While quantum science may sound like the stuff of science fiction, experts say in the future it will transform cybersecurity, healthcare, and computer technology. Now, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), that future is even closer than it may appear.
The grant will support the Center for Quantum Technology (CQT), a collaboration between researchers at Purdue University, the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, and Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Purdue University will serve as the lead site.
The center’s focus on applied research is integrated into its funding model. The center is an NSF-Funded Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC). Like other IUCRCs, it receives an operating budget from the NSF, but all of the center’s research activities will be funded by industry partners from technology, finance, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and other sectors.
“By involving industry partners from the beginning of the process, we can ensure researchers are doing work that will have a broad impact quickly,” explained Peter Kogge, the Ted H. McCourtney Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Notre Dame. Kogge—an industry veteran himself, having spent 26 years at IBM before his academic career—will serve as director of Notre Dame’s CQT site.
Kogge, who teaches courses on exotic models of computing, said current industry partners are interested in quantum computers as well as a wide range of other applications for quantum science, including improving the drug discovery process, developing secure communications, discovering new materials, and creating more accurate sensors.
“The reason for industry’s interest in quantum technology is simple,” Kogge said. “We keep discovering things quantum technologies have the potential to do that we could never do with existing technologies. Quantum computing, for example, has the potential to solve very hard problems that conventional computers could never solve, regardless of their size.”
Kogge said that in addition to its partnership with industry, the new center will provide crucial opportunities for collaboration among the leading Indiana research universities.
“Notre Dame will bring its own distinctive strengths and capabilities, as will the other universities,” Kogge said. “The aim is to cross-fertilize and make new discoveries no university could make on its own. To achieve that goal, we need the different disciplines involved to speak a common language and to come together to evaluate projects and plan for the future.”
A key part of the CQT’s effort to plan for the future is workforce development.
“There is a long list of job openings for people with quantum experience, and these jobs are hard to fill,” Kogge said. “The new center will give our graduate students—and even some undergraduate students—the opportunity to work on projects that are of direct interest to industry. They might even spend a summer or a semester as an intern at one of the partner companies.”
Over the long term, Kogge said he hopes Notre Dame and other universities extend their efforts to even younger students.
“We need to engage with the community,” Kogge explained. “To truly realize the potential of quantum technologies, we need to build a quantum-ready group of students from middle school on up.”
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