The University of Illinois Chicago has been selected to join the Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded center focused on building the tools necessary to create scalable, distributed and fault-tolerant quantum computer systems.
The center, called the C2QA, is led by Brookhaven National Laboratory and its goal is to bring a quantum advantage — the ability to quickly solve real-world problems too complex for traditional binary-based computers — to computer technology.
UIC is the sixth Minority-Serving Institution to join the quantum center, which has 24 partner institutions.
“Quantum computing has the potential to completely revolutionize how we interact with the world around us and in particular, how we approach problem solving in scientific disciplines like physics, computer science, chemistry and engineering. We have a long way to go, however, in developing better quantum devices for practical application before this is a reality,” said Thomas Searles, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UIC College of Engineering, who will spearhead the relationship between UIC and the quantum information science center.
To advance quantum technologies, the center works in three areas: software, materials and devices.
Searles, whose research combines physics and solid-state device and materials engineering, will work with his lab to focus on improving quantum computing devices.
For example, Searles said he would like to see a tenfold increase in the number of quantum bits, or qubits, available in devices. A qubit is the smallest circuit used in a quantum system, such as a quantum computer — the more qubits, the more complex processing potential of a computer.
“There is some very exciting work involving datacentric models for machine learning in quantum information science,” said Andrew Houck, director of the Co-Design Center for Quantum Advantage in a news release from Brookhaven. “Using his access to the IBM cloud machines, Thomas Searles and UIC are really helping us figure out how to more efficiently use, train and run interesting algorithms on real hardware that’s currently available.”
Searles said the partnership with Brookhaven and the quantum center will open new opportunities for scientists at both institutions to collaborate on research. It will also create new opportunities for UIC students in all aspects of quantum engineering, especially quantum computing.
“The Co-Design Center for Quantum Advantage and its affiliated researchers are leaders in advancing quantum-based applications through scientific research — our partnership with the center opens up incredible opportunities for our faculty, and more importantly our students, to partner on innovative discoveries in quantum computing, network and participate in seminars and career fairs,” Searles said. “C2QA and UIC are bringing opportunities in the field of quantum to underserved groups in Chicago that don’t exist.
“It’s the right place, the right time, and the right people. With the C2QA having a large concentration on the East Coast, this partnership will broaden its reach. We’re bringing something to the Midwest that’s not there currently, so we’re very, very excited about that.”
“The center is fortunate to count Professor Thomas Searles among the PIs from UIC helping to advance the mission of C2QA in the Devices thrust,” said Jens Koch, an affiliate of the Co-Design Center for Quantum Advantage and leader of its novel qubits and circuit elements research area. “Professor Searles has been an active member since the very beginning of C2QA and will continue his research in the subthrust on novel qubits and circuit elements.”
Searles joined UIC in 2021. His prior experience includes faculty appointments at Howard University and Morehouse College and visiting appointments at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Air Force Research Laboratory. He was also the Martin Luther King Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Searles said UIC’s status as a Minority-Serving Institution was an important factor in his decision to join UIC.
“Increasing avenues for students from diverse and historically marginalized communities to learn about, participate in and find leadership roles in quantum research benefits everyone,” said Searles, who also hopes to continue expanding roles in his lab.