The camera crew was given full access to Earnest-Noble’s research. In several scenes, Earnest-Noble is suited up in white PPE in the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility in the Eckhardt Research Center. His scientific process and the breakthrough he seeks are depicted with animations and close-up footage of the state-of-the-art facilities. The filmmakers capture Earnest-Noble in the midst of a failed attempt or among his “graveyard” of failed quantum devices. As he embraces his doubts and is propelled by tenacity, viewers witness an emotional depiction of real science.
Earnest-Noble’s lively interviews focus on the experience versus the result of his labors, providing a realistic portrayal of graduate studies and enabling viewers to follow him to his goal of identifying the ideal qubit for superposition—a phenomenon in quantum mechanics in which a particle can exist in several states at once.
“When we were filming, I was trying to explain a qubit or something, and how much I was using jargon words was eye-opening to me. It helped me appreciate the challenge of making science understandable,” said Earnest-Noble, who is now a quantum computing researcher at IBM. “Science is a process far more than a series of facts. That became clear to me from working on this project.”
“Science communications typically takes a very long struggle of discovery and wraps it up into a pretty package,” said Schuster. “But something I found very special in this story is that you got to follow Nate for a couple of years. It accurately captured what Nate’s experience was like. And it focused on his experience, and not on the result, which is pretty amazing."
STAGE’s director of science Sunanda Prabhu-Gaunkar originally joined the STAGE lab as a postdoc, and taught herself filmmaking in order to create the series. “The scientific process inspires our filmmaking,” she said. “The workflow embraces failure, remains receptive to discoveries through iteration, and allows for risk-taking, all within a highly collaborative process.”
Ellen Askey, the pilot episode’s co-director, joined the project as a first-year student at UChicago with prior filmmaking experience. She worked on the series across her college career, graduating in June with a degree in cinema and media studies. “Showing a story develop over time can be powerful,” she said. “We hope to get it out there to a lot of people who are and who are not yet interested in science.”
Interested attendees can register through Eventbrite.
—Adapted from an article by Maureen McMahon posted on the Physical Sciences Division website.