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Quantum Computing Micro-Credential Offers Unique Training Opportunity With Cross-College Collaboration

The College of Engineering, Design and Computing (CEDC) continues to expand its curriculum to ensure its diverse student population of today is prepared for the careers of tomorrow. As the field of Quantum Information Science and Engineering (QISE) continues to evolve, so does the need to ready a workforce across all educational levels.

This spring, the first students began coursework to pursue a micro-credential in quantum computing, the latest of six new certifications introduced by the college in the past year – a tangible example of the implementation of the CEDC strategic plan.

“It is an exciting time to be at our college and the university. We have been re-examining the role of higher education and what it takes to be a modern engineer,” said Mark Golkowski, PhD, CEDC associate dean for education and student success. “Gone are the days of simply picking a major and staying in a narrow lane, you now must be able to work across disciplines and diverse teams to solve unique and multi-faceted problems.”

The program offers a unique training opportunity for students: it is a multidisciplinary collaboration between the college’s Electrical Engineering Department and the Physics Department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

“Quantum computing is itself a multidisciplinary industry, drawing from physics, electrical and mechanical engineering, computer science and mathematics,” says Martin Huber, PhD, professor of physics, who co-leads the laboratory course. “Operation of quantum processors requires a systems engineering approach to integrate all these disciplines into a working unit. The CU Denver micro-credential draws from its faculty’s strengths in these areas.”

In a three-course sequence — two lectures and one lab taught by faculty from two departments – students gain hands-on experience as they familiarize themselves with the theory, algorithms, programming principles, and hardware of this rapidly emerging technology.

“One challenge of quantum computing or any innovative technology is that it is difficult to predict its exact trajectory. Our hope is to expose students to multiple models– including optics-based quantum encryption, high-frequency electronics, and working in a cryogenic environment – so they can become strong candidates to work in companies that will develop these technologies,” Golkowski said.

Vastly different from traditional computers, quantum computers can solve specific problems such as mathematical equations, decode encrypted messages, and model complex molecules, among other feats, at significantly faster speeds.

 “Quantum computers bring revolutionary impacts to technologies, including new material and drug discoveries, security, system designs, and modeling and many other disciplines,” said Tim Lei, PhD, professor of electrical engineering, who co-leads the quantum computing micro-credential program with Huber.

While only small and intermediate-scale quantum computers are currently available, quantum supremacy – the computational power suppressing any classical computers – has been demonstrated for some specific mathematical problems. In addition, large-scale quantum computers could become a reality in a matter of a few years, which can solve extremely difficult mathematical problems currently unreachable by classical computers.

We are at a phase in QISE today very reminiscent of the birth of the semiconductor industry over 50 years ago. A substantial QISE workforce will be needed for the U.S. to take a leading role in this quantum revolution,” Huber said.

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At the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we focus on providing our students with a comprehensive engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. Faculty conduct research that spans our five disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering. The college collaborates with industry from around the state; our laboratories and research opportunities give students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the professional world.

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