For such a complicated subject, the leaders of the Quantum Computing at Berkeley (QCB) club articulate a very straightforward mission: “Our goal is to promote quantum computing in a diverse population of students—different majors, different people—and also to educate the campus community about what quantum computing is and how it will affect the future of technology and life,” says 2022 QCB President Andris Huang.
“This year, one of our primary goals is to promote education as much as possible. As a starter we updated our website (https://qcb.berkeley.edu) to incorporate a resource library, as well as a collection of tutorials and courseware,” says QCB Co-President Elias Lehman. He says additional materials are planned, including a student-led course on Full Stack Quantum Computing.
Last year’s QCB President, Emilia Dyrenkova, says the club provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to approach an otherwise daunting subject—she mentions the necessity for a high-level understanding of mathematics—but to still get involved and demonstrate interest as they are learning. As undergraduate leaders, she says, “We realize how hard it is to immediately start getting involved in something so high science, high tech as quantum computing. The entrance bar is quite high.” Lehman says his case is something of an example: “Last year I was browsing Berkeley’s research programs when I came across Quantum Computing. Intrigued by the subject but having very little knowledge, I needed to begin self-studying. That’s when I joined QCB. It was my first extracurricular organization here at Berkeley, so naturally I was shy to meet so many new faces, but my fellow members warmly took me in, quickly sharing the academic resources that helped them navigate the space effectively.”
Members of QCB meet every Friday, and Huang says there are three main branches: education, a project group, and a reading group. Huang says for education, the group’s student-led course will be for “total beginners who don’t know anything about quantum computing." The project group, he says, is based on online tutorials and research so that undergrads might get some hands-on experience. The reading group, he says, tackles advanced research papers for group discussion and probably requires greater familiarity and understanding of the subject matter.
Another highlight of the club, says Dyrenkova, is the opportunity to hear invited talks by industry speakers. Such as Denise Ruffner, Chief Business Officer at Atom Computing; Terry Rudolph, a founder of PsiQuantum; and Jack Hidary, CEO of Sandbox AQ. As Berkeley students, Dyrenkova says, “I think it’s really important that we invite speakers with different backgrounds.” There’s a joke among fans of quantum computing that “you need a Ph.D. even for marketing roles,” says Huang. As a junior, he says he thinks he is headed in the direction of graduate school.
Dyrenkova, a senior who spent a summer semester at Canada’s Waterloo University participating in quantum research, says she will be applying to graduate schools soon and would like to work on quantum simulations research. “The club helped me a lot in getting here,” she says, particularly her work with QCB’s advisor and Berkeley Physics Associate Professor Hartmut Haeffner. “What I’m most excited to see is how the investment we put into education today will pay off in the form of accomplished research in just a few semesters,” Lehman says of students who participate in QCB. “Next semester, we’re launching our Quantum Undergraduate Opportunities in Research program as an intermediate step between education and advanced research. There is so much more to explore in this field. I can’t wait to see our generation lead the way.”
This article originally appeared in the Berkeley Physics Fall 2022 magazine: "A Journey of Discovery: New approach to undergraduate education aims to give students a rich tapestry of experience." Read more about the Physics department on the Physics website(link is external).