When classical computers reach their limits, quantum to the rescue!

In the quest for advanced computing for areas such as cybersecurity, Mitacs intern focuses on gap between two-state and multi-level quantum systems.

When Vladyslav Los, an undergraduate student at RWTH Aachen University, in Germany, applied to the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship program, he knew he wanted to study in the area of quantum physics and quantum computing. It was during an interview with Dr. Adrian Lupascu, Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing, that he began to see an exciting path forward.

Dr. Lupascu had a project for an intern that wanted to look at how to do optimal control in multi-level systems, or how to control quantum systems that have multiple states.

“There aren’t many people currently researching the topic and this made it even more interesting to me,” Los shares.

Because quantum computing is at its early stages of development, there’s a timely opportunity to transform it into a physical system for specialized applications such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, financial modelling, and drug design, which are too advanced for the limits of standard computers. Such is the national and international interest in developing quantum technologies that the Government of Canada has recently announced a National Quantum Strategy to advance the field.

In the case of Dr. Lupascu’s efforts, the work requires research into how to do calculations better, how to do error corrections better, and how to save as much accurate information as possible on a multi-level system that is quite different from the classical two-level computing system.

In a field as complex as that, it’s helpful to bring a balance of knowledge and curiosity when it comes to research. Dr. Lupascu notes that “while undergrads may have a bit less in terms of volume of knowledge compared to grad students, many clearly have the enthusiasm and a strong motivation to learn.”

This turned out to be the case with Los. While only in the fourth semester of his bachelor’s program, Los brought his knowledge, enthusiasm, and the right mindset to ensure the team made good progress.

From qubits to qudits: building a useful quantum computer

Many quantum systems have a large number of levels; in fact, some have an infinity. In this project, Dr. Lupascu’s team was expanding beyond encoding information in the standard two-state systems (qubits) into multidimensional systems (qudits).

There are certain concepts that apply to qubits that do not extend to multiple-state systems. The larger the number of states involved, the harder it becomes to keep track of information, for example.

By getting better control of systems for three or more states, the team hopes to use this as a basis for demonstrations of small information processors with several systems put together, and therefore pave the way towards building a useful quantum computer.

Online internship leads to future opportunities

While the internship had to be done entirely online due to COVID-19 restrictions, Los shared that the whole experience was excellent, in fact, better than he expected after learning he would not be able to travel to Canada.

“My main goal was to learn from Professor Lupascu, and profit from this project in terms of my education. I was there to learn,” says Los. He appreciated the weekly team meetings and ongoing virtual communications throughout the internship, as well as the online events Mitacs offered to bring students together.

Los was even offered a job as a student assistant at his home university, and he credits what he learned during his internship as helping him with the interview process. In addition, both Los and Dr. Lupascu are exploring the possibility of continuing their work together in the future.

Some of the results the student was able to participate in achieving gave them insight into the nature of the difficulties. Now, they can better understand how to handle the issues and develop improved quantum control of multi-level systems.

Mitacs’s programs receive funding from valued partners across Canada. We thank the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon for supporting us to foster innovation and economic growth throughout the country.

We are also grateful to our international partners. In 2021–2022, Mitacs is pleased to work with partners in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States to support Globalink (see full list of partners of the Globalink Research Internship and the Globalink Research Award).

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