This past May, IBM Research announced the Quantum Experience, an experimental cloud-enabled quantum computing platform. The technology essentially made 35 years of IBM’s quantum computing research available to students, researchers and general science enthusiasts, at the click of a button.
EPS President Christophe Rossel, took the news as a call to action to organise an event for EPS Young Minds to inspire them and to build up a new generation of quantum scientists across Europe. After contacting IBM’s quantum team in Zurich (CH), an event was hosted on 21 November at IBM’s lab in Rueschlikon, Switzerland.
“When I heard about the IBM Quantum Experience I knew that it would be a great opportunity to introduce some of Europe’s best and brightest young researchers to the promise of the quantum world,” said Dr. Rossel. “In a matter of weeks we pulled together an agenda and sent out an invitation to our EPS Young Minds members and we were overwhelmed with registrations.”
The full day event named “Live the IBM Quantum Experience” was joined by nearly two dozen physics students from the top scientific institutions in Switzerland, including ETH Zurich, the Paul Scherrer Institute, EPFL, the University of Bern and the University of Basel.
After an introduction to the quantum world, IBM scientists put the students to work with a series of experiments designed to leverage the 5 qubit IBM Quantum Experience system. The teams got acquainted with the quantum composer, the graphical user interface for programming the qubits, and writing their own quantum algorithms, before presenting their results.
“We prepared several very challenging exercises for the students, which they quickly grasped, despite lacking a background in quantum mechanics,” said IBM scientist Nikolaj Moll. “A few teams worked on the fundamentals of quantum mechanics, whereas other teams worked on the more ambitious application side, as for example the Grover search algorithm or simulating the hydrogen molecule. It was impressive to see.”
IBM and Dr. Rossel have received some very positive comments from the EPS Young Minds students:
“I especially appreciated the varied design of the day as well as the elaborately developed tutorials. Also the lectures in the morning were very helpful for understanding, especially the technical one when one comes from a completely different area,” said Sacha Schwarz, University of Bern.
“Again thank you for this visit which was really exciting and led by passionate researchers. If other visits are possible, we would be pleased to participate.” said Bruno Rigal, EPFL.
Dr. Moll adds, “If we want to reach 50 qubits in the next few years we don’t have a second to spare, but clearly without building up a quantum ecosystem in advance we won’t have any users for such a system. So both research and community building need to be done in parallel, it’s not either/or, it’s both.”