Training Tomorrow’s Professionals for the Quantum Industry
Alexandre Blais, Director of IQ, Eva Dupont-Ferrier, Researcher at IQ, Michel Pioro-Ladrière, Deputy Director of IQ, Christian Sarra-Bournet, Executive Director at IQ, Patrick Fournier, Vice-Dean of Research, Faculty of Science, Marc Leclair, Research Assistant, Yves Bérubé Lauzière, CREATE Program Coordinator and Professor at the Faculty of Engineering, and Pierre Labossière, Vice-Dean of Research at the Faculty of Engineering.
Photo : UdeS - Michel Caron
Quantum technologies are part of a priority sector of Canada’s high-tech economy. Training qualified personnel with an overall view of the quantum chain—ranging from basic quantum science to professional skills to engineering methods—is what the Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS) and its six university partners could accomplish over the next six years.
Yves Bérubé-Lauzière, professor in the Faculty of Engineering at UdeS and member of the Institut quantique (IQ) and the Interdisciplinary Institute for Technological Innovation (3IT), will head up a Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program funded in part by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). With funding totaling $3.6 million over 6 years, he will coordinate cutting-edge training activities for quantum-technology R&D on a Canada-wide scale.
This program, entitled QSciTech – Bridging the Gap between quantum science and quantum technologies, aims at training the next generation of quantum scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. The integrated training will enable students in quantum physics to acquire the basics of engineering and provide students of engineering and computer science with training in quantum physics. These students from different backgrounds will also engage in common training activities in order to learn to work together in developing quantum technologies.
“This program is important, because quantum technologies now rest mainly in the hands of physicists. Yet deploying these technologies on a larger scale and bringing them to the marketing stage requires engineering approaches. On the other hand, engineers usually have too little knowledge about quantum science to contribute to its development. The QSciTech program therefore aims at getting these two communities to understand each other better in order to work together,” explained Bérubé-Lauzière.
Sound Contributions by Partners
Out of the $3.6 million, $1.65 million comes from NSERC, $846,000 from participating universities, $510,000 from the MITACS program, and $600,000 from industrial partners. The partner universities are the Université de Sherbrooke, McGill University, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Concordia University, Simon Fraser University, Université Laval, and Université de Montréal. Ten industrial partners are also involved in the training program: D-Wave, 1QBit, Anyon Systems Inc., IBM Canada, Microsoft, Rigetti, SB Technologies Inc., STMicroelectronics, Keysight Canada, and DRDC. All of these partners are bringing money to the table to finance internships for students in the QSciTech program. They are also contributing all the experience of a robust network to establish innovative research projects serving as precursors for tomorrow’s breakthroughs.
Examples of Applications
“To illustrate, these new advances could find application in quantum computers and in enhanced sensors for more accurate and sensitive magnetic-field detectors used, for example, in mineral prospecting, simulating materials with new properties, banking security, data encryption, the development of new superconducting materials for the transportation of electricity, and medical imaging with nano-diamonds,” pointed out Bérubé-Lauzière. “Right now, we need stronger ties between scientists and engineers in order to develop these quantum technologies.”
Highly Qualified Personnel
“This program will train tomorrow’s professionals who will develop quantum technologies and support the quantum industry,” underscored Jean-Pierre Perreault, UdeS Vice-President of Research and Graduate Studies. “Training graduate students in areas in full expansion, such as quantum technologies, enhances the job market with professionals equipped with an integrated vision of the field, which is an added value well beyond the level of just significant.”
“The CREATE Program funds training and mentoring activities that foster interdisciplinary learning. The program will give students the opportunity to acquire practical experience rounding out their research training as well as basic aptitudes they will need in order to join the labor market. Investing in the QSciTech program will create a cohort of scientists and engineers with tremendous potential as they embark on their careers and become tomorrow’s leaders in quantum technologies,” pointed out Digvir S. Jayas, NSERC’s Interim President.
The QSciTech program consists of 3 phases. In Phase 1, physics students will be trained in project management and engineering design, while engineering and computer-science students will receive training in quantum physics. This training will be accompanied by two professional-skills courses on R&D and entrepreneurship, intellectual property, and innovation offered by UdeS’s University Centre for the Enhancement of Research Training (CUEFR). In Phase 2, teams of physics, engineering, and computer-science students will work together on interdisciplinary case studies in quantum technology. Simulation and marketing strategies will be put to good use in implementing what was learned in Phase 1.
In Phase 3, each student will go on a four-month internship in the quantum industry, thereby leveraging Mitacs funding. An annual summer school will deal with additional professional skills, social issues in science and technology, and specialized hot topics in quantum technology.
QSciTech brings together 40 faculty members and 10 industrial partners. The program takes in 30 students a year with a target of 80 graduates. Tangible action will be taken to foster the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in quantum technologies as well as to encourage undergraduate students to pursue graduate studies in quantum technologies.