APS News

APS Plays Leading Role in Growth of Quantum Information Science

By Tawanda W. Johnson

APS is a leader in the growth of quantum information science (QIS) by helping found the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C), supporting the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQI), and in the launching of the APS Division of Quantum Information.

The QED-C is a consortium that aims to enable and grow the US quantum industry. QED-C was established with support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as part of the federal strategy for advancing quantum information science and as called for by the National Quantum Initiative Act enacted in 2018.

“We believe that quantum science is first and foremost a physics phenomenon, and physicists continue to play an important role in the development of quantum systems,” said Dan Pisano, Director of Industrial Engagement at APS, who pointed out that the Society is active on the QED-C’s Workforce Technical Advisory Committee, which develops strategies to get more physicists involved in quantum information science careers.

Ion trap

Quantum devices such as this ion trap developed by the Joint Quantum Institute (a partnership between NIST and the University of Maryland) will be the building blocks of quantum computing in the future.

Although PhD physicists are in high demand in the QIS field, students with bachelor’s degrees are also highly sought after by employers. In multiyear surveys carried out by QED-C’s Workforce Technical Advisory Committee, companies have reported that they need physicists with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees to build and test development systems. Furthermore, this work is hands-on and best performed by experimental physicists who are comfortable around hardware.

Despite the desire for more physicists to enter the field, employers have struggled to fill positions, mainly because candidates sometimes lack the specialized knowledge necessary to be successful in those positions.

Matthew Versaggi, Senior Director of Artificial Intelligence and Distinguished Engineer at Optum Technology at UnitedHealth Group, who has conducted specialized training courses to help scientists gain the skills needed for QIS careers, said industry needs to boost the levels of competence for employees.

“I absolutely believe that industry will have to train [the workforce because academic institutions will not be] fast enough, nimble enough, cost effective enough, aligned to the proper training timeframes for true capability building, or have the right organizational motivations to produce students to be productive at the time they are hired,” said Versaggi.

To prepare PhD students and early career physicists for QIS careers, QED-C is doing its part by hosting three types of events: student research ePoster sessions, webinars, and regular Technical Advisory Committee meetings.

“These sessions will continue, and we hope to see increased participation from [historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions],” said Dan-Adrian German, Acting Organizing Manager at the Indiana University Quantum Science and Engineering Center. “Connecting industry with talent will remain one of our priorities.”

German added, “We have a webinar on July 13 that will bring together students (both at the undergraduate and graduate level) and postdocs with human resource representatives from a wide variety of industrial partners. We've started a collaboration with various quantum companies, and our webinar on June 8 titled ‘How to Succeed at Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet,’ will feature quantum science expert Chris Bishop.”

APS’s leadership in QIS also extends to the NQI Act. Through APS’s annual Congressional Visits Day in 2018, with support from APS Government Affairs, APS members met with congressional staff to advocate for a multi-agency QIS initiative. Ultimately, Congress put forward bipartisan legislation—the NQI Act—which among other things, calls for the National Science Foundation “to carry out a basic research and education program on quantum information science and engineering, and award grants for the establishment of Multidisciplinary Centers for Quantum Research and Education.” APS Government Affairs remains actively involved in the appropriation process for NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST—all of which fund research in QIS.

There is great potential in the field, and APS members recognize it. According to a Harvard Business Review article, quantum information science is expected to be a multibillion dollar industry by 2030. Moreover, the APS Division of Quantum Information has seen the number of members in its unit increase by 15%–20% per year. Its mission: “to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge concerning the physics of quantum information, computing, fundamental concepts, and foundations.”

“I’m delighted that APS is playing a leadership role as a scientific society in growing the QIS field. It offers tremendous opportunities to expand research and careers for physicists whose skill set make them uniquely qualified to make a tremendous impact within this discipline,” said Francis Slakey, Chief External Affairs Officer.

The author is Senior Press Secretary in the Office of External Affairs

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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondents: Sophia Chen, Alaina G. Levine

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