A multidisciplinary, multi-institutional program led by Ohio State is taking its next step to develop a diverse, effective, and contemporary quantum-ready workforce by revolutionizing and creating more equitable pathways to quantum science education.
QuSTEAM: Convergence Undergraduate Education in Quantum Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, was awarded a $5 million cooperative agreement over two years from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Convergence Accelerator. Following QuSTEAM’s initial assessment and needs-finding period, Phase I, the award will fund Phase II’s objective to build transformative, modular quantum science degree and certification programs.
“NSF’s Convergence Accelerator is focused on accelerating solutions toward societal impact. Within three years, funded teams are to deliver high-impact results, which is fast for product development,” said Douglas Maughan, head of the NSF Convergence Accelerator program. “During Phase II, QuSTEAM and nine other 2020 cohort teams will participate in an Idea-to-Market curriculum to assist them in developing their solution further and to create a sustainability plan to ensure the effort provides a positive impact beyond NSF funding.”
The rapidly evolving field of quantum information science will enable technological breakthroughs and have far-reaching economic and societal impacts—what researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology refer to as the second quantum revolution. Ohio State recently joined the Chicago Quantum Exchange as its first regional partner, and the CQE is also a partner on the QuSTEAM grant.
"QuSTEAM is a great example of how universities and industry can work together to build the foundation for a strong, diverse workforce," said David Awschalom, the director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering and Physics at the University of Chicago, senior scientist at Argonne, and director of Q-NEXT, a Department of Energy Quantum Information Science Center. "Innovations in this field require us to provide broadly accessible quantum education, and QuSTEAM represents an ambitious approach to training in quantum engineering."
Unlocking that potential, however, also requires a foundational shift in teaching and growing a quantum-literate workforce. QuSTEAM brings together scientists and educators from over 20 universities, national laboratories, community colleges, and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to develop a research-based quantum education curriculum and prepare the next generation of quantum information scientists and engineers. It also includes an effort to broaden participation by engaging students with quantum science and the arts.
The initiative also has over 14 industrial partners, including GE Research and Honda and several Chicago Quantum Exchange corporate partners: IBM Quantum, JPMorgan Chase, Quantum Opus, Quantum Design Inc., Toptica, and qBraid.
The initiative also collaborates with leading national organizations such as the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) and national research centers, including the U.S. Department of Energy National Quantum Information Science Research Centers led by Argonne National Laboratory, Q-NEXT, and the HQAN NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute, to help provide a holistic portrait of future workforce needs.
“We have leaders in quantum information and STEM education, and both of these groups independently do good work building undergraduate curriculum, but they work together surprisingly rarely,” said QuSTEAM lead investigator Ezekiel Johnston-Halperin, professor in the Department of Physics at Ohio State. “We are talking to people in industry and academia about what aspects of quantum information are most critical, what skills are needed, what workforce training looks like today, and what they expect it to look like a couple of years from now.”
“We feel strongly about the need for redesigning quantum science education, which is the objective of QuSTEAM,” said Marco Pistoia, head of the Future Lab for Applied Research and Engineering (FLARE) at JPMorgan Chase. “The complexity of the quantum computing stack is enabling the creation of many new job opportunities. It is crucial for quantum curricula nationwide to collectively support this multiplicity of needs, but for this to happen, quantum scientists and engineers must have the proper training. We are very excited to see the impact of QuSTEAM’s work in the near and long term, considering finance is predicted to be the first industry sector to start realizing significant value from quantum computing.”
Five Midwestern universities head QuSTEAM: lead institution Ohio State, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, all of which have partnered with local community colleges and regional partners with established transfer pipelines to engage underrepresented student populations.