IBM Researcher Jay Gambetta observes that the interest in quantum computing is coupled by a broadening of entry paths and R&D, which has sparked an interest in the field. However, graduates in India often struggle to understand what the requisite amount of knowledge is required to make a career in this buzzing field.
According to Debdeep Ghosal a PhD researcher at the University of Basel, one needs to understand that quantum computers, as opposed to digital computers, are based on transistors and that they use the principle of superposition of states to encode the quantum bits instead of binary digits. In a nutshell, quantum mechanics and computational physics along with the knowledge of algorithms like integer factorisation are very helpful in this field.
Here’s How MIT Breaks It Down
Physics: In Physics, it is highly recommended to beef up the basics about quantum mechanics and at a more advanced level, learn about the quantum information overlap with AMO, condensed matter and high energy.
Maths: In Maths, beef up knowledge of linear algebra and probability. One should also learn group and representation theory, random matrix theory and functional analysis.
Computer Science: In computer science, topics such as information theory, machine learning, error-correcting codes, optimisation and complexity are important.
Here is a list of prerequisites before diving into quantum computing:
- Basic quantum mechanics
- Linear algebra
- Basic group theory (and generally basic abstract algebra)
- Basic probability and stochastic processes
- Fourier transforms
- And basic algorithms and analysis of algorithms
Students interested in learning about quantum information theory — a subtopic, prior knowledge of probability theory and classical information theory is a must. According to one Redditor, knowledge of basic quantum information processing, quantum noise modelling and quantum error correcting codes is also a must.
A Mix And Match Combination Of These Skills Is Ideal
There are three different majors or specialisations which can lead to a career in quantum computing. For example, a Physics major can be particularly helpful if he/she is interested in building a quantum computer. A Physics major with theoretical Computer Science focus can help one in designing algorithms for a quantum computer. If one is interested in Quantum Mechanics, then a major in computer science and a minor in Maths with a focus on abstract linear algebra is required to build a foundation in quantum computing. From the above, we can ascertain that knowledge of computational physics/science and quantum mechanics is crucial for this field.
Online Learning Resources
We list down the most recommended list of online resources for:
- A Modern Physics course by Michael Fowler, University of Virginia.
- Also check out Quantum Mechanics PDF by Richard Fitzpatrick, University of Texas
- Quantum Physics PDF from a UCSD course
- In addition to this, there is Quantum Computation Lecture Notes & Homework Assignments, 2006
- Check out older John Preskill’s lecture notes on Quantum Computation
- One of the most highly recommended books on quantum computing — Quantum Computation and Quantum Information by Nielsen and Chuang aimed at students who do not have prior experience with quantum mechanics or computer science and introduces them to quantum information science.
Job roles in Quantum Computing:
Gambetta, an IBM researcher lists down some of the job roles and entry paths for quantum enthusiasts. The ongoing research in quantum computing, especially in companies like IBM, Microsoft and Google have opened clear career pathways for developers, engineers and researchers. He lists down some of the top job roles that students can explore in quantum computing. Among them, the most popular ones are Quantum Computer Architects, Quantum Algorithms Researchers and Quantum Software Developers.
So what does it take to break into the field of quantum computing? Besides an MS degree, employers also look for a doctorate in the field. In fact, top tech firms working on quantum research like D-Wave, Google and IBM are always looking for experienced physicists who can build the architectures and a lot of research also goes in testing quantum algorithms.
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Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.