Joining IBM Q Network to accelerate research, educational opportunities in quantum computing

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Virginia Tech has joined the expanding IBM Q Network as a member of the IBM Q Hub at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to accelerate joint research in quantum computing, as well as develop curricula to help prepare students for new careers in science, engineering, and business influenced by the next era of computing.

The IBM Q Network is the world’s first community of Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions, and research labs working to advance quantum computing. Virginia Tech researchers and students will have direct access to IBM Q’s most-advanced quantum computing systems for research projects that advance quantum science, exploring early uses of quantum computing, and for teaching.

Faculty and students from Virginia Tech’s College of Science and College of Engineering will collaborate with IBM scientists on research to advance the foundational science, technology, and software required to enable more capable quantum systems.

“Virginia Tech has significant expertise in designing control schemes for quantum computing hardware and in developing algorithms for simulating molecular chemistry problems on quantum processors,” said Sophia Economou, an associate professor from the Department of Physics in the College of Science. “The collaboration with IBM will allow us to advance our efforts in these directions by directly testing our ideas on IBM hardware. Interactions with IBM researchers and student internships will further accelerate Virginia Tech’s expansion into the burgeoning field of quantum computing.”

Beginning this summer, IBM will host developer boot camps and hackathons for hands-on training of the open source IBM Q Experience cloud services platform, and Qiskit quantum software platform on the campuses of participating universities.

For now, quantum computers are “noisy,” error-prone prototypes, much like classical computers were in the 1940s. But the exponential properties of their fundamental processing element, the quantum bit (or qubit), holds promise to solve problems in chemistry, artificial intelligence, and other areas that are intractable for today’s computers. Consider: 300 perfectly stable qubits could represent more values than there are atoms in the observable universe – well beyond the capacity of what a classical computer could ever compute. Today’s research is paving the way toward improving these early devices to develop practical quantum applications, according to IBM.

Robert McGwier, chief scientist at Virginia Tech’s Hume Center and a research professor in the College of Engineering, said this new effort will build on Virginia Tech’s ongoing efforts with the IBM Q Hub at Oak Ridge in Tennessee on construction and analysis of Noisy Qubit Quantum Algorithm and forthcoming efforts with the Office of the Director of Navy Intelligence’s augmented intelligence with machines program. Also in the College of Engineering, the Department of Computer Science’s Wu Feng is teaching an undergraduate course in quantum computing and faculty are preparing research projects in the field for funding proposals with the National Science Foundation.

IBM also has been partnering on efforts in computational chemistry with Daniel Crawford, a professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Science and director of the National Science Foundation-funded Molecular Sciences Software Institute. “The growing collaboration between researchers at Virginia Tech and IBM focuses on the development of novel algorithms that bind the well-established field of quantum chemistry and the emerging domain of quantum computing in order to attack larger and more complex molecular problems than those currently in our grasp,” Crawford said.

Additional Virginia Tech faculty partnering on the IBM quantum computing project include Ed Barnes, an assistant professor of physics, and Nick Mayhall, an assistant professor of chemistry.



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