New UC Course Prepares Students For The Computer Of The Future

Members from McMicken College’s Department of Physics and the College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science (ECECS) have teamed up to teach a science of the future to students on campus. Beginning Winter Quarter, the interdisciplinary course “Introduction to Quantum Computing” will be available to graduate and undergraduate students with the follow-up course, “Special Topics in Quantum Computing,” being offered in the spring. 

According to UC physics professor Paul Esposito, the course has taken nearly two years to come to fruition. 

“We met once every two weeks to work on planning the course,” he said.  “We actually ran through the entire course teaching each other.  We were constantly looking for improvements that would benefit the students.”

Esposito explained those involved felt so strongly about the project that they volunteered their time to bring the course to UC.

“This is over and above our regular class schedule,” Esposito said.  “About seven or eight people have donated their time to this course.”

“Introduction to Quantum Computing” will be taught by a number of professors splitting the class into sections.  Those responsible for the organization and teaching of the courses are Marc Cahay, ECECS, Carla Purdy, ECECS, George Purdy, ECECS, Anca Ralescu, ECECS, Philip Argyres, Physics, Paul Esposito, Physics, and Bernard Goodman, Physics.  While the initial course is open to all graduate and undergraduate students, Esposito recommends only those comfortable with quantum mechanics sign up for the course. 

Theoretically, quantum computers will pick up where conventional computers leave off.  Because conventional computers have limitations on very large calculations, the quantum computers will access non-intuitive properties of individual atoms, atomic systems, and photons to store and process massive amounts of information quickly.

“The idea is to use some fairly well-known techniques in quantum mechanics in the transmission of information and in computation, for instance, the factorization of large numbers,” Esposito said.  “All the applications have many important uses in everyday life.  Factoring numbers is used to encrypt data, so what we’re doing is using physics and engineering know-how to bring technology to the front line.”

While no quantum computers currently exist, several companies, such as IBM have reported being very close to a breakthrough.  Esposito said having students pre-trained in the discipline will put them on the forefront of hiring once companies become dedicated to the technology.  

  “Once they build one of these quantum computers, companies will move very quickly to research anything quantum mechanical.  This is an incredibly interesting and exciting new field,” he said.  “It’s going to become more and more important as time goes on.”

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