“SheQuantum’s exclusive” Interview with Dr Aida Todri-Sanial, Director of Research @ CNRS (The National Center for Scientific Research, France)

Dr Aida Todri-Sanial

Nithyasri @SheQuantum: Welcome to the SheQuantum podcast series. Today, we are joined by Aida Todri-Sanial, Director of Research at CNRS. Aida discusses her research on quantum computer, her scientific journey and advice for women and young scientists to embark on quantum computing.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What is the purpose of CNRS? Could you briefly explain the current quantum computing related research undertaken at CNRS?

Answer from Dr Aida Todri-Sanial @CNRS: CNRS is the French National Center for Scientific Research (https://www.cnrs.fr/en) and is a public-funded institution that covers all scientific disciplines from humanities, social sciences, biological sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering and information sciences.

“CNRS plays a leading role on the research on quantum technologies covering aspects from quantum engineering, sensors, communication and simulation”

CNRS has over 30 thousand researchers and engineers and structured in research laboratories spread throughout France. CNRS plays a leading role on the research on quantum technologies covering aspects from quantum engineering, sensors, communication and simulation. Additionally, there is a strong dynamics on quantum computing with the focus on quantum hardware and software which is also the focus in my research group.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What sparked your interest in STEM, especially, Quantum Computing?

Answer from Dr Aida Todri-Sanial @CNRS:  So actually I’m quite new to the field of quantum computing, but not new to classical computing and hardware design. My academic background is on computer and electrical engineering.

“At first, what sparked my interest is the idea of applying these concepts of circuit design and hardware optimization to quantum circuits”

My research mainly focuses on physical design, modelling and simulation from devices, circuits to architecture and how to optimize them for power, performance, and area. At first, what sparked my interest is the idea of applying these concepts of circuit design and hardware optimization to quantum circuits. For NISQ quantum hardware, there is an interest in intertwining computer-aided design (CAD) with quantum computing to explore large-scale quantum computers and utilize at best the qubits based on the hardware topology. For example, we address some of the problems related to how to map logical qubits to physical qubits while considering calibration data and crosstalk. Another problem we are addressing is with the large number of qubits how to allocate quantum circuits for improving quantum hardware throughput while considering noise and crosstalk, and more importantly how to execute complex problems and algorithms efficiently.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: It sounds that a lot of collaboration is needed between circuit designers such as yourself and software. How do you approach this effort?

Answer from Dr Aida Todri-Sanial @CNRS: Yes, indeed, a lot of collaboration is needed between hardware and software people to progress in quantum computing and at local level I have created a rather interdisciplinary group.

“I have created a rather interdisciplinary group. And at regional level, about a year ago, with support of IBM Montpellier, University of Montpellier, CNRS and Occitanie Region, we created a quantum computing hub (QuantUM)”

And at regional level, about a year ago, with support of IBM Montpellier, University of Montpellier, CNRS and Occitanie Region, we created a quantum computing hub (QuantUM) to create a larger ecosystem with computer scientists, circuit designers, mathematicians, engineers and importantly access to IBM Q hardware. QuantUM initiative is a first in France and it is enabling collaboration between hardware and software experts with lots of interaction from industry (start-ups and companies) for practical use cases. Additionally, by running benchmarks on real qubits, we are learning how to optimise quantum circuits and software to run quantum algorithms on these quantum chips more efficiently and accurately.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: How does it feel to be a women leader in the present quantum research space? What values are most important to you as a woman leader and researcher?

Answer from Dr Aida Todri-Sanial @CNRS:  Quantum computing covers a broad research spectrum. I have met many prominent women scientists, thanks to networking programs like SheQuantum and others that highlight and celebrate their work and impactful role in the field. I feel like I am still learning and eager to share it with others.

“I have met many prominent women scientists, thanks to networking programs like SheQuantum and others that highlight and celebrate their work and impactful role in the field. I feel like I am still learning and eager to share it with others”

In every position I take, I make it my purpose to have women involved such as in brainstorming sessions, panel discussions, organization of scientific events, presentation events, etc., to allow the exchange of ideas and foster collaborations. The most important value to me as a women leader is listening with empathy and encouraging others to be their best to thrive in their research. As a scientist and leader, I have worked with students and collaborators from different backgrounds, but one common point with all is scientific curiosity.

“As a scientist and leader, I have worked with students and collaborators from different backgrounds, but one common point with all is scientific curiosity”

Leveraging on science as the common basis has been the propeller to advise and collaborate and it has given even more sense and meaning to what I do.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What’s your one advice to women who aspire to pursue research in the Quantum Sciences?

Answer from Dr Aida Todri-Sanial @CNRS: In QuantUM, we have put together a list of courses at the University of Montpellier to get students started even without any background on quantum physics. Also, there are many online courses, open-source software and books out there to begin learning. The field is a mixture of fundamental research, applied research while covering software and hardware aspects to practical use cases for quantum computing. I highly recommend that women and young students get involved as the field is fun, dynamic, and challenging.

“My advice would be to go ahead and get involved, and it can start by training, an online course, or by simulating your very own first quantum circuit and then let your curiosity and intuition drive you”

My advice would be to go ahead and get involved, and it can start by training, an online course, or by simulating your very own first quantum circuit and then let your curiosity and intuition drive you. Get in touch with researchers or professors you would like to work or collaborate with or look for an internship at a company in quantum computing.

“Women belong in every research field to push science forward and educate the next generation of scientists. I’d highly recommend that the aspiration is turned into a vocation”

The field is evolving, and new ideas are always welcome to drive innovations in quantum. All aspects are exciting, and there is something for everyone to like and get involved in. Women belong in every research field to push science forward and educate the next generation of scientists.I’d highly recommend that the aspiration is turned into a vocation.

Yes, I would like to make a special mention about SheQuantum. It is absolutely a fantastic initiative to create a network of women scientists and students in quantum computing. It is a great platform to exchange, build partnerships, support and provide e-learning for women students and scientists worldwide and on all topics related to quantum.

“SheQuantum is an all-in-one platform approach and is a timely initiative that I fully support and also refer it to my students. We definitely need more women in science and SheQuantum is playing an important role to advocate and engage women in quantum computing”

This all-in-one platform approach is a timely initiative that I fully support and also refer it to my students. We definitely need more women in science and SheQuantum is playing an important role to advocate and engage women in quantum computing.  Keep up the good work!

____________________________________________________________________________________________

About Dr Aida Todri-Sanial: Dr Aida Todri-Sanial is Research Director at CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research). She was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge, 2016-2017. She is the recipient of the ACM SIGDA Meritorious Service Award, 2020. She won the prestigious “CNRS Medaille de Bronze” in 2016 for her scientific research. She is the laureate of the ‘Franco-British Young Leader’ award in 2018 which was initiated by the former President, François Hollande, and former Prime Minister, David Cameron, France, aims to deepen understanding and collaboration between France and the UK and create lasting bilateral dialogue at the highest level with the objective to build a generation of 21st-century leaders. Aida’s successful associations and contributions at Fermilab, University of Cambridge and CNRS in scientific research is a definite inspiration for young women and girls, who aspire to pursue STEM and specifically Quantum computing.

About Nithyasri Srivathsan:Nithyasri, Founder & CEO, SheQuantum is an aspiring Quantum Computing Scientist and the author of “Quantum Computing An [Unconventional Beginners’] Book” which was honored by BookAuthority with the “1 of the 6 Best Quantum Computing eBooks for Beginners” International Award 2020. Nithyasri deeply enjoys using her voice through SheQuantum to impact, inspire and quantum educate women. She is keen on influencing women across the globe to pursue the field of Quantum Computing and has a proven success record in this. A strong advocate of the interdisciplinary nature of the sciences, Nithyasri is passionate about making women perceive Quantum Computing through the lenses of Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and every other natural science that there is. Nithyasri aims to conduct cutting-edge research in Quantum Computing, Programming Languages, and Quantum Algorithms and is very keen on being a part of the quantum academia, in order to teach quantum in the simplest way yet without the loss of mathematical rigorousness. Always up to making a meaningful contribution to Quantum Computing in every way possible!

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