Commencement Speaker

Peter Chapman, University of Maryland Spring 2021 Commencement SpeakerPeter Chapman

President and CEO, IonQ

A builder and inventor with more than 40 years of leadership in software engineering, Peter Chapman is at the forefront of what could become the 21st century’s defining technology.
Chapman is president and CEO of IonQ, a company founded on research from the University of Maryland, among others, and headquartered in the Discovery District that’s vying to commercialize quantum computing. Still in its infancy, the field aims to harness quantum physics to exponentially accelerate some computer operations, potentially unlocking advances in everything from security and artificial intelligence to chemistry and drug discovery.

The son of a NASA scientist-astronaut, Chapman began his career at age 16 in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Artificial Intelligence Lab. In 1989, he founded the video game company Level Systems Inc. and later invented the first sheet music-reading synthesizer capable of recreating orchestral instruments.

He built on these accomplishments in the financial and technology sectors, with software breakthroughs that protect mutual funds, power e-readers and assist the blind in reading. Chapman also helped create the world’s first fully automated algorithmic trading system for the stock and commodity markets.

Prior to coming to IonQ in 2019, Chapman spent nearly five years as the director of engineering for Amazon Prime, managing hundreds of engineers to ensure speedy delivery, including its two-days-or-less shipping option.

His driving goal, however, is true artificial general intelligence—meaning a system able to match human learning and understanding. Although an impossible standard decades ago when he first started with computers, it’s one he sees as achievable through quantum technology. Quantum computing in general, Chapman believes, will be key to solving some of humanity’s greatest challenges, such as climate change and disease.

In his spare time, Chapman enjoys woodworking and is currently rebuilding a 1973 Super Beetle from his childhood.

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