14 September 2021
Sarah Blanchette and Marco Armenta join the team

The IBM Quantum Team at IQ expands

Sarah Blanchette | Marco Armenta

Photo : Michel Caron - UdeS

The IBM Quantum Hub at Institut quantique (IQ) celebrated its first year last June, a period of development during a very special context. With several research projects and collaborations on the horizon, the team has recently expanded to continue its momentum.

Sarah Blanchette, Junior Quantum Computing Developer

Sarah discovered an interest in physics while taking a classical mechanics course at Collège Brébeuf in Montreal. She continued in the field with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Montreal: “My quantum mechanics classes were my favorite,” admits Sarah. I find quantum mechanics simply fascinating!”

During her studies, she interned at Air Canada as a data scientist in Artificial Intelligence (AI). “Despite the size of the company, there was a start-up atmosphere in our team, which really caught my attention” recalls Sarah.

This start-up spirit and the desire to explore a field that is fast-growing are all reasons that motivated her to join the IBM Quantum Hub team in 2021: “Not all jobs allow you to apply quantum daily. There are still so many things to discover. I have several interesting avenues to explore. I also like the fact that it’s a very collaborative environment with people from different backgrounds. It makes for a nice mix of knowledge.”

Quantum computing is opening new professional horizons. Eventually, this computing power could revolutionize certain approaches to modeling, optimization and help us solve complex problems across several fields.

For a new generation of scientists like Sarah, the current development of quantum computing is an opportunity for the future: “I feel lucky to be able to familiarize myself with a technology that will one day have positive impacts in society.”

Marco Armenta, Quantum Computing Developer

At first glance, nothing indicated that Marco Armenta’s career path would lead him to quantum programming. His passion for mathematics led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree followed by a PhD in homological algebra at the University of Montpellier in France and CIMAT (Centro de Investigación en Matemáticas) in Mexico. In 2019, he started a post-doctorate at the Université de Sherbrooke, combining computer science and mathematics: “At the time, I had just discovered that neural networks were competing with professional players of StarCraft 2, one of my favorite video games growing up. Surprisingly, I found a mathematical link with representation theory. I then tried to apply abstract mathematics to neural networks by developing software. I loved building code that deals with abstract mathematics!”

It was through 1QBit that Marco was referred to Stefanos Kourtis a professor in the Department of Physics and an IQ member: “I’ve always had a curiosity for quantum and physics in general, but I never really had a proper introduction until I discovered IQ. I realized that quantum computing is about translating abstract mathematics into software,” says Marco.

When an opportunity to join the IBM Quantum Hub team at IQ arose, Marco jumped at it: “I love creating superpositions and state entanglements with just a few lines of code. We live in an age where humans can manipulate matter at the level of individual particles, and I don’t even need to be in a lab to experience that! The team is dynamic, creative, and doesn’t shy away from asking questions and experimenting.”

A diversity of Talent

For Ghislain Lefebvre, partnership development manager at IQ, there is no doubt that the IBM Quantum Hub at IQ is driven by the diversity of its talent: “The true strength of our team is the mix of diverse profiles and experiences. It allows us to undertake a variety of different projects, think outside the box, and make quantum computing more accessible.”

Since launching in June 2020, IQ’s IBM Quantum Hub has increased its quantum programming workshops with groups in Québec and across Canada, reaching more than 750 college and undergraduate students. The team also collaborates with companies and government agencies to develop their quantum programming capabilities. With collaborative projects in quantum machine learning and optimization, as well as a series of workshops, the next year is already shaping up to be an interesting one for the team.

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