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University of Chicago Now Offers Retraining Certificates, Curriculum to Build Quantum Workforce

A new certificates program offered by the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago will educate scientists and engineers in the key principles of quantum technology and practical applications.

Press release from University of Chicago
January 22nd 2020 | 523 readers

Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash
Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash
The rapidly emerging field of quantum technology has the power to transform cybersecurity, materials development, and computing, but jobs within the field require specific knowledge of quantum science and engineering and their potential applications. Companies in the communications, electronics, optics, and materials industries already struggle to find a large enough workforce to fill these jobs and that demand is only projected to increase in future years.

A preliminary survey of 30 quantum industry companies earlier this year by the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) found that 55 percent of the respondents stated that they have to provide additional training to new hires, and 65 percent find hiring quantum information science employees challenging.

“It appears from this preliminary data that there are too few candidates, and that some candidates are insufficiently qualified for immediate industry engagement,” said Joseph Broz, Executive Director and Governing Board Chairman of the QEDC. The QED-C was launched last year by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and SRI to expand U.S. leadership in global quantum research and development and the emerging quantum industry in computing, communications and sensing. The QED-C will conduct a more extensive and thorough workforce survey in the coming year representing a broader cross-section of the QIS industry.

UChicago’s certificates program in Quantum Engineering and Technology is aimed at retraining scientists across their careers, particularly those who have been educated in classical physics, computer science, and other science and engineering fields, but who want to pursue a career in the growing quantum industries. The certificates program allows scientists and engineers to apply their existing knowledge to quantum applications without attaining another degree. While offered by the University’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) the certificates program will be managed by the Chicago Quantum Exchange, a catalyst for advancing academic and industrial efforts in the science and engineering of quantum information. It is the latest effort by the two organizations to develop the quantum workforce of the future.

“Companies are eager to hire employees with a knowledge of quantum science to develop emerging applications,” said David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, and director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange. “Part of creating a quantum-ready workforce includes retraining those with experience in the physical sciences and engineering who do not have a background in quantum science. The certificates program paves the way for those in both the private and public sectors to pivot towards a career in quantum engineering and help develop technologies of the future.”

The certificate courses will be taught by faculty members from across institutions within the Chicago Quantum Exchange, a growing intellectual hub for the research and development of quantum technology. Based at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, the Chicago Quantum Exchange is anchored by UChicago, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and includes the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University. It brings together more than 100 researchers from across the Midwest and is home to one of the largest collaborative teams working on quantum science in the world.

Approximately 25 to 30 students will be accepted into the first certificates program on Quantum Science and Engineering. This four-day in-person course is slated to take place April 27-April 30, 2020 in Chicago, IL. Scientists and engineers with advanced degrees in physics, engineering, and materials science are encouraged to apply.To sign up to receive information on additional quantum science and technology courses, contact .

Building a quantum pipeline

In addition to filling the acute need for quantum scientists and engineers today, institutions comprising the Chicago Quantum Exchange offer training and education at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels.

“Quantum information science is the field of the future,” said Kate Timmerman, executive director for the Chicago Quantum Exchange. “And the Chicago Quantum Exchange institutions lead the nation in the educational and training programs offered to students and trainees seeking careers in quantum science and technology.”

The University of Chicago has undergraduate and graduate courses in quantum engineering and UChicago, University of Illinois, and University of Wisconsin-Madison all have graduate courses in quantum sciences and computing.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently admitted its first class into their newly designed master’s program in physics-quantum computing. The program, which admitted nine students this fall, is the first degree-granting master’s program in the US dedicated to quantum computing. It provides students with intensive counseling and exposure to job opportunities through a seminar series that brings quantum computing industry spokespersons to campus.

The intensive one-year curriculum fast-tracks students into this burgeoning area, said Robert Joynt, the MS-Physics-Quantum Computing program director and professor and associate chair for Alumni Affairs. “The program’s particular focus is hands-on lab experience built on a solid conceptual foundation—exactly what’s needed for entry into a very fast-growing job market. The program leverages the superb facilities and research expertise at UW-Madison.”

Also for graduate students is the Quantum Information Science and Engineering Network (QISE-NET) program, which facilitates a different approach to graduate education. The QISE-NET program – administered by UChicago and Harvard University and supported by a $1.6 million award from the National Science Foundation — supports graduate students’ relationships with both an academic adviser and one from a leading technology company or national laboratory. Over the course of the students’ Ph.D. journey, the “triplets” will each address a pressing research question for both academia and industry.

The Chicago Quantum Exchange also has a program with IBM to train postdoctoral scholars that enables trainees to work at member institutions that support their individual areas of research. Trainees receive dual mentorship at both the institution where they are placed and another member institution or IBM.

To learn more about all of the training and education programs offered by Chicago Quantum Exchange member institutions, visit

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