Nationwide program launches to train new generation of quantum engineers

NSF-funded project pairs graduate students with industry, academia

In the past decade, quantum technology took a leap out of the realm of science fiction and landed firmly in reality. As companies around the world race toward practical applications, however, they’ll need a new generation of scientists and engineers to fulfill its potential.

Funded by a $1.6 million award from the National Science Foundation, the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and Harvard University will head a new nationwide graduate student training program for quantum science and engineering.

Called the Quantum Information Science and Engineering Network, the program will group select graduate students with both an academic adviser and one from a leading technology company or national laboratory. Over the course of four years, the “triplets” will each address a pressing research question for both academia and industry.

David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor in Spintronics and Quantum Information at the University of Chicago, will oversee the program in partnership with Evelyn Hu, the Tarr-Coyne Professor of Applied Physics and of Electrical Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“Professor Hu and I are extremely excited to help the NSF pioneer a different approach to graduate education and advance the frontiers of quantum science by creating a national workforce of quantum engineers,” Awschalom said. “Students selected for QISE-NET will benefit from the mentorship of both academic and industrial advisers on research topics that will pursue leading-edge science and engineering along with longer-term industrial goals.”

The students will serve as the principal “communicators-in-residence” at both universities and in industry, translating ideas into research results, Awschalom said.

“NSF is pleased to foster this novel approach to educate the future workforce for the needs of quantum engineering, industry and science,” said Anne Kinney, assistant director of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at the National Science Foundation. “This important project responds to input from industry, research communities and other federal agencies. I look forward to the results of the QISE-NET project and to the mentorship and collaboration framework that it is expected to generate.”

Approximately 20 students will receive four years of funding under the first edition of the program.