What is a Quantum Computer?

quantum computer

The concept for quantum computers started in the 1970s, when quantum physicists started experimenting with the atomic properties of atoms and nuclei. They discovered that when combined together as quantum bits, atoms and nuclei could imitate a computer’s memory and processor. When isolated from their external environments, these quantum bits can interact with each other and perform certain calculations much faster than conventional computers.

Quantum Computational Science

Quantum bits, or qubits, don’t use traditional binary computations. That is, computers encode information into bits using the binary numbers zero or one, so they can only perform calculations on one set of numbers at any given time. Modern microprocessors, such as those found in laptops and smart phones, can still encode binary bits extremely fast, but quantum computers can encode information exponentially faster. This is because they use an advanced series of quantum-mechanical states, like photon polarization orientations and electron spin directions, to represent the two binary numbers.

As a result, quantum bits can simultaneously superimpose many number combinations. Quantum computers can not only perform reversible classical computation simultaneously on all the numbers, they can produce interference between various alternating numbers. In short, a single processing quantum computer can perform endless operations in parallel. Keep in mind that quantum computing is poorly suited for common tasks like email and word processing, but it is ideal for advanced tasks like modeling, cryptography and indexing large databases.

Quantum Software Engineering

Quantum software engineering is the unique field that combines quantum computers with prototype and proprietary applications. These software engineers write programs that execute sampling, machine learning and systems optimization. They are responsible to develop software solutions that apply quantum computing science and hardware solutions for customer applications. They must maintain a thorough understanding of the applications’ features, functionality and workflows to maximize results.

Quantum software engineers work in conjunction with the algorithm research teams to leverage their expertise into software projects. They promote best software engineering practices, act as technical leads on projects and present their progress at technical exchange meetings. They help algorithm teams develop software tools that benefit customers, facilitate technical communications and create libraries of reference examples and application demonstrations. They are expected to make recommendations on procedures that will generate more efficient and effective software installation, access and maintenance.

Quantum Computing Degrees

Bachelor degrees in this subject are rare, but there are specialized graduate degrees available in computational biology, machine learning algorithms and quantum software engineering. Most of these degree programs are offered through physics or mathematical departments in universities. For example, a master’s degree in applied or experimental physics is an excellent choice because students will have opportunities to conduct research projects under the supervision of faculty experts. These projects may involve quantum computing topics like terahertz semiconductors, quantum metamaterials, superconductor electronics, high-temp superconductivity and the physics of extreme bio-conditions.

Core study areas in an applied physics degree may include research methods in physics, superconductivity nanoscience and mathematical methods for interdisciplinary sciences. Some students may even choose to study solid state physics, advanced characterization techniques, quantum systems physics and the fundamentals of quantum information. These degree programs will allow students to accumulate experience in the software development cycle, documentation and version control management processes. They will gain exceptional mathematical, algorithmic techniques and programming experience in C++, Python, or Matlab.

As an alternative, anyone who wants a career in quantum computers can also get a master’s degree in engineering physics, software engineering and quantum computer science.

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