As he develops three quantum technology courses—that he thinks will be the first formal curriculum for quantum workforce technicians—Mo Hasanovic is recruiting students and encouraging community colleges to “jump on the train much earlier” than they have previously with emerging technologies and add quantum technology programs as soon as possible.
The general public may not be aware of it, but advances in quantum computing, quantum networking, and quantum sensing have the potential for enormous, disruptive effects that are making attainment of quantum supremacy a strategic priority for the U.S. government.
“It’s almost like a patriotic duty to move the technology forward as an entire nation so we can continue to be a global leader in democracy in these technologies,” Hasanovic said.
The first quantum revolution began in the twentieth century and led to the development of lasers, LEDs, MRIs, solar cells, and Lidar. Quantum Revolution 2.0, as Hasanovic refers to the commercialization of quantum research-enabled products, is expected in the next five to 10 years. There are predictions that the immense processing power of new quantum computers could put all passwords at risk while advances in quantum networking could make internet communications 100% secure.
Hasanovic said there are quantum sensing devices under development that will be so sensitive they can measure gravitational force underground, which will remotely differentiate between different minerals.
“The quantum is important,” he says emphatically.
Three Quantum Courses in the Works
This fall Hasanovic is piloting the EdQuantum project’s Gentle Introduction to Quantum Mechanics course at Indian River State College. Parts of the curriculum, which combines theory and hands-on activities, has already been tested at Central Carolina College (North Carolina), Samueli Academy (California), and the SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing Conference.
Hasanovic wrote the textbook for the first course last year, and has had articles published in peer-reviewed journals about the three-course curriculum he and colleagues developed based on input from 24 professionals from industry and academia who responded to EdQuantum’s industry survey.
The first course will develop students’ knowledge of quantum terminology, and will provide historical perspectives of the first quantum revolution, and information about quantum applications and their role in photonics, semiconductors, and other enabling technologies.
The second course on quantum hardware and software will be piloted at Indian River State College in spring 2024.
Fundamentals of spectroscopy will be the focus of the third course, which is still a work in progress.
All of the courses will be delivered through an open-access platform to reduce geographic barriers between colleges, students, and employers. This approach is intended to add diversity to the skilled technical workforce.
Envisioning Community College Consortia to Share Quantum Equipment
Thanks to the EdQuantum ATE grant and other ATE grants to LASER-TEC—the ATE photonics center at Indian River State College—the Florida college has state-of-the-art equipped labs to offer these courses. But Hasanovic’s vision for spreading quantum technical workforce knowledge involves consortia of five or six colleges sharing portable quantum equipment and kits.
During the interview for this article, Hasanovic noted that he taught a quantum cryptography workshop this summer with equipment that he carried in a suitcase.
“We have to collaborate more. We don’t have to build 10, 15, or 20 labs across the nation that cost $300,000 each ... Nothing is impossible if we share the resources we have,” he said.
Recruiting Technical Workforce for Emerging Quantum Commercial Products
In his quantum career pitches to high school and college students, Hasanovic leverages Hollywood movie depictions of quantum technologies—despite their scientific inaccuracies—to further pique interest and dispel worries that the technology is too complex for ordinary students to major in.
“If you first break the fear of its complexity and tap into their enthusiasm ... people are very inspired. They want to do it,” Hasanovic said he has had success bringing students into Indian River’s photonics program. The program has 70 to 80 students enrolled each year; most have job offers a few months before they graduate, sometimes with employers in other states.
Hasanovic’s advocacy for community colleges to use EdQuantum’s curriculum is driven by his expectation that quantum technicians will soon be in demand beyond the cities where quantum research labs are located. “Every community college should be investigating the ways they can penetrate into this arena,” he said.