By Ananya Balaji, 2022 Governor's STEM Scholars
Today’s digital world puts an emphasis on performing calculations to reap many positive impacts on society. Quantum Machine Learning (QML) is a field that perfectly accomplishes this by enabling advances in programming computer science to help a machine learn, solve, and replicate human behavior. Developing a future workforce that is ready to take part in QML is critical to support the necessary advances in innovation.
The quantum aspect of QML is accomplished through a combination of chemistry and physics. Molecules interact with each other through their subatomic particles, which we know as protons, neutrons, and electrons. They act as the glue that connects groups of molecules.
One of the most well-known quantum theories is the ‘String Theory’, which was studied by Albert Einstein during his time at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. This theory pictures the protons and electrons of one molecule as being connected to that of another molecule by a string. The movements of one molecule are paralleled and copied by the other molecule. What makes this even crazier is how this “copycat” nature of the molecules occurs at the same time, as well as over extremely large distances–interactions with a reaction time much faster than even the speed of light.
By manipulating these kinds of interactions, we can recreate the networks within a computer and significantly speed up a lot of the algorithms that are used by machines to simplify day-to-day tasks, while also resulting in greater precision.
The possibilities of QML are endless. Not only could they apply to computer scientists, but they may also bring a new perspective to how medical researchers develop life-saving drugs, environmental agencies develop more efficient clean-up technologies, and more. Private sector companies, like IBM which has offices in New Jersey, are leading the way in quantum-based computing. IBM has consistently invested in the advancement of universal quantum computers for exploring ways to make them broadly usable and accessible. In the last year, they have successfully doubled their ability for large data calculations. IBM’s CEO, Dr. Arvind Krishnan, noted that their work would soon be implemented for developing a new battleground to improve current cybersecurity efforts.
In 2018, the United States government established a National Quantum Initiative to energize research and training in quantum information and technology. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to implement these newly discovered technologies for a wide variety of fields, whether it be in academics, finance, or transportation given its positive impacts on our increasingly Internet-based world. Given the rate at which QML is growing, specialists are in great need, and it is necessary to educate everyone on these topics to increase interest and workers in the field.
Overall, QML is an innovative field with great potential. Harnessing the field’s capabilities can solve many of the world’s complex problems. However, to achieve all that QML is capable of, the world needs everyone, ranging from professional scientists to the general public, to understand the importance of this field. March is New Jersey STEM Month and in the spirit of this initiative I’d call on policymakers, educators and philanthropists to consider QML when developing strategies to cultivate New Jersey’s future STEM workforce.
Ananya Balaji is a senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North. She is fascinated by the multitude of opportunities in STEM and loves raising awareness of scientific possibilities through writing. Her specific fields of interest include quantum physics, computer science, and electrical engineering.