Democratize quantum information science

Left to right: Kate Waimey Timmerman of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, Charles Tahan of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Margaret Martonosi of Princeton University, and Jerry Chow of IBM Quantum discuss the accessibility of quantum information science at the 2023 AAAS meeting. Credit: Argonne National Laboratory.

At the 2023 AAAS meeting in Washington, DC, experts discuss how the scientific community can make quantum information science more accessible and reach a broader base of innovators.

Everyone has a place around the table when it comes to advancing quantum information research.

That was the message of a panel discussion on quantum information science at the 2023 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), held March 2-5 in Washington, D.C. , DC.

The session, titled “The Human Side of Quantum Science: Policy, Access, Benefits to Humanity,” focused on the intersection of quantum technology and human activity and how the scientific community can shape these interactions.

The AAAS meeting session was hosted by representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Quantum Information Science Research Centers, including Q-NEXT, which is led by the lab DOE’s Argonne National.

Quantum technologies exploit the particular characteristics of matter at the atomic scale and have the potential to transform society. Quantum sensors could enhance our ability to diagnose disease by imaging individual cells. Quantum computers are expected to solve problems that today’s supercomputers cannot.

One of the challenges facing this burgeoning field is its reputation for inaccessibility, both intellectually and in terms of equipment and resources.

Throughout the discussion, panel moderator Kate Waimey Timmerman, CEO of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, asked panelists how the scientific community is tackling the issue.

For example, she says, we need a stronger and bigger workforce to advance quantum information science in the United States. What are we doing to attract more people to quantum science?

One of the goals of the National Quantum Initiative, which spurred the creation of 10 National Quantum Research Centers led by the DOE and the National Science Foundation, was to “create a new generation of talent,” said Charles Tahan, director Assistant for Quantum Information Science. in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and director of the National Quantum Coordination Office.

“How do you educate people so they have the skills to succeed? How do you inspire them to keep going? And then how do you provide them with experiences throughout their careers, in school, etc. , outside of school, who allow them to see themselves as contributors? Overcome the perception that you have to have Einstein hair?” Tahan said. “That’s just not true, isn’t it? it not? There are many different types of skills, personalities and abilities that are needed.”

The national strategy for building a quantum workforce includes educational partnerships to bring together key industry players, teachers, professional societies and universities to create programs for all levels, said Tahan. It also features various people working in the field.

“This is what a person in this field looks like, whether it’s government, industry or academia, they could look like you,” he said.

Advancing quantum information science takes all sorts. Margaret Martonosi, Hugh Trumbull Adams ’35 Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University, ticked off some of the many areas of expertise needed to advance quantum technologies: chemistry, applied mathematics and statistics, electrical engineering, computer science and physics, to name a few. . And you don’t need a Ph.D. contribute.

“You have this opportunity to take advantage of a lot of different undergraduate areas and create what you might think of as a mezzanine level where there’s a mix,” Martonosi said. “Maybe it’s a master’s degree or maybe some other experience, but the ability to mix and match backgrounds to bring these different areas together will be exciting in terms of integrating academic and technical backgrounds. and improving the diversity and inclusion of the field. , being willing to allow tapping into a broader set of backgrounds.”

Tahan agreed, refuting the idea that an advanced understanding of quantum physics is a requirement to enter the field.

“Quantum is more than quantum physics,” he said. “When you think about the skills needed to build a large quantum computer or sensing network – physics, computer science, engineering, design, etc. – those skills are valuable no matter what.”

Timmerman asked how the scientific community is making quantum computing accessible to more users, noting that several companies are making their quantum capabilities available on the cloud.

“Putting it on the cloud makes it much easier for almost anyone to access. That’s a big part of that,” said Jerry Chow, IBM Fellow and Director of Quantum Infrastructure at IBM, which made the first quantum device available on the cloud in 2016. integrated form of computing that is accessible is the first step towards truly democratizing and bringing these types of services to the world.”

Chow also noted that IBM and other companies are always looking for ways to serve a wide range of users. IBM, for example, hosts global summer schools where students use software development kits like Qiskit to run and write quantum code. Last year, more than 5,000 people from over 100 countries accessed Qiskit.

“That’s really the kind of awareness that we’re trying to drive. We want to empower the world with this future computing resource.” said Chow.

“You could all go and run a little quantum program today on other resources. It’s also accessible,” Martonosi told the audience.

Martonosi cited the example of robotics clubs, which have been successful in putting kids on the path to STEM. Similar entry points could be made available to those without formal training in quantum information science.

“There are also people who come out of intellectual curiosity at any point in their lives – kindergarteners, high schoolers and 50-somethings who are just curious and want to know more. And I think that’s good. “, she added. said. “Cloud-connected quantum platforms – it’s not the same as playing football on a robot – but it has the same aspect of being able to experience something and manipulate it in a more practical way that attracts people often.”

While building quantum capabilities in the United States is critical, so is international cooperation, Tahan said.

“One of the pillars of our national strategy is international cooperation. Quantum has always been a global company,” he said. “So to move science forward faster, we need to work together.”

Tahan said it is better to move forward in quantum information research by working with other countries than to lag behind because we hold certain innovations so close to the vest. At the same time, we must balance the benefits of knowledge sharing against the disadvantages that could arise if we do not protect our intellectual and technological investments.

“But we can’t let that stop us from moving as fast as we can and understanding the world better, with the intention of helping people,” Tahan said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to have to find ways to expand opportunities everywhere.”

Because quantum information science is an emerging field that is taking off, opportunities abound.

“It’s this notion of being able to present the creation, or the quasi-creation, of something new,” said Martonosi, who mentioned that some researchers find it risky to conduct research in a field that is in its infancy. . “I don’t see the risk, because on the one hand the advantage is that we could do something incredibly impactful. And on the other hand, even if certain aspects of what we are working on do not completely , we’re still learning things, and we’re going back and using them in the non-quantum, classical side of the computing space.To me, there’s very little downside and a huge upside that’s very exciting.

Chow hopes the benefit of conducting research from the ground up can attract more people to quantum information science.

“That aspect, of being able to be in there – I don’t think it’s quite the ground floor anymore – but we’re still in those first two floors laying the seeds of what can really flourish in get out of here,” he said.

“The field is progressing so rapidly that there really is an opportunity to make contributions in different ways,” Tahan said. “As a human race, we can’t afford not to take advantage of talent from all over the world. Because we have a lot of problems to solve together.”

Provided by Argonne National Laboratory

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