University of Michigan physicist Steven Cundiff was recently invited to the White House to discuss quantum information science.

Researchers and administrators from the University of Chicago, Yale University, Harvard University, MIT, Stanford University, among many others, met May 31 for the White House Academic Roundtable on Quantum Information Science, organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The roundtable discussed components of quantum information science ranging from how the field will become mainstream in the marketplace to how a workforce might be trained to work in quantum science.

Quantum science originated more than a century ago as a way to explain the universe, says Cundiff, who is the Harrison M. Randall Collegiate Professor of Physics and who studies ultrafast optics. At the roundtable, Cundiff discussed the formation of quantum science institutes within universities.

Over the past few decades, researchers have also suspected they can leverage quantum effects to build better, faster computers, or create intrinsically secure communications links. But the road to quantum computing has been more challenging than researchers expected when they began trying to build a quantum computer in the early 1990’s, says Cundiff.

Recently, there's a resurgence due to the steady progress reaching a tipping point. 

"IBM has a quantum computer—a simple one you can access over the web. Google has gotten interested, and industry is starting to pay attention and invest in it," Cundiff said. "People are starting to feel like something's happening here, and there's an effort made to organize it."

In December 2018, President Donald Trump enacted the National Quantum Initiative Act, which draws together the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy to spur research and training into quantum information science. The act allocates $1.2 billion to split between the agencies.

"We're building a bridge from physics to engineering," Cundiff said. "We're getting out of the paradigm that quantum is just for understanding the world to looking at it as a tool we can use to do new things." 

More Information:

Physics Professor Steven Cundiff

Summary of the 2019 White House Academic Roundtable on Advancing American Leadership in Quantum Information Science