22 September 2021 Aiky Rasolomanana

A quantum programming internship with the IBM Quantum Hub at IQ

Aiky Rasolomanana

Photo : Fournie

By Aiky Rasolomanana
Undergraduate student in physics at Concordia University
Intern, IBM Quantum Hub at IQ, Summer 2021

When I first heard the term “quantum computing”, I wasn’t sure what it really meant. However, the mysteries surrounding this fascinating field as well as the potential of quantum computing to solve very real problems intrigued me. During the McGill University 2020 Hackathon in the Fall, I attended an introductory workshop on quantum programming given by the IBM Quantum Hub at Institut quantique (IQ). When an internship opportunity with this team presented itself, I immediately jumped at the chance to explore the field.

As a student who had just completed his first year of a bachelor’s degree in physics, I had to quickly educate myself on a variety of topics that felt beyond my level of understanding. In addition, my internship project was still to be defined. Fortunately, the team graciously welcomed me, and I quickly felt confident. Moreover, the constant support of my internship supervisor Maxime Dion, a quantum computing developer, helped me acquire the basic tools and knowledge to start quantum programming and begin my internship project.

Acquiring new knowledge

For me, working in quantum computing has been a fascinating and fun experience punctuated with challenging moments. Indeed, quantum programming is multidisciplinary field. I had the chance to learn new things nearly every day, whether in physics, mathematics, or classical programming. Not only did I get to run my own algorithms and lines of code, but I also looked at what other research teams had done in the past. Sometimes, I marveled at the results that were presented to me. In short, I felt like an adventurer looking for a treasure.

Doing research is also synonymous with making mistakes, facing up to errors and problems for which you do not have a solution for. There were several times when I ran my algorithm for hours only to get the wrong result. I spent a lot of time reflecting, experimenting to better understand and eventually develop a solution.

Although the building blocks of quantum computing are solid, doing research in the field means dealing with a lot of unknowns. There are still so many things to discover and develop without being certain of where it will all lead. Is there a quantum advantage and if so, for which problems?

Despite the challenges and difficulties encountered during my internship, the process of asking questions and progressing were more important than the result. In science, and particularly in quantum computing, an open mind, a good dose of curiosity and the courage to ask questions, even if these seem impertinent or useless at times, are essential ingredients for discovery.

On a personal note, I am completing my internship at the IBM Quantum Hub at IQ with a professional experience, which I am certain will help me in my future studies and scientific career. Above all, I leave with an indescribable and unforgettable human experience.

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