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By Tawanda W. Johnson
APS recently hosted Quantum Crossing, a virtual event for middle and high school students to showcase the unique careers available in Quantum Information Science and Technology (QIST). The event was also supported by the National Q-12 Education Partnership and the NSF-funded program Q2Work.
“I am thrilled that APS is able to provide these young people with an opportunity to learn about careers in quantum information science and technology,” said Crystal Bailey, Head of Career Programs at APS. “There is no limit to the problems that these new approaches can solve; the key challenge will be achieving a large enough workforce to fill the demand in this field. Programs like Quantum Crossing help to meet that challenge by getting quantum on the radar of the next generation of scientists, as early as possible.”
Quantum Crossing was featured on a colorful virtual reality platform called Gather, where avatars representing students, teachers, and corporate executives interacted with each other during tours, question-and-answer sessions, and video game experiences. A combined total of 406 students and teachers registered for the event, and the following companies also participated: Lockheed Martin, IonQ, Microsoft, IBM Quantum, and Quarks Interactive.
“The Quantum Crossing event was very interesting. It opened new doors for me that I didn’t know existed. The subject of quantum computing was entirely new to me, but now I feel like I have an (albeit extremely basic) understanding of how it works,” said Dylan Gobrogge, a student from Toledo, Ohio.
Gobrogge added, “The thing that amazed me was the versatility of quantum computers, the way they can be used in almost anything for a wide range of results. I think the platform of Gather really helped with the learning because you could watch videos, participate in Q&As, etc. at your leisure. You were free to do whatever you felt like doing at the moment. I came away feeling excited about the possibilities of this relatively new tool and hope that I can help integrate quantum computing into whatever I end up doing with my life."
Mark Tsang, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, suggests that to prepare for a career in QIST, students can leverage open-source learning tools (like the Quantum Katas), participate in summer schools and workshops, and take STEM courses. Getting involved in computer science and quantum clubs can also help in learning how to join and foster communities. Quantum hackathons and open source contributions are also a good way to gain experience with quantum platforms and to get noticed by industry representatives.
“Quantum computing is a technical field, and having a background in physics, mathematics, or engineering will go a long way in preparing you to be successful,” he said, adding that Microsoft currently has a platform called Azure Quantum where students and researchers can access quantum simulators and real quantum hardware.
APS’s support of the Quantum Crossing event is consistent with the Society’s belief that QIST will play an integral role in the development of new jobs and industries that will strengthen the nation’s economy.
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.
In an earlier APS News article (see APS News, June 2021), Dan Pisano, Director of Industrial Engagement at APS, stated, “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.”
There is great potential in the QIST 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 to 20 percent 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 thrilled that APS is playing a leadership role as a scientific society in growing the QIST field, and the Quantum Crossing event was a wonderful way to develop the pipeline of the next generations of leaders in this field,” said Francis Slakey, Chief External Affairs Officer for APS.
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Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondents: Sophia Chen, Alaina G. Levine