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Computer Engineerng & Quantum Computing

  1. May 18, 2014 #1
    Context:

    I am entering my Junior year in a computer engineering undergraduate program, and have not yet taken any course involving quantum physics. The only course I am required to take involving quantum physics is Semiconductor Device Physics. I am doing well academically, and am considering pursuing a Masters degree at some point in the future.

    Questions:

    1. How well developed is the theory of quantum computing at this time, and what sort of people are defining the field? That is, is it being headed chiefly by electrical or computer engineers, physicists, computer scientists, or something else?

    2. Is this research exclusively done in academic and government settings, or are there some corporations that are currently conducting research in the field?

    3. How well does a solid understanding of classical computer architecture and computation, boolean logic, and whatever else goes with a degree in Computer Engineering translate to the field of quantum computing?

    4. Finally, what could I expect to need from outside my degree plan to be effective in the field if most of what I am currently studying is relevant? For example, I can expect to need a course on quantum mechanics and partial differential equations, and possibly some high level courses on computability and automata.

    Thanks!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 18, 2014 #2

    esuna

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    Gold Member

    At this time, people are still arguing as to whether or not the few quantum computers in the world are actually quantum computers. The actual theory is infantile enough that the majority of research is done is physics departments. However, there are plenty of non-physicists working on it as well. Check out Shor's algorithm. Building a quantum computer is largely interdisciplinary.

    It's not yet at the point that computer engineers are being hired in large scales to build quantum computers.

    D-Wave is the most notable corporation doing research in quantum computing. They have sold "quantum computers" to NASA, Google, and the NSA, who are conducting their own research with the devices. An Australian aerospace company Aerospace Concepts has announced plans begin developing commercial quantum computer software packages.

    I'd say it's going to start becoming important. A good understanding of logic gates and circuits is already a prerequisite for understanding quantum gates and things like that. It depends on what kind of department you're doing research in. University of Waterloo is probably the largest research institute right now for quantum computing, and you can specialize there being in residency in the math, physics, chemistry, or engineering departments.

    Again, it depends. There are a lot of different aspects to quantum computing. Actually physically making the thing work is basically optics and condensed matter physics. On the other hand, the information side of things requires algorithms, theory of computing, linear algebra(very important), and even a little abstract algebra. The requisite knowledge depends on the area you are working in.
     
  4. May 18, 2014 #3
    Fantastic answers, thanks!

    QC is one of a few things that I want to consider if I enter graduate school. Of course, in the next couple of years I may find something less cutting-edge but just as fascinating, but it can't hurt to look into a few of my options now.
     
  5. May 18, 2014 #4

    esuna

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    For sure. It fascinates me quite a bit. I'm more interested in the information theory side, so I'm sorry I can't give you a whole lot of info on the actual engineering side of it. But physicists primarily invented the technology that modern computers use, and computer engineers play a large role in the industry. So I can only imagine at some point computer engineers and electrical engineers will be playing the same large role with these in the (hopefully) near future.
     
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