What to study: Quantum computing

quantum computing
Development engineer Louise Hoppe checks a crystal wafer with light channels milled by a laser at German technology company Trumpf. The light channels are the heart in the construction of quantum sensors. Source: Thomas Kienzle/AFP

To many, quantum computing is a complex, futuristic concept. To computer science enthusiasts, however, it could hold an opportunity to become an industry pioneer.

Quantum computers promise next-level computational power — Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are all in on the game. Google recently demonstrated quantum supremacy, which proves the power and potential of this hybrid technology.

Just what is quantum computing, and how can you break into this fast-developing industry? Watch Google scientists explain it in the video below.

According to TechHQ, quantum computing will have “outgrown its infancy” and be able to help solve real-world problems by 2025 — at which point the industry will be worth US$5.8 billion.

It holds the potential to realise green solutions towards carbon neutrality and smart city infrastructure. It is even being used to find a cure for COVID-19.

What do I need to study quantum computing?

As opposed to digital computers, quantum computers are based on transistors. They use the principle of superposition to encode quantum bits, instead of binary digits.

Therefore to study quantum computing, you will require a background in physics, mathematics, and computer science. This includes knowledge of exponents, vectors, sine waves, linear algebra, as well as probability and stochastic processes.

You should also be familiar with basic quantum mechanics, computational physics, Fourier transformers, and algorithms. For a beginner’s introduction to quantum information science, check out “Quantum Computation and Quantum Information” by Nielsen and Chuang.

quantum computing

Google CEO Sundar Pichai poses with one of the company’s quantum computers in the Santa Barbara lab. Google proved quantum supremacy in 2019. Source: AFP Photo/Google/Handout

What will I learn, and where can I learn it?

A quantum computing course includes modules on quantum principles, algorithms, chemistry, and hardware. You will also dive deep into machine learning, involving the concepts of superposition, entanglement and interference.

Online courses may be a good place to start your quantum education. First, check out this FutureLearn course developed by Keio University in Japan, or this introductory course on Udemy. Next, this two-course programme from the  Massachusets University of Technology will help you understand the principles and applications of quantum computers.

Besides that, Imperial College London, the University of Warwick, and the University of Kent all have quantum computing modules.

quantum computing

An illustration of a quantum processor in Google’s Sycamore machine. This quantum computer can execute what classic computers would take 10,000 years to complete in just 200 seconds. Source: AFP Photo/ Google/ Handout

What are my career opportunities?

Graduates can explore a bright future in several industries.

IBM Q is now working to develop quantum applications in over 100 organisations. Its 53-qubit system is put to use in airlines, automotive, banking, finance, energy, insurance, materials, and electronics.

For example, companies like Volkswagen and Daimler are already using quantum computing to research ways to improve the chemical composition of their electric car batteries. Delta Airlines is developing blueprints for its applications in the airline industry.

Tech giants have chartered clear career pathways for developers, engineers, architects, and researchers in the current quantum research environment. Graduates can pursue impactful careers in these fields and many yet to be discovered.

We have a glimpse at the future of work, and you can prepare for it now.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

Quantum leap ahead for tech

Australian of the Year awarded to UNSW quantum physicist