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NSF awards $3M to MIT for a pioneering graduate training program in quantum information science

Major new grant to unify MIT’s strengths into an interdisciplinary doctoral study program spanning science and engineering

The National Science Foundation (NSF), through its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, has awarded a $3M grant to Isaac Chuang, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Associate Professor of Physics, to fund a pioneering MIT program with the goal of creating a new cohesive, interdisciplinary, doctoral study program in the growing field of quantum information science (QIS).

MIT’s new graduate training program, called Interdisciplinary Quantum Information Science and Engineering (iQuISE), will seek to nurture a new generation of students, from education through employment, to become tomorrow’s quantum information scientists and engineers. Much of modern information technology is built on the foundations of physical switching and signaling devices, algorithms, information, and control. Recently, these foundations have evolved rapidly forward, with a tremendous new influx of ideas from quantum physics, resulting in high performance quantum algorithms, emerging new capabilities for information transmission, and a nascent generation of quantum information processing devices.

Because QIS has been emerging as a field to which many traditional academic disciplines contribute, the major challenge for QIS at MIT, and at similar institutions, is to provide doctoral students with a cohesive and complete experience. A primary objective of the new MIT program is to accomplish this not just in the classroom and in the laboratory, but also to enrich the experience to prepare MIT’s QIS doctoral candidates for careers in academia, government and industry.

“The education dilemma facing quantum information science and engineering,” said Professor Chuang, “is keenly felt at MIT because of our leadership role in the field. MIT has research groups and classes in QIS, led by the field’s pioneers, but the very diversity and richness of our resources creates a great challenge to giving our students a coherent experience. With the NSF’s generous support, which will combine with resources that the Institute will devote as well as participation from a broad consortium of government and industry partners, we are going to tackle this challenge with an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to training the new generation of QIS scientists and engineers.”

Jeffrey H. Shapiro, Julius A. Stratton Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) and Seth Lloyd, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Professor of Engineering Systems, are the co-principal investigators. Senior faculty investigators and graduate students from seven MIT academic departments and divisions in both the School of Science and the School of Engineering will work together to form the program, which will be administered centrally by RLE.

“There is widespread belief that fundamental ideas from QIS will lead to useful new information technology,” said Professor Shapiro, “and provide computing, communication, and control systems beyond the limits of traditional paradigms. These carry with them profound social implications. This is why iQuISE will incorporate education in ethics and social context.”

Professor Lloyd noted, “The students in MIT’s new NSF training program will be encouraged to cross disciplines, and develop a common fellowship with their peers. We will also address training for post-academic jobs directly by connecting students to government and industrial members of the iQuISE Consortium.”

The new doctoral training program would not be possible without strong and widespread support from MIT. “The iQuISE program,” said Claude R. Canizares, Bruno Rossi Professor of Physics, Vice President for Research and Associate Provost, “represents a bold step forward to coalesce and cohere the education and research training that will produce a new generation of quantum information researchers for our nation. It is especially gratifying that MIT’s strengths in bringing together different disciplines into innovative cooperation will be the backbone of this new program.”

MIT academic departments and divisions that will have faculty and students participating in iQuISE include Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics, Nuclear Engineering, and Engineering Systems.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…” NSF’s IGERT program has been developed to meet the challenges of educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists, engineers, and educators with the interdisciplinary backgrounds, deep knowledge in chosen disciplines, and technical, professional, and personal skills to become in their own careers the leaders and creative agents for change.

Related Links:

NSF IGERT program

Isaac Chuang Biography

Jeffrey H. Shapiro Biography

Seth M. Lloyd Biography