2018 - present

Iris Cong was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. After taking Calculus at age eleven and Linear Algebra at age twelve, Iris skipped high school to enter UCLA directly at age thirteen, where she majored in Computer Science (CS). Though competing against classmates with much stronger backgrounds from AP classes, Iris persevered and graduated as the Engineering School’s sole Outstanding Bachelor of Science with a 4.0 GPA.

Iris's favorite past accomplishment is the result of her summer research at Microsoft Station Q, UCSB in 2016. Though she arrived at Station Q without previous experience even in basic group theory, within three months, she was able to master many key concepts of category theory and condensed matter physics. She produced a 117-page research paper on topological quantum computation with key impacts in physics, math, and CS. This led to three first-authored journal publications (including one in Physical Review Letters), and multiple invited talks.

Iris is now a graduate student in Harvard’s physics department, where she hopes to gain a deeper physical insight into quantum computing. Currently, she is interested in using intermediate-size quantum simulators to simulate quantum many-body dynamics and solve important problems in condensed matter physics. In the future, Iris hopes to combine her talents for physics, CS, and math to promote large-scale deployment of quantum computing.

Iris has been awarded numerous honors for her academic achievements, including the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, invited participation at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. Iris also takes joy in giving back to the community. At UCLA, she taught high school students every weekend at the Los Angeles Math Circle. In the summer of 2017, she gave an invited lecture series on category theory for a summer school at Fudan University, Shanghai, where she advised undergraduate students throughout China. Outside of academics, Iris is an avid alpine skier. She also loves music: she has studied piano for 14 years, and participated in UCLA's Chorale and Chamber Singers.