For the past three years, IQC has hosted undergraduate students for the two-week Undergraduate School on Experimental Quantum Information Processing (USEQIP). This year, 19 extremely talented students from across North America, Europe and Asia flew to Waterloo to participate in the school.
I think this year we have definitely reached new heights in terms of the amount of hands-on experiments the students get to try. On top of classroom lectures on the fundamentals of experimental quantum information — such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), optics, quantum cryptography, superconducting qubits, quantum dots and many more — the students will spend over 25 hours in various labs carrying out experiments. I wish this program had been around when I was a math/physics undergraduate myself about a decade ago. I would have loved to tinker with this kind of experimental equipment!
This week, the participants spent a lot of time in NMR and optics. Nuclear magnetic resonance is a great test-bed quantum computer, and the students were challenged to describe the dynamics (Hamiltonian, decoherence rate, etc) of a 2-qubit system made from the hydrogen and carbon spin of a chloroform molecule. Under the supervision of IQC’s students Sarah Sheldon and Mohamad Niknam (and to some extent yours truly), they also learned to coherently control the spins and control the interaction between them. What they’ve learned this week in NMR will help them for the ultimate challenge next Friday — independently envision, design and implement the quantum algorithm of their choice!
On the optics side, we locked the students in a dark room and let them play around with lasers, polarizers, beam splitters, beam displacers, quarter wave plates — you know, optics stuff! They built a Michelson interferometer and did several experiments involving light polarization. The highlight of the lab was without contest the violation of Bell’s inequality using a pair of entangled photons coming out of our in-house Segnac source. Let’s just say that the students were pretty excited with the idea of re-creating the experiment that led John Clause, Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger to win the Wolf Prize 2010 (arguably the 2nd most prestigious prize in physics) and probably (hopefully) earn them a Nobel prize in the near future.
Although USEQIP is primarily an academic activity aimed at developing students’ interest and intuition about quantum technologies, it is also about creating a vibrant, fun and collaborative atmosphere. And since the students have come to Canada to learn about quantum technology, we figured we’d give them another quintessentially Canadian experience: a game of ball hockey!
Before starting another experiment-filled second week, the USEQIP students will take in the wondrous sights of Niagara Falls, and then spend Sunday doing something they’ve really earned: giving their bodies and their brains a rest.
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