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PME announces Quantum Science and Engineering PhD


Quantum technology is poised to transform multiple industries. Facilitating those transformations requires a specialized workforce educated in aspects of applied physics, chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, and materials science. (Photo by Nancy Wong)

The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago has announced the launch of a PhD in quantum science and engineering. The program aims to ready the next generation of scientists and engineers who will lead advancements in this rapidly growing field.


Quantum technology is poised to dramatically transform multiple industries, including information security, health care, sustainability, and finance. Facilitating those transformations will require a specialized workforce educated in aspects of applied physics, chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, and materials science.


Pritzker Molecular Engineering has made this training a cornerstone of its educational offerings since the introduction of its PhD program in 2013. The quantum science and engineering degree builds on that foundation, providing students with the skills needed to create, manipulate, and apply quantum phenomena toward developing radical new technologies.


“When the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering established its PhD program, we understood the impact that quantum would have in the future and included a specialization in quantum science and engineering in our offerings,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of PME. “Since then, interest in the field has grown dramatically. Launching a PhD in quantum science and engineering recognizes this growth and gives our students the ability to more formally showcase their expertise in the field.”


“The University, Argonne and Fermilab have positioned the Chicagoland area as a major player in the global competition to develop quantum information technologies.”

University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos


“There are few schools in the country that are positioned to provide the world-class training that PME offers in these emerging fields, let alone as part of an integrated, holistic academic program,” said David Awschalom, Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering and director of Q-NEXT, a Department of Energy quantum information science research center. “While the field of quantum science is young, the pace of research is accelerating. Establishing this doctoral program is a vital step in producing a workforce to meet what promises to be a high, global demand for quantum scientists and engineers.”


Students enrolled in the PhD program will work directly on technology that will shape the quantum future, learning from world leaders in quantum computing, communications, sensing and materials.


Students will also have access to state-of-the-art facilities and technology at both the UChicago and Argonne National Laboratory campuses, including the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility, the University of Chicago Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), the Midwest Integrated Center for Computational Materials (MICCoM), Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source, and the Argonne Quantum Loop. This quantum communications testbed has recently been extended to the University’s Hyde Park campus to create one of the nation’s longest quantum test beds at nearly 100 miles long. In addition, students will have opportunities to gain industry expertise through interactions with UChicago’s Booth School of Business and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.



Students work in state-of-the-art facilities on both the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory campuses. Pictured here: the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility. (Photo by Andrew Collins)

“This program is designed for those students who are eager to play a major role in the future of this rapidly evolving area,” said Aashish Clerk, professor of molecular engineering and director of graduate studies for quantum engineering and science. “By choosing to enroll in this program, students will develop expertise in both fundamental and applied aspects of quantum science and gain insight into a wide spectrum of related industries.”


At the forefront of quantum research and education


PME’s PhD program joins a robust ecosystem of quantum education and research at the University and its affiliated national labs. Faculty from multiple departments and institutes conduct work in the field, including Pritzker Molecular Engineering, the James Franck Institute, the Department of Physics, and the Department of Chemistry, as do scientists at Argonne and Fermilab. Many are also engaged in the Chicago Quantum Exchange, an intellectual hub spanning academia, national labs, and numerous industry partners.


Additionally, two of five national quantum centers are located at national laboratories managed by the University. Q-NEXT, based at Argonne, focuses on developing the science and technology to control and distribute quantum information. Fermilab’s Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center (SQMS) aims to build and deploy a beyond-state-of-the-art quantum computer based on superconducting technologies. The University also boasts relationships with two National Science Foundation quantum leap institutes: the NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Quantum Sensing for Biophysics and Bioengineering and the NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks.


"There are few schools in the country that are positioned to provide the world-class training that PME offers in these emerging fields, let alone as part of an integrated, holistic academic program." Prof. David Awschalom


Duality, the nation’s first quantum incubator dedicated exclusively to accelerating companies focused on quantum science and engineering, is housed at the University. And UChicago and Harvard University’s Quantum Information Science and Engineering Network (QISE-NET) provides funding and industry and academic mentors to select graduate students for three years.


“The University, Argonne and Fermilab have positioned the Chicagoland area as a major player in the global competition to develop quantum information technologies,” said Paul Alivisatos, University president and John D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor. “As quantum technology moves closer to reality, we will need scientists and engineers trained in the field to lead its implementation into society. PME’s quantum science and engineering doctoral program will give us a central role in the development of that workforce.”


In addition to its PhD program, PME has committed to spreading the opportunities of quantum engineering and STEM fields to the broader community through novel outreach programs for students from elementary school to college. For instance, its TeachQuantum program, which welcomed its first cohort in 2021, immerses high school teachers in quantum science and helps them develop quantum lessons for the classroom. And PME’s undergraduate research experience program brings students enrolled in non-research institutions from across the country to work directly with PME faculty, including its quantum labs.


“The impact that quantum technology will have — on communications, sensing, and information security — is monumental,” said Juan de Pablo, vice president for national laboratories, science strategy, innovation, and global initiatives; Liew Family professor of Molecular Engineering, and senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. “To realize such opportunities, we must equip today’s students with the strongest possible education in all aspects of science and engineering. That is what this program represents, it’s the immersive experience and in-depth training for students who want to lead the future of quantum technology.”


Students interested in the PhD in quantum science and engineering can learn more about the program here.


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