Dr. Mark Lewis knew his area of research for the past 15 years was uncommon, but the professor of business realized just how rare when he was asked to assist the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico this past summer.

For about two years, Dr. Lewis has been working with D-Wave Systems, the only company in the world with a commercially available quantum computer. The national laboratory in Los Alamos bought one recently, and D-Wave recommended that Dr. Lewis help remotely with programming it. His research, optimization algorithms and their applications, develops programming to find solutions to problems such as inventory, logistics, scheduling and more, and that is what the laboratory needed.

“A regular computer is general purpose, but a quantum computer is very specific,” he said. “It solves certain kinds of problems that I have been working on for some time, very quickly.”

Those types of problems have an incomprehensibly large number of possible solutions, Dr. Lewis said, which requires quantum computing to solve.

He noted that a few people in the world are conducting the same type of research as him, and no one really paid much attention until quantum computing gained traction about five years ago.

The explanation of how quantum computing works involves terms such as “superposition” and “electron (or photon) entanglement,” which Dr. Lewis says is cutting-edge research.

“There is a lot going on in quantum computing. If you Google these terms, you’ll find a whole hidden world out there of people working on applying quantum phenomenon to computing.”

He was recently awarded a $125,000 one-year grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory to try to solve the logistical problems associated with fighting wildfires.

Dr. Lewis, a native of the Kansas City area, earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas, and a Master of Science in Operations Research and a Ph.D in Operations Research from Southern Methodist University. He currently teaches graduate courses in the Craig School of Business & Technology in systems analysis and design, business intelligence and analytics, and enterprise applications; and several undergraduate courses in management and statistics.

Dr. Lewis’s work with Los Alamos continued into the fall semester, and he says he will assist the laboratory as long as he is needed.