National Science Foundation Supports N.C. A&T’s Quantum Research with $5M Grant

By East L Dockery / 09/12/2023 Employees, College of Engineering, College of Science and Technology

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Sept. 12, 2023) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has been awarded a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the ExpandQISE: Track 2: N.C. A&T QISE Research Workforce Development Programs.

The funding comes from $38 million NSF invested to expand its support for quantum information science and engineering (QISE) through Track 1 and Track 2 awards to 22 institutions. Six of them, including N.C. A&T, are historically Black colleges or universities (HBCUs).

NSF developed the ExpandQISE program through the National Quantum Initiative Act, passed in 2018, to lower barriers to access and broaden the diversity of participating institutions.

Track 2 awards are for teams of up to five people paired with external research collaborators with deep QISE research experience.

Raymond E. Samuel, M.D., Ph.D., professor of biology in A&T’s College of Science and Technology (CoST), leads the NC A&T ExpandQISE program, a Track 2 awardee.

“My interest in this is not so much on the quantum side initially, but in the work we do relate to enhancing the diversity of the STEM research workforce,” said Samuel. “And we do this not just in quantum, we do this in materials, we do this in biomedical sciences and this is just one area.”

N.C. A&T ExpandQISE Research Workforce Developmental Programs are critical infrastructure to achieve the institutional goal of being the premier HBCU in the QISE ecosystem. 

Participants range from high school students to faculty scholars.

“One of the major areas that was articulated when the National Quantum Initiative Act was signed into law was the need to develop a U.S.-based quantum workforce with Americans who are ready to work in this industry,” said Samuel, “everyone from the high-level theoretical physicist to the low-level people who will actually one day use these devices to do things.”

A&T has already made critical academic and infrastructure investments over the last decade that will position faculty and students to make a significant contribution to enhancing the diversity of the QISE research and development workforce.

“We’re doing research in two things. One is using quantum computing to design better quantum materials,” said Samuel. “The second is using quantum computing technology to solve complex mathematical equations around hypersonic flow which is with the mechanical engineering department.”

Samuel has been collaborating with faculty in the College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to build a quantum computer. In addition, there are plans to create a quantum computing laboratory with hardware as well as control systems for quantum computers.

All A&T faculty and students engaged in the ExpandQISE ecosystem will acquire common quantum computing skills that support communication and collaboration across the two core research projects.

They will gain seminal training and mentorship from collaborating partners qBraid, Universities Space Research Association (USRA), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) as they catalyze new research thrust in the application of Variational Quantum Algorithms (VQA) in two core research projects in the general fields of materials science and aerospace engineering.

Concrete goals are to:

  • Increase the expertise and capacity of A&T faculty to prepare undergraduate and graduate students to contribute to the QISE ecosystem. 
  • Catalyze QISE research and development activities of A&T at all career levels and across all QISE-related academic studies
  • Establish a QISE Core Laboratory which provides access to quantum hardware, quantum software services, and technical assistance to faculty and students engaged in QISE research, education, and training activities.
  • Expand A&T faculty and student engagement in collaborative research, education, and training activities with regional and national QISE partners in academia, industry, and government agencies.
  • Expand NC A&T QISE Undergraduate Scholars Program courses to address the needs of undergraduates more effectively. 
  • Expand the QISE Short Course Series to provide seminal training in quantum computing, quantum sensing, and quantum systems/devices to A&T and other regional HBCU faculty.
  • Leverage A&T’s scholarly productivity and contributions to advancing QISE undergraduate nationally to effectively shepherd QISE academic programs (certificates, minors, and majors) through the UNC policies and procedures.
  • Introduce an interdisciplinary QISE minor and/or certificate programs involving students and faculty from several departments
  • Establish the framework for the design and implementation of interdisciplinary QISE undergraduate and graduate degree programs that fit the A&T academic landscape.

“I want this money to catalyze engagement by people,” said Samuel. “A&T should be the lead institution within the HBCU community for quantum computing. This is an opportunity to catalyze what we can become.”

The ExpandQISE project was built upon the necessary expertise that A&T’s faculty possesses to make significant contributions in the areas of quantum computing, quantum materials, and quantum sensing. Faculty and contributors have high hopes for the future impact A&T will have within the QISE landscape.

“We need people who are willing to jump in,” Samuel said. “I’m not the expert in quantum computing. I’m just the one who answered the call.”


Media Contact Information: eldockery@ncat.edu

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