10 Universities Join IBM-HBCU Quantum Center

February 22, 2021

Feb. 22, 2021 — When IBM launched the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center last September, the company’s goal was to collaborate with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in a way that would advance not only quantum information science, but also STEM-based opportunities for these traditionally underrepresented communities. We are proud to report that this initiative in the quantum computing field is off to a fast start, as HBCUs, students, and faculty begin to explore the Center’s vast potential.

Membership has nearly doubled in less than six months to a total of 23 HBCUs. The program has created a community of students and faculty, including the start of an undergraduate research program where students are exploring quantum computation with Qiskit, and have contributed to a pre-print on arXiv that investigates the use of machine learning and quantum computing to better understand unknown quantum systems.

Expanding the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center

Today, IBM has announced a slate of new members for the Center, with 10 historically Black colleges and universities joining the Center’s 13 founding institutions. The new schools (in alphabetical order) are:

Distinguished faculty

In addition to this rapid growth, we are honored to have distinguished faculty as members of the Center, including Howard University associate professor of physics Thomas Searles, winner of the inaugural Joseph A. Johnson III Award for ExcellenceSerena Eley, an assistant professor of physics at the Colorado School of Mines and head of the Eley Quantum Materials Group; and Anderson Sunda-Meya, an associate professor of physics at Xavier University of Louisiana and recipient of the 2021 American Physical Society Excellence in Physics Education Award.

Professors Eley and Searles have also received grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the organization’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. The program supports early-career faculty who have the potential to become academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in their department or organization.

Inclusion from the start

The Center is a multi-year investment designed to prepare and develop talent at HBCUs from all STEM disciplines. IBM’s goals are to build a sustainable quantum research and education program by increasing the number of Black students educated in Quantum Information Science and Engineering (QISE), strengthening research efforts of faculty at HBCUs in QISE, and providing opportunities for scholarship, fellowships, and internships for HBCU undergraduate and graduate students.

The IBM-HBCU Quantum Center’s mission is to educate, foster collaboration on joint research, and ultimately create a more diverse quantum-ready workforce for students studying everything from physics and chemistry to computer science and business. The Center’s members collaborate across their respective institutions, and are building regional interactions to strengthen both faculty and student engagement.

Black and Latinx students leave STEM majors at nearly twice the rate of white students, due largely to the lack of a support structure and access to resources as they pursue their academic goals, according to EAB, a Washington-based education research company. We see the need for an inclusive, supportive space where these students and their professors are able to collaborate and explore emerging technologies. This collaboration with HBCUs, which educate 27 percent of African American graduates with STEM degrees, will increase opportunities for faculty and students to identify and launch successful careers in the budding field of quantum computing.

Since IBM first put a quantum computer on the cloud almost five years ago, it has pushed the boundaries of both access and enablement for quantum computation at a global scale. One example is our Qiskit Global Summer School, which delivered an undergraduate-level course on quantum algorithms to a global audience of over 4,000 students in over 100 countries. Another example is our partnership with The Coding School expanding quantum education to high schools by educating thousands of students around the world for a full academic year.

We know that early touch points with new technology can help increase the likelihood of capturing interest in the subject and is critical for underrepresented communities. In return, we envision quantum computing benefitting greatly from a diverse community of researchers and industry professionals that can help advance the technology and identify commercial applications.

Mapping the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center

View and download a high-resolution version, here.

Looking forward

As the Center continues to develop, we are measuring success on a number of metrics, including student engagement, talent and workforce development, and research capacity. We hope to apply these best practices as we build the quantum workforce, especially at community colleges and undergraduate and minority-serving institutions, which all serve traditionally underrepresented communities in STEM.


Source: Kayla Lee and Benita Zazueta, IBM

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