OQI and IIQURS programs prepare summer researchers for future in quantum
9/14/2022 2:37:20 PM
This summer, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign partnered with IBM to launch the IBM/Illinois Quantum Undergraduate Research Scholars program (IIQURS). The Chicago Quantum Exchange (CQE) also launched its first Open Quantum Initiative (OQI) Program. Both programs, administered by IQUIST, give students the opportunity to conduct research, working in groups with graduate students and professional researchers in the field of quantum information science. A total of 16 students were selected for the OQI and IIQURS programs, which were also supported by IBM, CQE, and Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks (HQAN). Seven of these students were hosted at Illinois from June through August 2022. In addition to performing their full-time research projects, students also had the opportunity to visit the IBM Thomas J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY to kick off their projects.
Physics major Healey Kogan is one of the students in the OQI program. A rising junior attending Illinois, Kogan previously conducted research in astrophysics before she transferred fields to quantum and optics. For her project, Kogan focused on building a Fabry-Perot optical cavity, which allows trapping of atoms in an array for entanglement. Illinois physics professor Jacob Covey and graduate student Neville Chen aided Kogan while working on her project, sharing their expertise in quantum optics. “Being able to meet these people and do research… it’s really encouraging to me” Kogan expressed.
Both OQI and IIQURS programs seek to create academic research opportunities for historically underserved populations. Student intern Chevy Cecil explains how his “mom was the first one on both sides of the family to get an associate degree… the program showed me I can break the generational cycle.” The programs focus on funding and providing resources for students who may not have been able to conduct scientific research otherwise. “It gives opportunities to students to be able to do research… specifically the program is targeted toward people who are underrepresented in physics” Kogan asserts.
As part of their programs, all students had to give three oral presentations throughout the summer, as well as draft a publication-style research report of their progress and findings. Prior to this, students had several technical writing and presentation workshops. Kogan details how one of the biggest takeaways from her experience in the program has been “learning how to communicate science.” She credits the program for exposing her “to a lot of different paths in physics.” In the future, Kogan wishes to be a professor; she found that the program opened opportunities for her.
Alejandro Aponte, another student studying physics, is also a part of the OQI program here at Illinois. Originally born in San Juan, Aponte now resides in Florida and attends Florida International University. His project focus was on building an imaging system, and, like Kogan’s, it falls under the optics side of quantum sciences. Aponte credits his mentors, “Every time I had a block there was always someone here to help me get stuff done.” Working under professor Elizabeth Goldschmidt and graduate student Donny Pearson of Illinois, Aponte describes it “like a day in the life of a graduate student.” While interested in pursuing graduate school, Aponte is now “looking at UIUC as a candidate” because of the OQI program.
For the IBM/Illinois Quantum Undergraduate Research Scholars program, mentors from Illinois and IBM lead two groups of students working together on projects. Each group is made up of one undergraduate from Illinois and one visiting student. The groups are divided by the student's interests and focused respectively on one project in experimental and one in theoretical quantum sciences.
Chevy Cecil is a visiting student who is transferring from San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, California, to Sacramento State University. Cecil is a sophomore in physics and worked on a theory project this summer under physics professor Smitha Vishveshwara of Illinois and Sona Khadijeh of IBM. With no previous experience conducting research, Cecil explained how adjusting to his research workday required a lot of “resilience and patience.” “It’s opened my eyes to a lot of different skills I will be taking with me towards the future,” Cecil said. During the program, he learned how to code in Python, in addition to absorbing more information about quantum science theory and linear algebra. Cecil found encouragement in the IIQURS program, saying it “strengthened [his] love for physics.”
Throughout their 10-week program, students attended research and professional development seminars focused on topics like "Research Ethics" and "Impostor Syndrome," as well as trips to both Argonne and Fermi National Labs later in the summer with the Illinois Physics REU program.
The 2022 IIQURS program was supported by IBM and created in part by the partnership between IBM and Illinois through the IBM-Illinois Discovery Accelerator Institute. Funding for the Summer 2022 Open Quantum Initiative is provided by: the Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center at Illinois, Hybrid Quantum and Architectures and Networks (HQAN), and the Moore Foundation. Below are the Illinois-hosted students and their collective projects:
Caitlin Kubina (Howard Community College, MD, St. Mary’s College of MD) worked on her project with Abhishek Karve titled Laser Pulse Hardware for Rydberg Atom Quantum Gates & Computational Phase Change of Random Max-Cut using QAOA. Her advisors were Omar Shehab (IBM) and Jake Covey (Physics, UIUC).
Abhishek Karve (UIUC) worked on his project with Caitlin Kubina titled Laser Pulse Hardware for Rydberg Atom Quantum Gates & Computational Phase Change of Random Max-Cut using QAOA. His advisors were Omar Shehab (IBM) and Jake Covey (Physics, UIUC).
Chevy Cecil (San Joaquin Delta CC, CA, Sacramento St. University) worked on his project with Michael Norlander titled Investigating the Dynamics of Quantum Many-Body Systems in the IBM Simulator. His project advisors were Sona Najafi (IBM) & Smitha Vishveshwara (Physics, UIUC).
Michael Norlander (UIUC) worked on his project with Chevy Cecil titled Investigating the Dynamics of Quantum Many-Body Systems in the IBM Simulator. His project advisors were Sona Najafi (IBM) & Smitha Vishveshwara (Physics, UIUC).
Gustavo Aldas Astudillo (Passaic Community College) worked on his project Nanoscale Magnetic Imaging and Spectroscopy Using Quantum Defects in Diamond. His project advisor was Mikael Backlund (Chemistry, UIUC).
Alejandro Aponte (Florida International University) worked on his project Development of an Imaging System to Aid the Creation of an Optical Quantum Memory Based on Rare-Earth Atoms in Cryogenically Cooled Solid-State Hosts. His project advisor was Elizabeth Goldschmidt (Physics, UIUC).
Healey Kogan (UIUC) worked on her project Fabry–Pérot Test Cavity Development and Experimentation. Her project advisor was Jake Covey (Physics, UIUC).