Tenure Promotion Acknowledgements

Effective today, July 1, I am an Associate Professor of Physics with tenure. When I applied for tenure on Dec 1, my father asked me how I felt after submitting. I told him that there was one word I could think of: “grateful.” Now that feeling has only multiplied. Unlike a PhD thesis, there was no opportunity during my tenure application to add my acknowledgments of those who contributed to my success. Below is what I would have written to reflect my feeling of being ever appreciative to all those who have helped me and worked alongside me throughout this journey.


James Daniel Whitfield | Dartmouth College
Associate Professor of Physics |
Adjunct Professor of Chemistry |
Amazon Visiting Academic




I earned tenure and I did not do it alone. I want to acknowledge all the people and circumstances that contributed to my success. I am grateful for the family I was born into including the past, the present and the future generations. I am thankful to be a part of that legacy. Thank you to my mom for always being my number one supporter, to my sister for so much help with copy-editing and professionalism, and to my dad for always pushing me to do my best.

I earned tenure and I am thankful for the mentors who set me on my way and guided me along this long path. Especially important was my faculty mentor, Lorenza Viola. My former advisors Alan Aspuru-Guzik and Frank Verstraete were mentors who’ve left deep impressions on my style and approach to science. Now, as the leader of my own group, I know first-hand the opportunity and challenge of mentoring.

My research group has been phenomenal, and it has been a pleasure to work with junior researchers for various spans of time and depths of engagement. The Women In Science Project has supplied us with a long line of talented freshman and sophomore students who’ve inspired us to think about how we teach and learn quantum. Excellent senior thesis writers Shaket Chaudhary, Erik Weis, Omar Alsaeed, and Samuel Greydanus have accompanied us. Major contributions came from post-baccalaureate visitors Tarini Hardikar, Kent Ueno, Vojtech Havlicek, and Phyo Pyi Kyaw. Our postdoctoral scholars have included James H. Brown, Sha Xue, Joshuah Heath, Andrew Cupo, and Kanav Setia. Kanav was my first graduate student and the first student to receive a PhD under my supervision, and we had the pleasure of co-founding qBraid together in 2020 as an off-shoot of efforts we began during his PhD. Much like my relationship with Alan, Kanav and I learned many things together both inter-personally and intellectually. The same holds for my graduate students Riley Chien, Jun Yang, Brent Harrison, Kyle Stewart, and Weishi Wang. They are a fantastic set of self-motivated, intelligent junior colleagues delving deeply into science with me.

The advice and learning experiences both formally and informally have been gratefully received and I hope to continue to represent those lessons faithfully. Thus, I’m reaching out to say a warm heartfelt thanks to all of my mentors, informal and formal; to my close friends who’ve helped me grow at chess clubs, night clubs, and house parties. I want to acknowledge my loved ones, both near and far, as they remain a source of drive and inspiration: to my partner, Keiana West, for being a source of growth and love throughout the pandemic and beyond; To my daughter Lily: I hope this award serves as a beacon that might light your path.

I would like to especially highlight my former research administrative assistant Soon-Young Shimizu for important behind the scenes structural contributions to my success that persist through today. Additionally, I kindly thank Alex Gavitt, Ivana Devic, Rishabh Dora, Claire Meli and Jackson Bilbrey for their logistical support as research administrative assistants. I would also like to gratefully acknowledge Judy Lowell, Tressy Manning, and Meg Whitlock for their support of the PandA department and its faculty. I want to warmly thank Kai Orton for sharing her career insights alongside many suggestions on funding applications. Sahil Gulania has been a long-term collaborator over many studious Saturday afternoons these past six years.

I appreciate all my colleagues and peers in Wilder Laboratory from teaching assistants, to my faculty colleagues, and the entire community. Co-teaching Quantum Physics of Matter with Roberto Onofrio was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I have also enjoyed interacting with peers in other departments ranging from History (Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch) and Chemistry (Ivan Aprahamian) to the Russian Department (Victoria Juharyan) and Earth Sciences (Will Leavitt) as well as many departments in between.

My research here at Dartmouth has been generously funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy (including multiple collaborative grants and a single-PI award), attracting a total of over $4 million in external funding since 2016. Their support is gratefully acknowledged. Jean Blandin is an amazing Research Grants Manager for our department and has been instrumental in handling things professionally and timely.

I’ve been able to work in industrial settings, first as a co-founder of a quantum computing software company and now as an Amazon Visiting Academic. Although I’m no longer at qBraid, I wish Kanav and the whole qBraid team nothing but the best. At AWS, my manager Simone Severini is phenomenal. It is impressive to see how much can be done with a positive attitude, deep understanding, and sober assessment of quantum computing technology. Amongst a host of positive co-workers, Tyler Takashita and Sebastian Hasslinger have been excellent mentors who’ve helped me navigate in a new workplace.

There are countless others who were not mentioned explicitly. To colleagues, acquaintances, and well-intentioned beings everywhere you are all gratefully acknowledged. Lastly, I want to warmly thank the entirety of Dartmouth College.