Pictured: Arman Zaribafiyan, Head of Quantum Simulation at Vancouver-based software company and CREATE program partner 1QBit, leading a seminar for UBC graduate students. 

A new program aimed at developing leaders in quantum computing—solidifying British Columbia’s (BC’s) reputation as an international quantum technology hub—was awarded $1.65 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Led by Lukas Chrostowski, the CREATE program—under the banner of Quantum BC—will unite faculty from the University of British Columbia (UBC), Simon Fraser University (SFU), and the University of Victoria (UVic). This collaborative network brings together an influential and interdisciplinary team of scientists and educators who will train the next generation of students to shape the emerging BC quantum computing industry.

“Quantum computing is a field that is growing exponentially in British Columbia, and this program will be the first in the world produce graduates capable of both building elements of quantum computing hardware and programming and developing quantum computing algorithms, systems and applications,” said Chrostowski, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and lead of the UBC Quantum Computing Research Excellence Cluster. “The students we train through CREATE will go on to be the researchers and innovators who realize Canada’s quantum computing goals over the next ten to twenty years.”

Students who complete the CREATE program will receive highly specialised training and work experience to become leaders in their field, enhance the local ecosystem, and create their own companies. This program, the first of its kind in Canada, will enable participants to work directly with industry through internships that give real-world context for the theoretical and experimental work they will do in labs at Blusson QMI and UBC, as well as at SFU and UVic. The program has partnered with Canadian companies including D-Wave, 1QBit, Xanadu, CMC, and Lumerical, as well as international companies such as Google, Microsoft, and IBM in order to create learning and career opportunities for this new generation of specialists.

Some programming is already in place, including a seminar series and a graduate-level introduction to quantum computing course taught by new Blusson QMI member Joseph Salfi.

“We’re in a really interesting time in this field,” said Salfi, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and partner in the CREATE program. “We’re buoyed by of a lot of big discoveries, at a moment where the possibility of advancing quantum computing in significant ways is within our reach. It’s a great time to be a grad student in physics, computer science, or engineering—any area that can feed into quantum computing.”

The launch of the new graduate program in quantum computing represents a second critical milestone for Chrostowski, for Blusson QMI, and for Quantum BC’s education efforts. In order to train future leaders in the industry, Chrostowski and colleagues previously teamed up UBC Engineering’s Geering Up program, Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, Microsoft, and D-Wave, in order to nurture prospective graduate students as early as their K-12 school years.

“We’re looking to attract groups who may not otherwise be exposed to the possibilities of an education in quantum physics, and we’re doing that by creating K-12 curriculum toolkits, summer programs, and accessible forms of communication, including a podcast,” said Chrostowski. “We are going need big ideas and diverse thinkers to grow the field, and BC has a lot of untapped talent we’re hoping to appeal to.”

The program launches officially in September, but recruiting is underway for several scholarships; visit quantum-bc.ca/learn to learn more. Applications for the first cohort of CREATE program participants are due July 1, 2020.

The NSERC The Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program supports the training and mentoring of teams of highly qualified students and postdoctoral fellows from Canada and abroad through the development of innovative training programs that encourage collaborative and integrative approaches, and address significant scientific challenges associated with Canada’s research priorities facilitate the transition of new researchers from trainees to productive employees in the Canadian workforce. www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca