The University of Maryland will lead a multi-institutional research effort that uses quantum simulation devices to gain insight into complex quantum systems.

The recently-founded NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Robust Quantum Simulation aims to advance quantum science and technology, have an impactful presence on quantum education and contribute to workforce development in quantum science. 

The institute, funded by a $25 million five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, will be led by University of Maryland computer science professor Andrew Childs with collaboration from project partners at four other academic institutions. The research partners include Duke University, North Carolina State University, Princeton University and Yale University.

The institute’s work will include training and mentoring graduate students and postdoctorates as well as engaging diverse groups in quantum science. 

One way the institute plans to engage these diverse groups is by developing university classes in partnership with other universities, such as Morgan State University and North Carolina Central University, which are both historically Black institutions.

“We have [education and outreach] programs at all levels,” said Mohammad Hafezi, the institute’s associate director for education. “It starts from K-12, goes to undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate and general public. Each of them has their own subtleties and differences and programs. And our hope is to actually cover all of them.”

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Gretchen Campbell, a National Institute of Standards and Technology Joint Quantum Institute fellow and the associate director for diversity and inclusion, said getting the best and brightest people in the field means they need to be sure not to miss “out on large chunks of our population.”

Campbell hopes when people start to learn about quantum science, they get excited and think “[this is] cool and a little different.” And she hopes when quantum science is more accessible to a broader audience, this excitement turns into people becoming interested in STEM fields.

“[The] industry and companies have really realized that there’s really a need to have more people who are trained in quantum science or at least exposed to quantum science,” Campbell said. “This has also been happening at a time when, particularly in physics and computer science, we’ve also been really pushing to increase representation in science.”

The team plans to evaluate their work and accomplishments by conducting an impact evaluation every six months to a year. The team also hopes to learn from other centers that are doing similar work in the U.S. and share their successful and unsuccessful experiences with them.

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Outside of engaging with students and professionals, the institute aims to advance quantum science “by building a well-controlled, well-characterized quantum system that can reliably simulate the behavior of matter at small scales … by combining theoretical studies with experimental implementations on several leading hardware platforms,” according to the project abstract at the time it received the NSF grant.

Childs said that in the far future, chemical processes could be simulated using larger and more reliable quantum computers.

“There’s a lot of potential to solve computational problems that are hard to handle with the computing devices that we have now, and if we could build quantum computers … it would let us do more,” Childs said.