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Training Next-Generation Engineers for Next-Generation Technologies

Written by: Leslie Lestinsky

“God does not play dice with the universe.” This famous quote made by the brilliant Albert Einstein is the basis for Department of Electrical Engineering (NDEE) professor Anthony Hoffman’s Introduction to Quantum Computing course. Einstein died believing there was a flaw in quantum mechanics theory, a peculiar aspect referred to as “entanglement.” Scientists have since proven that entanglement is real, and engineers are using it as a central feature of new quantum technologies. One of those emerging technologies being quantum computing.

NDEE Professor Anthony Hoffman
Hoffman’s course introduces undergraduate students to fundamentals such as quantum entanglement, the matrix form of quantum mechanics and concepts underlying the theory of quantum information. Students also learn about the quantum algorithms that drove the initial excitement within the field. “We’re training the next generation of engineers for the next generation of technologies.”, stated Hoffman. He is not only empowering interested NDEE majors with this knowledge, but students from various disciplines in engineering and science. “Every student has a place where they shine in this course, in numerous skills sets, which I believe speaks to the diversity of the engineering and science fields. We’re bringing together students from very different technical backgrounds to create a multi-disciplinary, team-building experience.”, explained Hoffman. Learning to harness these interdisciplinary skill sets in a team fashion gives the students the opportunity to build their professional interpersonal skills as well, making them well-rounded engineers and scientists.

Hoffman is leading by example. New experimental demonstrations in his lab that leverage entangled photons are a result of his collaboration with Colgate University physics professor and University of Notre Dame alumni, Enrique (Kiko) Galvez. Hoffman took Galvez’s technique for generating entangled photon pairs and translated it into a lab demonstration, giving students the opportunity to put theory into practice.

NDEE graduate student Irfan Khan explaining quantum mechanics to NDEE undergraduate student Jamal AlHourani

Students can go on to use the fundamentals taught in various significant ways. Everything from using it as a basis to build a graduate career on, to implementing them within industry to engineer new technologies to managing the engineering of new technologies. Whatever path they choose to take, students come out of the course realizing the importance of the research and multi-disciplinary collaboration to solve the world’s most pressing technological problems.