Lessons from our interns
This summer, we were fortunate to take on seven bright minds at Riverlane. Our interns have produced some excellent work, completing several quantum computing projects. These ranged from a focus on specific challenges, such as noise reduction, to building a device to introduce young people to quantum computing in a practical and engaging way. We spoke to each of them to find out more about their experiences as an intern at Riverlane, and if anything surprised them about what they learned.
Originally from the Czech Republic, Andrea Husseiniova is about to start her final year at Edinburgh University, completing a master’s in theoretical physics. Andrea was interested in finding out how quantum computing can be used in a practical sense. Over the past 10 weeks, Andrea has been working on implementing benchmarking algorithms and building a library inside Deltaflow.OS, Riverlane’s quantum computing operating system. She noted that the internship has broadened her horizons, as she would now consider completing a part-time PhD alongside a job in quantum computing, something she hadn’t previously contemplated. Andrea commented: “I have really enjoyed being part of a growing company. I felt fully involved and that my work was genuinely contributing towards a shared goal.”
George Umbrarescu has just completed an integrated master’s in chemistry at Oxford University. With this background, he is predominantly interested in how quantum computing can benefit chemistry as an application, and has been using Variational Quantum Eigensolver (VQE) for chemistry applications. Although George has been based in Romania over the summer, he has had regular contact with other members of the team and gained some unexpected insights – “I’ve been surprised by how many different aspects there are within a company that come together to make it function,” he said. “To learn not only about the technology but also about the operational aspects – the communications, filing for patents, how to fundraise – it’s all been really useful from an entrepreneurial perspective.” Following the internship, George will be start a PhD in quantum technologies at UCL.
Communicating quantum computing effectively is a challenge, and something that Maria Violaris wanted to tackle as part of her sci-comm project. Her work at Riverlane has involved building a simulation of a quantum computing lab using Raspberry Pis and smaller circuit boards – one side representing the quantum hardware, one side the main lab computer and the layer in between acting as a way to control the lab equipment. She used the Deltaflow language to control the circuit boards, modelling how Deltaflow can control the different parts of a quantum computer. The plan is to next create a set of downloadable instructions that will be available to anyone with an interest to try it themselves, including A level students.
One key take-away for Maria was discovering the combination of skills that are needed within the quantum computing industry, such as those of engineers, chemists and computer scientists. “It’s exciting to see how diverse teams can spark creative ideas for quantum computing,” she commented. “I like the sense of collaboration within the company – it’s been a fun environment to work in.” Maria has recently completed an integrated physics master’s at Oxford University and plans to stay on to complete a PhD in the foundations of quantum information.
Laurin Fischer is due to finish his master’s in physics at the University of Heidelberg later this year. His project goal was to build an example application for Deltaflow that reduces the noise in a quantum circuit, highlighting Deltaflow’s advantages of fast, local control. Laurin also worked with other team members to understand the techniques of collaborative software development, including version control. He commented: “I have found it especially interesting to see how theoretical ideas from quantum information need to be adapted when developing a software that takes the practical challenges on the hardware side into account.”
James Bate has just finished his master’s in physics at Oxford, and was interested to see what the dynamic of quantum information research is like in an industrial setting, as well as finding out how quantum computing software is informed by the hardware. James worked on VQE in Deltaflow, fitting the existing algorithm into the framework of the operating system, and finding out how local computation can be used to mitigate bottlenecks.
“What’s been so amazing is that in one room I can talk to people from opposite ends of the spectrum: quantum chemists, software specialists, and hardware specialists.”
James is looking forward to starting a PhD studying large scale ion – photon entanglement at the University of Innsbruck.
Carys Harvey has just completed her master’s in physics at Manchester University. She was excited to find out how research is being conducted in an industrial setting, and what happens in practice. Her project focused on improving VQE for near term hardware. She has found it an interesting experience to work in a more collaborative way than she is used to – “I’ve had to learn how to work with other people’s work,” she said. “In Anian, [Riverlane’s application library in Deltaflow] a lot of the library exists already. It’s a real contrast to studying at university where it’s much more individual.” Carys will be moving on to Bristol to complete a PhD in quantum engineering, combining quantum algorithms, lab work and theory work.
Radha Mastandrea wanted to learn more about the fundamentals of quantum computing. She worked on alternative measurement strategies within VQE and trade-offs in implementations. A big positive for Radha during her internship was the responsiveness of the team – “If I had a question I would usually get a response on Slack within about five minutes, which has been amazing,” she said. With a master’s in physics from Cambridge, she will next undertake a PhD in particle physics at UC Berkeley. “I love that everything can be reduced down to a set of fundamental rules which form the basis of everything,” she commented. “It’s interesting that there is quite a contrast between the very definite within physics and the as yet unknown within quantum.”
Interested in becoming an intern with us next year? Applications for 2021 internships will be open from January.