IBM adds 10 historically Black colleges and universities to quantum computing center

The IBM-HBCU Quantum Center is a research network and a hands-on learning program.


The IBM-HBCU Quantum Center announced on Monday that it is adding 10 historically Black colleges and universities to the center's 13 founding institutions. The center was launched last fall with the goal of advancing quantum information science and expanding science and technology opportunities to a broader group of students.

Kayla Lee, PhD, growth product manager for community partnerships at IBM Quantum and Qiskit, said she anticipates that new career paths such as quantum developer will become more defined as the field continues to evolve over the next few years.

"I hope that the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center accomplishes two things: inspires people to consider careers in quantum computing and provides additional support for students and faculty as they explore various research topics in quantum computing," she said. "I hope that our students participating in the center are more than equipped to thrive in this emerging industry."

The new schools joining the center are:

  • Alabama State University
  • Bowie State University 
  • Delaware State University
  • Dillard University
  • Florida A&M University
  • Norfolk State University 
  • North Carolina Central University 
  • South Carolina State University 
  • Tennessee State University
  • University of the District of Columbia

This multiyear investment connects researchers and students across a network of HBCUs. The program provides schools with access to IBM quantum computers via the cloud, educational support for students learning to use the Qiskit open source software development framework, and funding for undergraduate and graduate research.

SEE: Quantum computing: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

One of the initiative's goals is to create a more diverse quantum-ready workforce from students across multiple disciplines including physics, chemistry, computer science and business. 

Researchers from the HBCUs are also on center's board, including Howard University associate professor of physics Thomas Searles; Serena 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.

Since opening last fall, the center has hosted a community hack-a-thon and contributed to a pre-print on arXiv that investigates the use of machine learning and quantum computing to better understand unknown quantum systems. arXiv is a free distribution service and an open-access archive for scholarly articles in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics.

IBM is measuring the impact of the center by tracking student engagement, talent and workforce development and research capacity. The center also plans to look for ways to support professors and students map out career plans that have a long-term impact on quantum computing.

SEE: To do in 2021: Get up to speed with quantum computing 101 (TechRepublic)

JPMorgan Chase also is building a pipeline of people with quantum computing experience. The banking company was one of the early customers for IBM's quantum computer and is planning a Quantum Computing Summer Associates program for 2021.

The quantum industry is supporting several initiatives to expand educational opportunities. The European Organization for Nuclear Research recently offered a series of free webinars about quantum computing. The course covers the basic concepts of the quantum circuit model, including qubits, gates, and measures, as well as quantum algorithms and protocols. Q-CTRL recently hired quantum physics professor Chris Ferrie as a quantum education adviser. Q-CTRL specializes in controls for quantum computing. 

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...