New summer program in quantum technologies offers students research opportunities: UNM Newsroom


Quantum technologies promise to revolutionize future technologies in the fields of computers, communication and sensors and to deepen our understanding of the universe. They take advantage of the unique properties of quantum mechanical systems for devices such as laser systems, transistors and semiconductor devices, and other devices such as MRI imagers.

Now the UNM is building on this focus with a new program that offers practical undergraduate research experience in quantum technologies. The new Quantum Undergraduate Research Experience at the Center for High Technology Materials or the QU-REACH program, a summer research program for undergraduate degrees, recently completed its first 10-week session.

The program is intended to promote and use the long-standing and growing research infrastructure in the field of quantum technologies at the UNM, especially in special research centers such as the Center for High Tech Materials (CHTM) and the CQuIC. The program provided students across the state in New Mexico’s four- and two-year higher education institutions with early undergraduate research experience in quantum technologies.

“Our goal is for QU-REACH to serve as a starting point for New Mexico students to pursue further quantum technology research and related careers in academia, industry and national laboratories,” said the Department of Physics and CHTM Associate Professor Victor Acosta . “We designed the program to serve the state of New Mexico and the students in the state. At UNM, we have relative strengths in quantum technology and we wanted to help introduce students across New Mexico to the field and provide the seeds that can grow into future opportunities if they choose to pursue a career in this field. ”

Projects were available in a variety of disciplines including physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering) relating to the three cornerstones of quantum technologies including: quantum sensing, quantum communication, and quantum computing.

“We have relative strengths at UNM in quantum technology, and we wanted to help students across New Mexico introduce the field and provide the seeds that can grow into future opportunities if they choose to pursue careers in the field . ” Associate Professor Victor Acosta

One of seven projects that students can work on this summer, Acosta’s own quantum sensing with nitrogen vacancy centers was in diamond.

Acosta’s laboratory, the Quantum Nanophotonics and Biosensing Lab, explores the interface between condensed matter physics, quantum optics, and biomedical imaging. The group specializes in using color centers in diamond as quantum sensors to study nanoscale magnetic phenomena in physical, chemical and biological systems. Their model qubit system is the Nitrogen Vacancy (NV) center in diamond, which offers a unique combination of optical high-fidelity detection and long spin coherence times at room temperature. The group currently consists of seven doctoral students and two postdocs.

Two QU-REACH students were working on an ongoing quantum sensor project that aimed to use NV centers to image magnetic fields with spatial resolution beyond the optical diffraction limit (“super resolution”). The students gained experience in quantum sensors and spin physics theory, optical breadboarding, experimental control (LabVIEW), data analysis (Mathematica, MatLab and / or Python) and the communication of results (presentations at group meetings). These experiments presented several formidable spectroscopy, imaging, and nanomaterials challenges that provided an exciting learning opportunity for undergraduate students working on a broader team.

Roberts Ituah, a fourth year physics engineer specializing in mechanical engineering at New Mexico State University, participated in the program and worked with Acosta’s research group including PhD students: Brian Kamer, Forrest Hubert. Janis Smits, Nazanin Mosavian, Zaili Peng, Bryan Richards, Nate Ristoff and Yaser Silani.

“The program was great; it mainly focused on quantum technologies and their importance for research and industry, ”said Ituah. “It also ensured that participants had hands-on experience with world-class scientific equipment to visualize and understand the project. Quantum Technologies is divided into three main categories: Quantum Computing, Quantum Sensing, and Quantum Communications. My research project focused on quantum sensing. We investigated this by analyzing the fluorescent and magnetic properties of nitrogen vacancy centers in diamond. “

Ituah plans to apply for a master’s degree in nuclear engineering with a focus on medical physics at UNM. “For me, this research was a valuable experience in topics related to optics and quantum mechanics, from which I will benefit greatly,” he said. “I want to thank all faculties and staff for giving me this opportunity to experience physics in a more applicable environment.”

Further research projects were:

  • Quantum effects in plasmonic nanocavities under the direction of Professor Terefe Habteyes (Chemistry & Chemical Biology)
  • Ultrasensitive microresonator with lateral displacement for quantum sensors under the direction of Professor Nathan Jackson (mechanical engineering)
  • Quantum dot single photon sources at telecommunications wavelengths, led by Professor Ganesh Balakrishnan (Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • Generation of non-classical light in optical fibers under the direction of Professor Arash Mafi (Physics & Astronomy, Electrical & Information Technology)
  • Quantum Photonic Integrated Circuits (SiQuPICs) made of silicon under the direction of Professor Marek Osinski (Electrical Engineering & Information Technology)
  • Precision measurements of simulated gravitational waves with optical interferometry under the direction of Professor Elohim Becerra (Physics & Astronomy)

“The students attended an almost weekly series of seminars that we really wanted them to meet or mentor some of the leading experts in the field,” said Acosta. “We have a number of excellent lecturers in this field who are very good pedagogically and who give lectures to different audiences. We started with very basic topics, such as an introduction to technology with the cubit, and then expanded to various areas of active research.

“We ended the program with a well-attended poster session where students printed out a professional conference-style poster and presented their research to the faculty, students, postdocs and other researchers in CHTM, electrical and information technology, chemistry and chemistry, and biology and physics and astronomy. “

QU-REACH is supported by a combination of grants from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement, the National Science Foundation (both individual grants), and the Q-SEnSE Quantum Leap Challenge Institute), and others. Students from historically excluded groups in the STEM field (including women, Hispanic, Native American, and black students) and students who are the first generation in their families to attend college are strongly encouraged to apply.

Quantum technologies are a rapidly growing field and the foundation of numerous global efforts to accelerate science and technology, including the National Quantum Initiative signed in 2018. The law gives the USA a plan for the further development of quantum technology, especially quantum computing. The NQI provides a roof structure for several government agencies to develop and operate climate improvement programs for quantum science and technology in the United States

Last year, the University of New Mexico benefited from two scholarships that helped the university establish itself as a hub for quantum technologies. The UNM’s Center for Quantum Information and Control (CQuIC) was part of a US $ 115 million Department of Energy grant to the Quantum Systems Accelerator (QSA), a new research center led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). UNM was also part of a $ 25 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a new quantum information science and technology research center led by the University of Colorado-Boulder.

In addition, CQuIC recently received a $ 3 million grant from the NSF to expand New Mexico’s position as a national QIS hub. CQuIC will lead an initiative that will lead not only to new advances in QIS, but also to new educational opportunities for the next generation of scientists.

The CQuIC, headed by Regent’s Professor Ivan Deutsch, is a highly interdisciplinary research center dedicated to promoting education and research within QIS.

“UNM continues to grow as a leading QIS company, building on the pioneering efforts of CQuIC and its predecessors over 25 years,” said Deutsch. “The wide range of cutting-edge research and education initiatives such as QU-REACH will open up opportunities to diverse communities across New Mexico as we establish ourselves as the national hub for the quantum technologies of the future.”

For more information and to learn more about the program, visit QU-REACH.



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