Expanding Quantum Computing for Stanford University Students on Zoom
By Jeremiah D. Coleman, B.S. Engineering Physics; B.A. Economics; EE M.S. candidate
As an engineering physics freshman interested in quantum science in 2017, there were few opportunities as an undergraduate to explore the field and learn about the pathways of quantum science and information. Despite Stanford having world-renowned professors researching quantum science and information, AMO physics, condensed matter physics, computer science and other closely related fields, few undergraduate majors offered quantum science concentrations and there was no organized community for interested undergraduates. However, as the faculty and administration started to increase quantum representation at Stanford through the creation of Q-FARM, introduction of new quantum courses, and introduction of quantum science concentrations, I eagerly took the opportunity to become a founding member of the Stanford Quantum Computing Association.
Founded in January of 2019, the Stanford Quantum Computing Association (SQCA) aims to prepare, provide, and produce a community of undergraduate and graduate Stanford students interested and excited about Quantum Computing, Quantum Engineering and Quantum Information. The Association experienced rapid growth within its first year: with 600 members on the mailing list, weekly events, and collaborations with the School of Engineering and Q-FARM. With new Q-FARM funding and sponsorship, the future of the Association was bright.
Then the pandemic hit. Students were sent off campus. All of our events fundamentally changed. Like our quantum computing hackathon, our new initiatives were postponed. Then as the newly elected President of the SQCA with most of our leadership team graduating (shrinking our team in half), maintaining, expanding, recruiting and onboarding for the Association became a new challenge.
The new executive team, including Vice-President Nazli Koyluoglu, CFO Kejun (Ben) Xu and myself, was hoping to dramatically expand SQCA through new initiatives that engaged more Stanford students and connected them with more resources from academia and industry. This involved the creation of 3 new committees: the Community & Social Impact Committee, General Events & Partnerships Committee, and Projects & Hackathon Committee. We recruited 12 new committee members and officers, expanding our team threefold. Despite the new team meeting and communicating purely over Zoom (I still have not met any of our new committee members in person), each committee has successfully brainstormed, initiated and executed on new initiatives expanding on the foundational events of the Association. These initiatives include Stanford’s first QBraid Quantum Computing High School course taught by Stanford students, monthly Quantum Conversations with quantum engineers and scientists from industry and academia, IBM Sponsored Quantum Computing Bootcamp, Student Initiated Course for Quantum Open Source Projects and Stanford’s first joint Quantum Computing Hackathon.
Lacking from our menu of events included an introductory event describing the various opportunities, resources, and academic and career pathways for various majors and fields related to Quantum Computing - the event I wish I had as an uninformed freshman. Thus through a collaboration with Q-FARM in February, the Stanford Quantum Computing Association held Quantum Pathways: a spinoff of majors night for quantum related fields. After an introduction about Q-FARM by Jelena Vuckovic, the director of Q-FARM, dozens of Stanford students explored four different breakout rooms with various Q-FARM faculty exploring the following pathways: Quantum Information Theory & Fundamental Physics, Quantum Algorithms & Complexity Theory, Quantum Hardware & Metrology, and Quantum Materials & Simulations. After an hour of conversations, students ranging from undergraduate freshman to 3rd year PhD students came away more excited and informed about the diversity of resources and opportunities available at Stanford. Due to its success, we plan to hold Quantum Pathways annually for prospective quantum science and engineering students, ensuring those interested in anything quantum can navigate the plethora of resources from Q-FARM and Stanford.
With a successful Quantum Pathways Night, high school course, weekly reading group and industry talks, monthly Quantum Conversations, quantum computing open source projects and Stanford’s first joint Quantum Computing Hackathon, I am excited about both the strong foundations the entire team has created for the future years of the Association and the tremendous support Q-FARM has provided financially and logistically. It is an exciting time to be a quantum student at Stanford - not only for the established quantum researchers, but also for the new students excited to jump into the field.
Pictured below are members of Stanford Quantum Computing Association, touring the Rigetti facility (top) and (bottom) enjoying a social event.