One of the things that makes us optimistic about the future of quantum technology is the enthusiasm of the young people who are eagerly studying it and making contributions at an early stage. They are taking courses, participating in contests and hackathons, contributing to open source libraries, and showing great competence in working with quantum programming and experimentation.
At the Quantum Computing Report, we have long maintained that creating training programs for a quantum workforce is critical, because the lack of enough qualified personnel may be the largest factor that could restrain growth in the industry. A few weeks ago, we were sent a technical paper on The Emergence of Quantum Advantage and Predictions of Its Limiting Factors written by a High School Junior who has made substantial progress in developing his own quantum expertise. We were so impressed, we asked him if he could write an essay to describe the steps he took to get to this point. This essay explains his journey since Middle School, showing how one can develop the skills needed to get into the quantum workforce. The essay also includes important resources and we hope it will inspire others to take similar journeys so they can help contribute to the quantum economy in the future.
In 8th grade, I was researching how to develop my computer science skills, focusing on Python, when I stumbled upon Qiskit, a python-based programming language for quantum computers. I had heard about “quantum” and understood it vaguely, as in the “world of small, microscopic particles.” That was my extent of quantum, so I began to read about quantum computing, trying to understand what it was. This was all happening at the beginning of the summer of 8th grade for me during the COVID-19 lockdown. As I began reading about quantum computing, I found out that Qiskit, the python-based quantum programming language, was the best suited for my current skills, and also came with access to quantum computers from IBM, so I set up my IBM Quantum account. From there, I began looking for more resources for learning to program on Qiskit, and I found a series of Youtube videos made by IBM teaching people to learn about Qiskit (Coding With Qiskit: Seasons 1 and 2). These videos first introduced me to the foundations of Qiskit. They ended with the implementations of famous quantum algorithms that have the potential to be useful once quantum hardware has developed. With this introduction to Qiskit and quantum computing, I began to look for a program I could attend that could teach me the mathematics and physics behind quantum computers, as that was the other aspect of quantum computing I had to learn to gain a complete understanding of quantum computing.
After months of research and development of Qiskit-related skills, with the help of my parents, in the summer of 2021, I found a summer program hosted by qBraid, a cloud development platform for quantum software called the QuBes course. This course is now a virtual course available for free. Still, when I found it and applied for it, I had to qualify for the course, pay a fee, and attend weekly meetings with professionals in the quantum field (primarily students who have PhD. experience in a quantum-related field) who would cover different concepts related to the mathematics and physics behind quantum computers. This course took 3-4 months to complete, and once done, I had enough knowledge to understand the fundamental physics and mathematics foundations of quantum computing. With this course finished, I began pursuing more ways to improve my knowledge, primarily in understanding methods of representing quantum software, so I started researching for a course that could provide me with more advanced math and physics skills to understand both basic quantum code and more advanced quantum algorithms, ones that I had only seen and began programming in the Qiskit programming videos.
By September 2021, I found a course that met my needs as I continued to learn about quantum computing. This was a year-long course hosted by QubitxQubit, an organization that worked with Google AI and IBM Quantum to create a program that introduced participants to physics, mathematics, and programming (in the form of qiskit). More specifically, this course was hosted by a subdivision of “The Coding School” organization, with the goal of “training the future diverse quantum workforce.” This program was more in-depth in its physics and programming explanations but less detailed in its mathematics explanations compared to the previous qBraid course. This program was taught by MIT and Oxford quantum researchers and included keynote speakers (once every few weeks) from people currently at the forefront of quantum research. In essence, the QubitxQubit course provided me with more physics information and information about the current developments of quantum computing. At the same time, the qBraid covered more advanced mathematics and gave me a basic understanding of the current state of the quantum field.
After this course, I had a strong computer science, physics, and mathematics background and began pursuing ways to display my quantum-related skills. This included looking for internships and competitions. As a high school student, I was limited in my access to both of these options, but of the two options, it was easier for me to find internship opportunities. To find these opportunities, I first tried resources I had as a high school student, primarily my counselor and my teachers, but to no avail, as quantum computing is still a developing field with limited outside access. From there, I asked my parents to see if any of their friends, colleagues, and other contacts could help me find an internship, but those contacts provided help after I had secured my first internship. After using up all my resources, I began looking online for available internship opportunities. Once I completed independent research about a program offered by QWorld (a global network of researchers and professionals for quantum technologies) called QIntern. This program has a series of projects (around 20) hosted by researchers from all over the world, ranging from Europe to South America. I selected three projects from this program I wanted to apply for, choosing one covering quantum optimization and algorithms where I met the criteria (age not included). With these projects, I had to fill out a form with my basic information, a CV or resume, and answer some questions to see if I had the prerequisite knowledge for the project. Once I had completed the needed forms, I waited two weeks (I had access to a communication channel with the project mentors and QWorld organizers for questions), and was selected for a project about optimizing logistics using quantum computing. This was in June 2022, which was around two months after the end of the QubitxQubit program. In this internship, which I am still doing, I was led by a mentor, who was one of a subset of mentors under the tutelage of a head mentor, who coordinated with all of the other mentors. For my specific task, I was assigned with reducing the runtime of two qiskit-based quantum programs, for the Layer Variational Quantum Eigensolver and for the Filtering Quantum Eigensolvers, two versions of the Variational Quantum Eigensolver Algorithm used for optimization problems like the traveling salesman problem. Now that I had secured an internship, I continued my search for activities to show off my skills in quantum computing, leading to a research paper.
I initially thought about writing a research paper independently. Still, as this was my first paper, I wanted it to show my skills developed over the past 2-3 years, so I looked for a program where I could work with a mentor to concoct a research paper. The program I settled upon was Polygence, a platform where I could be paired with mentors at a Ph.D. level or above in a field relevant to what I wanted to cover in my paper. Before this, I had to attend an interview, where I explained what I planned to write about and what my qualifications were, and after a week-long wait, I qualified for the program. From there, I had to pay a hefty fee and wait for the program to select a mentor for me, who was a 4th-year Ph.D. student from Arizona State University. After being paired with my mentor, I got onto my first of ten meetings to introduce myself, meet my mentor, and begin the plan of the paper. By the end of the meeting, we had set up specific topics to look into and select, based on my interests and the particular experience of the mentor. After the third meeting, my mentor and I devised a plan, and I began working on the paper. Writing the piece was time-consuming, but my main challenge was understanding the paper’s purpose. I was happy with using sources to guide my paper, but I wanted to make my own unique contribution to the paper. As the meetings progressed and I finished the first version of my paper, we were unable to see how to incorporate a way for me to set up unique ideas in my paper, until my mentor suggested I create a second version of the paper with less information and made it focus on my contributions, which could be analyzing a dataset to make predictions about some quantum-related aspect. I took that idea and chose to study the development of superconducting qubits in quantum processors, focusing on the number of qubits and error rates. By the eighth meeting, I had finished both versions of the paper and got feedback from my mentor for both papers. Now, we had to discuss how to use my paper, mainly publishing it and using it for conference presentations. We focused on publishing first, with many high-end high school journals provided by Polygence for my perusal. I found three journals relevant to my paper’s topics and applied one version of my paper to two journals. As for presenting my paper, the mentor provided me with some resources and suggestions he had as a Ph.D. student, but by then, the program was over, and I had to move on. Concerning my paper, one version has been accepted for a journal, and I am waiting for confirmation from a second journal. In the end, this paper has helped me, and I am only seeing how writing this paper will help me as I move forward to college and beyond.
In conclusion, I discussed my path to quantum computing, starting with how I got into the field. I then covered the first program I took to gain skills and explained those skills. I then researched what other programs would be suitable for quantum computing and what skills each program specifically had. From there, I explained about some external events I did for quantum computing, like hackathons and looking at videos or articles regarding quantum computing and physics. After explaining my learning path, I explained how, after 1-2 years of learning, I felt I could see if I could demonstrate my skills in the real world, opting for an internship. I explained how I found an internship, how the application process worked, and then detailed my specific internship. I then covered my most recent quantum skills application, my research paper about quantum advantage, and the development of quantum computers, explaining how I started the paper and what I did to complete it, in addition to what I did with the paper once I had finished it. As a side note, my paper has also allowed me to present at the September 2022 IEEE Quantum Week (QCE2022) conference in Denver, Colorado. In the end, tying my experience to a generic path to developing quantum, one should first read articles about quantum computing, using them to judge their current skills, then find videos that can start teaching them what they need to develop. From there, one should find a course hosted or co-hosted by an expert in the quantum field and take it, choosing one that develops the skills they lack. Finally, one should find ways to utilize their skills, such as by writing a research paper or taking an internship to learn real-world skills and applications related to quantum computing, before they can pursue an official career in quantum computing.
Related Links (Not in Order):
Link to Author’s Research Paper Regarding Quantum Advantage: Short Version Finalized – Siddharth Chander – Quantum Advantage Paper
Name: Siddharth Chander
School: Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, California
Contact Email: siddharthrchander@gmail-com
Curriculum Vitae: Curriculum Vitae (CV) – Siddharth Chander
October 1, 2022
* indicates required