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How UCalgary Is Training the Future Leaders of the Quantum Revolution

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Barry Sanders

Professor and Director of the Institute for Quantum Science and Technology, UCalgary

Robert Ian Thompson

Associate Vice-President (Research), UCalgary

Equip yourself with the tools of tomorrow by completing UCalgary’s Master of Quantum Computing program.

A first of its kind in Canada, the University of Calgary’s Master of Quantum Computing is a one-year master’s program tailored to working professionals and recent graduates who want to gain the competitive skills needed to successfully navigate and contribute to the growing field of quantum technology.

The quantum sector is projected to be a $139-billion industry in Canada. As it grows, fields such as banking, security, IT, transportation, energy, and government will need the qualified talent to fill key roles and solve complex problems in quantum computing.

To learn more about the program, we sat down with UCalgary’s Robert Ian Thompson, Associate Vice-President (Research), and Barry Sanders, Professor and Director of the Institute for Quantum Science and Technology, to understand more about the emerging field of quantum and UCalgary’s new professional program.

What is quantum computing?

Quantum computing utilizes the capabilities of quantum science to transform how we do computing. Quantum physics is quite different from the classical physics that we know.

“In the world around us, we look at particles like billiard balls bouncing off each other and moving in very predictable ways, and then there are waves like the ocean waves you see bending around obstacles and interfering with each other,” says Thompson. “Quantum physics merges those two elements into something called duality, where a single object is simultaneously both a particle and a wave, depending on how you want to look at it.”

And it’s those characteristics that have opened a new world of science. Quantum computing provides the opportunity for scientists to tackle certain classes of computational problems that are considered difficult, or that a classical computer would be slower at trying to analyze.

Where is quantum computing being utilized today?

“Major IT companies have launched or are launching quantum computing divisions,” says Sanders, a key driver and Scientific Director of UCalgary’s Quantum City. “Many sectors that could use quantum computing just aren’t aware of it, so a big part of what UCalgary is doing is working with major IT companies to build awareness of what quantum can bring to certain fields.”

The Quantum City initiative was established in response to the expanding quantum field to develop talent, nurture collaboration with government and industry partners, and, ultimately, lay the foundation for the university to become an innovative hub in quantum technology.

“A big part of Quantum City is the partnership it shares with Mphasis, a global IT company based in India that’s launching its quantum computing division out of Calgary,” says Thompson. “We’re looking to build on Alberta’s strengths in quantum to create a true quantum tech economic sector here in the province.”

Where does UCalgary’s professional program in quantum computing fit into the scope of the field of quantum technology?

The quantum tech sector has two key pieces: one is the technology developers and creators — the people who are going to build the tools. The other is the users — the companies that are going to utilize and apply them.

“In speaking with the companies that are trying to build the sector, we ask them ‘What do you need?’” says Thompson. “The response is: we need the experts to work with — the partners and universities to help us figure out the problems. And secondly, we need the talent — we need skilled people in our companies.”

Ultimately, the Master of Quantum Computing program was created for people with a range of technical backgrounds who want to upskill their career over the course of a year and take part in the quantum revolution. 

What does the professional program in quantum computing format look like?

The program is a stacked-certificate program: students can start with a graduate certificate and then work through the diploma and masters. In term one, students are given a solid foundation in understanding quantum, followed by term two, where they can gain practical skills for the corporate sector by building use cases.

In the third term of the program, students complete a four-month professional or research internship. Here, they get the opportunity to work as embedded employees within the user companies or to contribute to teams of the creator and developer companies.

What sets UCalgary’s professional program in quantum computing apart from other programs?

“Quantum computing is about mastering the tools of the future and having the creativity to solve key problems,” says Sanders. “Companies are looking for that creativity and we’re training people with that knowledge and skill set, so they not only know how to use the quantum computer, but are also applying that knowledge and thinking outside the box. And that outside-the-box, forward-thinking way is what brings value to a lot of companies.”

Learn more at science.ucalgary.ca.

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