Physics dept. debuts quantum info program

Oluwaseun Adeyemi | Mercury Staff

UTD’s physics department will offer a certificate program in Quantum Information — the first of its kind in Texas — starting fall 2023.

Quantum information — the intersection of quantum mechanics and computer science — is a revolutionary field that has the potential to solve complex problems exponentially faster than the classical computer. To expand quantum information education and research on campus, Chuanwei Zhang, associate department head of physics, secured a $5 million ExpandQISE NSF grant in fall 2022. As part of the grant, the certificate program is accessible to undergraduate and graduate student of any major who have taken two semesters of calculus and one semester of linear algebra.HYPERLINK “”

“We wanted to build the first quantum information certificate program in Texas at least,” Zhang said. “That’s part of the motivation — to educate the students at UTD and more generally in Texas and the United States.”

The certificate program, consisting of five courses at the undergraduate level and four at the graduate, is designed to be completed in one year. Assistant professor in physics Michael Kolodrubetz said interested students should enroll promptly as two courses required for obtaining the certificate (Introduction to Quantum Information and Quantum Physics for Engineers and Programmers) will be offered only in the fall and serve as a prerequisite for the rest of the program.

“The good news is for most [undergraduate] students, at least one of them will be a course they probably already had, which is a programming class,” Kolodrubetz said. “The big difference with the graduate level classes is that in addition to learning the same material, they will be required to apply that material to a research project that they’re choosing to actually learn how some of this quantum information shows up in the context of research.”

Students are not required to have any prior experience in physics, as the program teaches quantum mechanics starting from basic mathematics. It also teaches all the knowledge necessary to pass the Quantum Computation IBM certificate — a highly recommended certification for jobs in the quantum information industry, according to Kolodrubetz.

“The skills are learning how the rules of quantum mechanics … differ from classical mechanics or the usual way that we’re used to thinking of the world,” Kolodrubetz said. “From my perspective, one of the most exciting possibilities with this program is that we’re going to be teaching the rules of quantum mechanics and quantum information to people who are not just physics majors.”

With quantum information being a rapidly growing field, Kolodrubetz said that the certificate program will equip students with experience necessary for jobs in the quantum workforce.

“When we talk to people in companies like Google, Amazon and IBM who are most actively pushing things like quantum computing, a lot of the people they’re hiring right now are not actually physicists,” he said. “They’re hiring engineers, they’re hiring computer scientists, they’re hiring people who can interface with quantum systems, but bring to it a different background. Our hope is to prepare them for some of these workforce jobs that are beyond just physics jobs.”

Zhang said he plans to expand UTD’s quantum information education beyond the certificate program to include a master’s, a minor and possibly a Ph.D. program in Quantum Information Science and Engineering in the future.

“I think there is a pretty bright future for this field,” Zhang said. “There is a lot of support from both the federal government and the industry, and they’re very interested in quantum education — not just research, but also education. We received many other research grants for quantum information science, which will help us to mentor research at undergraduate and graduate levels.”

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