The National Science Foundation Tuesday announced a five-year $25 million award to UCLA, UC Berkeley and other universities to create the NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Present and Future Quantum Computation, whose objective will be to overcome scientific challenges to achieving quantum computing and to design advanced, large-scale quantum computers that employ state-of-the scientific algorithms.
Unlike conventional computers, quantum computers seek to harness the behavior of particles at the subatomic level to boost computing power, the foundation said in a statement. Once fully developed, they will be capable of solving large, extremely complex problems far beyond the capacity of Tuesday’s most powerful supercomputers. Quantum systems are expected to have a wide variety of applications in many fields, including medicine, national security and science.
“Scientific problems that would take the age of the universe to solve on a standard computer potentially could take only a few minutes on a quantum computer,” said Eric Hudson, a UCLA professor of physics and co-director of the new institute.
“We may get the ability to design new pharmaceuticals to fight diseases on a quantum computer, instead of in a laboratory. Learning the structure of molecules and designing effective drugs, each of which has thousands of atoms, are inherently quantum challenges. A quantum computer potentially could calculate the structure of molecules and how molecules react and behave.”
“If quantum computers were available today, they might be able to better reveal how the new coronavirus binds to human cells, for example, and indicate how that process could be disrupted, said Hudson, who is also co-director of UCLA’s Center for Quantum Science & Engineering.
The new NSF institute will be directed by UC Berkeley professor of physics Dan Stamper-Kurn.
“The Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Present and Future Quantum Computation establishes California as a leader nationally and globally in quantum computing,” Stamper-Kurn said.
Added UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Emily Carter: “Quantum technologies could have a tremendous impact on jobs in California and the United States in the future, and a profound impact on our lives. The new NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Present and Future Quantum Computation will lay the foundation for this high-tech future, and I am delighted that UCLA, the University of California and the National Science Foundation will play a major role in helping shape it.”
The institute will be multidisciplinary, spanning physics, chemistry, mathematics, optical and electrical engineering, computer science, and other fields and will include scientists and engineers with expertise in quantum algorithms, mechanics and chemistry, according to the statement. They will partner with outside institutions, including in the emerging quantum industry, and will host symposia, workshops and other programs. Research challenges will be addressed jointly through a process that incorporates both theory and experiment.
In addition to research, the institute will train graduate students for the quantum industry of the future, it said. UCLA’s department of physics and astronomy is establishing a master’s program in quantum science and technology that will incorporate a variety of academic disciplines and offer students access to world-class instrumentation. The institute also will advance education from high school through graduate school and plans to offer online courses that advanced high school students, as well as college students, can take.
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