By Morgan Sherburne
The University of Michigan has formed a collaboration with Michigan State University and Purdue University to study quantum science and technology, drawing together expertise and resources to advance the field.
The three universities are partnering to form the Midwest Quantum Collaboratory, or MQC, to “find grand new challenges we can work on jointly, based on the increased breadth and diversity of scientists in the collaboration,” said Mack Kira, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Michigan Engineering and inaugural director of the collaboration.
U-M researchers call quantum effects the “DNA” of so many phenomena people encounter in their everyday lives, ranging from electronics to chemical reactions to the study of light waves—and everything they collectively produce.
“We scientists are now in a position to start combining these quantum building blocks to quantum applications that have never existed,” said Kira, also a professor of physics at U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. “It is absolutely clear that any such breakthrough will happen only through a broad, diverse and interdisciplinary research effort. MQC has been formed also to build scientific diversity and critical mass needed to address the next steps in quantum science and technology.”
Collaborators at U-M include Steven Cundiff, professor of physics and of electrical engineering and computer science. Cundiff’s research group uses ultrafast optics to study semiconductors, semiconductor nanostructures and atomic vapors.
“The main goal of the MQC is to create synergy between the research programs at these three universities, to foster interactions and collaborations between researchers in quantum science,” he said.
Each university will bring unique expertise in quantum science to the collaboration. Researchers at U-M will lead research about the quantum efforts of complex quantum systems, such as photonics, or the study of light, in different semiconductors. This kind of study could inform how to make semiconductor-based computing, lighting, radar or communications millions of times faster and billions of times more energy efficient, Kira says.
“Similar breakthrough potential resides in developing algorithms, chemical reactions, solar-power, magnetism, conductivity or atomic metrology to run on emergent quantum phenomena,” he said.
The MQC will be a virtual institute, with in-person activities such as seminars and workshops split equally between the three universities, according to Cundiff. In the first year, MQC will launch a seminar series, virtual mini-workshops focused on specific research topics, and will hold a larger in-person workshop. The collaboration hopes fostering connections between scientists will lead to new capabilities, positioning the MQC to be competitive for large center-level funding opportunities.
“We know collaboration is key to driving innovation, especially for quantum,” said David Stewart, managing director of the Purdue Quantum Science and Engineering Institute. “The MQC will not only provide students with scientific training, but also develop their interpersonal skills so they will be ready to contribute to a currently shorthanded quantum workforce.”
The MQC will also promote development of the quantum workforce by starting a seminar series and/or journal club for only students and postdocs, and encouraging research interaction across the three universities.
“MQC also provides companies with interest in quantum computing with great opportunities for collaboration with faculty and students across broad spectrums of quantum computing with the collaborative expertise spanning the three institutions,” said Angela Wilson, director of the MSU Center for Quantum Computing, Science and Engineering.
“Additionally, bringing together three of our nation’s largest universities and three of the largest quantum computing efforts provides potential employers with a great source of interns and potential employees encompassing a broad range of quantum computing.”