Serge Massar was born in Zambia in 1970 and passed most of his youth in Africa. He graduated in physics from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1991 with highest honours (La Plus Grande Distinction). He then began research in theoretical physics under the direction of Prof. Robert Brout. He defended his PhD in 1995 with highest honours (La Plus Grande Distinction).
From 1995 to 1997 he was a post-doctoral researcher at Tel Aviv University (Israel), and then from 1997 to 1998 at Utrecht University (Netherlands). In 1998 he came back to the ULB as a Research Associate of the Fund for Scientific Research-FNRS, and 10 years later was promoted to its highest rank, Research Director. In 2012 he integrated the ULB faculty, and was soon promoted to the highest rank, “Professeur Ordinaire”.
For 2 years in 2014-15, Serge Massar was Director of the Physics Department at ULB. During his career he coordinated several European and Belgian research networks. Since 2004 he is Director of the Laboratoire d’Information Quantique of the Physics Department at ULB.
Amongst other recognitions, he was awarded the Alcatel-Bell prize of the FNRS for his research on experimental quantum information processing, the 2010 La Recherche prize for his work on certified quantum random number generation, and was awarded the best paper award at the highly competitive Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC) in 2012 for his work on the Travelling Salesman Problem.
He has co-authored over 130 publications in peer reviewed scientific journals and over 70 conference proceedings.
During his PhD, Serge Massar studied quantum gravity and in particular black hole evaporation (Hawking radiation). The aim of these works was to understand the gravitational backreaction to the evaporation process. The most important results obtained concerned the role of the transplanckian frequencies needed to explain the origin of the radiation.
Later he started working in the nascent field of quantum information, and this gradually became his main topic of research. Important contributions concern quantum measurement theory, quantum cloning (together with N. Gisin he introduced the first bounds on the quality of quantum clones), entanglement, quantum non locality (he introduced a fundamental tool to study non locality in higher dimensional systems, now known as the CGLMP inequality after the initials of the authors), quantum cryptography. He pioneered the use of non locality to realize “device independent” quantum cryptographic tasks, such as key distribution or random number generation, whose security does not rely on modelling of the internal workings of the devices used. His work in quantum information lead to an important offshoot in theoretical computer science when he solved a 20-year old conjecture on the Travelling Salesman Problem.
In parallel with the above Serge Massar developed an activity in experimental quantum optics and non-linear optics. Results obtained include the demonstration of frequency bin entanglement, the generation of photon pairs in micro ring resonators, and the discovery of the remarkable non-linear optical properties of amorphous silicon waveguides.
Recently he has been devoting increasing time to artificial intelligence, machine learning and its relation to complex systems. In this context, he works on the experimental implementation of the concept of “reservoir computing”. Important results are the first realisation of a new architecture based on a single nonlinear node and a delay loop, of opto-electronic and all-optical reservoirs, of a fully analog system.
Serge Massar also co-authored 2 papers in biology on the origin of the DNA code and of proteins.