A new center at this university will provide a home for further research into quantum systems in computer science, which could help shape the future of computing, university representatives said.

This university and the National Institute of Standards and Technology on Oct. 31 announced the establishment of the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, shortened as QuICS. The two institutions will fund the center jointly, though university representatives said the funding breakdown has yet to be decided.

The center will bring together researchers from both institutions to study how quantum systems, which make use of the laws that gover small particles such electrons, can apply to computer science, said Jacob Taylor, a co-director of the center.

“No one doubts that quantum computing is changing our understanding of computer science, but what we don’t know is where it’s going to go,” said Taylor, who is also a physicist at NIST and a fellow at this university’s Joint Quantum Institute.

QuICS, he said, will study how an idea in computer science called complexity theory, which aims to explain the order or structure of complicated systems or problems, informs quantum systems. Researchers also hope to look into the implications and limits of quantum information for computing, he said. 

Currently, computing uses Newtonian mechanics to send and store information in binary bits — 0s and 1s. Quantum mechanics are more complex and offer greater possibilities because a quantum computer bit can store data in more ways, he said.

This center will be the newest of the 16 labs and centers of this university’s  Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, said Amitabh Varshney, the institute’s director and a computer science professor.

With the work of university research facilities in the Joint Quantum Institute and the Quantum Engineering Center, which study other aspects of quantum mechanics, QuICS will integrate quantum research with computer science applications, Varshney said.

“Our campus has really taken a big leap forward in systematically taking a comprehensive view of quantum computing,” he said, “and this center will play a critical role in the quantum computing research.”

Like QuICS, the Joint Quantum Institute is a collaborative effort between this university and NIST, NIST spokeswoman Jennifer Huergo said. NIST has only four major joint projects with universities, and three of them are with this university, she said.

The other projects are JILA, a physical sciences research institution at the University of Colorado Boulder, and the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, a partnership with this university’s Shady Grove campus, she said. NIST has made connections with this university because of its proximity and similar research interests.

Taylor said QuICS will help NIST researchers advance their mission and will aid the university. Ten researchers have signed on for QuICS, and the center hopes to include more researchers from both institutions, including post-doctoral researchers, graduate students and possibly undergraduates from this university, in the future, he said.

“NIST has some great researchers in these fields,” Taylor said. “And now these researchers can sit on campus and help mentor students and help direct research, which is hopefully going to be very interesting to everyone in academia.”