“SheQuantum’s exclusive” Interview with Dr Scott Crowder, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Vice President, Quantum Computing @ IBM Systems, New York

Dr Scott Crowder

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum:  What is the purpose and role of IBM Quantum making quantum computers available via the cloud?

Answer from Scott, CTO & VP @IBM Systems: The primary goal of our IBM Quantum program is to make quantum computing available broadly to spur innovation and usage. To that end, we have made our quantum computers available publicly via the IBM Cloud for almost five years now. We have cumulatively deployed over 30 quantum computing systems in our facilities at Yorktown Heights and Poughkeepsie in New York, and Ehningen in Germany. Over 285,000 registered users have run over 500 billion quantum circuit executions on these systems.

“The primary goal of our IBM Quantum program is to make quantum computing available broadly to spur innovation and usage”

These facilities allow us to continue to provide both more quantum computers as usage continues to rapidly grow and more capabilities as we continue to deliver against our development roadmap.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: How do you see the developments in quantum computing now and its evolution in the near future?

Answer from Scott, CTO & VP @IBM Systems: We have made huge progress over the last 5 years since the first 5-qubit universal quantum computer was made available for people to use outside of a lab. For example, IBM has a 65-qubit system available for use on the IBM Cloud. But we have a lot of work to do before we achieve our goal of creating the quantum computing hardware, software and algorithms that can solve real world problems that are intractable for classical computation. We have put out a development roadmap that lays out what has to be accomplished in hardware and software and our plans for achieving that. One key part of that is continuing the rapid growth in the size and quality of our quantum computers as measured by a metric like the quantum volume.

“But we have a lot of work to do before we achieve our goal of creating the quantum computing hardware, software and algorithms that can solve real world problems that are intractable for classical computation”

However, equally important are changes to the system and to software to enable the significant increases in system capacity and circuit variety that will be required to meet our goal. Currently it takes months to run a chemistry computation. This is too long, and too expensive. We will demonstrate this year a significant speedup in the time it takes to run a quantum program like a variational algorithm. We also need to evolve quantum circuits so they are truly dynamic. We have the first elements of that today with the ability to do mid-circuit measurements and reset qubits. But more advanced branching capabilities and improved latency will be required to fully realize the potential of dynamic circuits for things like iterative phase estimation and error mitigation. This is why the new open specifications, OpenQASM3, are so important to enable these new capabilities. Circuit and algorithm developers will leverage all of these new capabilities to build optimized circuits and quantum programs.

“If we build this software correctly, then AI and scientific developers will only need to write a few lines of code to make API calls to quantum application services in order to take advantage of quantum computing for the problems they are trying to solve”

If we build this software correctly, then AI and scientific developers will only need to write a few lines of code to make API calls to quantum application services in order to take advantage of quantum computing for the problems they are trying to solve.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What are the biggest challenges facing the adoption of Quantum technology?

Answer from Scott, CTO & VP @IBM Systems: There are two pieces we need to scale adoption. The first is we need the foundation of technology that is capable of doing something of practical use for science or industry.

“The first is we need the foundation of technology that is capable of doing something of practical use for science or industry”

To do that, we need to execute on the roadmap I mentioned in order to deliver higher quality and larger quantum systems with improved multi-qubit fidelity. In parallel, we need to deliver the system improvements, software stack and cloud services that allow a much broader set of developers to leverage quantum computing without learning new languages or workflows. We have set an aggressive goal of 2023 to have the combination a 1000+ qubit system, higher capacity quantum runtimes, more capable dynamic circuits, and application cloud services to create that foundation of technology.

“We have set an aggressive goal of 2023 to have the combination a 1000+ qubit system, higher capacity quantum runtimes, more capable dynamic circuits, and application cloud services to create that foundation of technology”

The second is we need to build a quantum workforce that can both help create that foundation of technology and use that foundation. Without scaling the quantum skills in academia and industry, adoption will not scale even if we have the technology foundation.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: Presently do we have any practical, life applications of quantum computing?

Answer from Scott, CTO & VP @IBM Systems: We believe that quantum computing will have practical, game-changing application in areas like artificial intelligence, materials development and drug discovery.

“We believe that quantum computing will have practical, game-changing application in areas like artificial intelligence, materials development and drug discovery”

But we will need to overcome the challenges I mentioned earlier before quantum computers will solve these problems with significant societal impact.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: When I am talking to women quantum industry leaders and academic experts across the world, one strong statement is coming from all of them “we do not have enough women in the quantum computing”- What’s your say in this?

Answer from Scott, CTO & VP @IBM Systems: I strongly believe that to ensure we really have the best talent in our emerging quantum workforce that the quantum workforce needs to reflect the demographics and diversity of the human population … not the current demographics of the IT industry or academia. Workforce development including open education, partnerships with academia and intern programs is a big part of our mission at IBM Quantum and the culture we are trying to build.

“Workforce development including open education, partnerships with academia and intern programs is a big part of our mission at IBM Quantum and the culture we are trying to build”

Given how exciting this technology and field is, we have a great opportunity to be thoughtful about how we engage and recruit the next generation of talent in quantum computing. This includes putting an emphasis on gender diversity, but also includes ensuring we improve participation by Black and Latinx talent in the United States.

“This includes putting an emphasis on gender diversity, but also includes ensuring we improve participation by Black and Latinx talent in the United States”

I do think the efforts are having results; we get 5000 applicants for our quantum computing internship programs and ~50% of the interns selected for our programs are female engineers and researchers. The organization I am privileged to manage has a gender diversity well above the computing industry average with highly talented and visible female leaders, but we aren’t where we need to be yet. This needs to be a continued focus area for not just IBM but for the larger quantum computing community.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What is your advice to women looking to start their Quantum journey?

Answer from Scott, CTO & VP @IBM Systems: I’d say the first step is figuring out where your passion lies. One of the great things about quantum computing is how multi-disciplinary it is. There is an opportunity to participate in quantum whether your passion is in experimental physics or semiconductors or systems hardware or software or one of the many disciplines like computational chemistry that will be revolutionized by quantum computing.

“I’d say the first step is figuring out where your passion lies. One of the great things about quantum computing is how multi-disciplinary it is”

There is a growing amount of educational material and academic courses that you can learn from whether than be from open source education sources like Qiskit.org or traditional academic institutions. But for any of these routes, if you are early in your career you still need the build the foundational skills for your passion area. And as in anything, be bold in reaching out for opportunities or help in going after your goals.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: Of course my favorite question to all experts I meet in the industry and in academia – What’s your one advice for young girls who aspire to pursue the field of quantum computing?

Answer from Scott, CTO & VP @IBM Systems: Admittedly I am biased. Personally when I started my career, I thought I’d work in industry for a few years then go to academia and try to get on tenure track as a professor. I was a dual degree in undergrad, almost went to law school instead of getting a PhD in engineering and got a Masters in Economics while in grad school. The idea of being in an environment of continual learning and ability to do independent research was attractive. 

“Admittedly I am biased. Personally when I started my career, I thought I’d work in industry for a few years then go to academia and try to get on tenure track as a professor”

However, I got hooked on the pace and the enjoyment I got from working on common goal in a very large development team. Now I can’t imagine being someplace other than a large industry research & development organization. So I don’t think there is a right answer on industry vs academia, to me it is about finding what makes you excited and engaged. And once you do, finding an inclusive and supportive workplace.

We as members of the existing quantum community need to build a bigger, more inclusive and diverse quantum community. It is not just about paying it forward,

“I fundamentally believe that success with that goal is linked to the pace and scale of our success in making quantum computing have the societal impact I truly believe it will. That is why I think the mission of SheQuantum is so important and valuable, and it is great to see Nithyasri bringing her passion and talent for this mission”

I fundamentally believe that success with that goal is linked to the pace and scale of our success in making quantum computing have the societal impact I truly believe it will. That is why I think the mission of SheQuantum is so important and valuable, and it is great to see Nithyasri bringing her passion and talent for this mission.

About Scott Crowder: Scott Crowder is the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Vice President, Quantum Computing, @ IBM Systems, New York. His responsibilities include leading the commercialization effort for quantum computers, driving the strategic direction across the hardware and software-defined systems portfolio, leading the agile and design thinking transformation, and accelerating innovation within development through special projects. Previously, Scott was Vice President, Technical Strategy within IBM Corporate Strategy. In this role, he helped define the cross-IBM technical strategy for cloud infrastructure, workload optimized systems, Big Data and Analytics, composable services, software defined infrastructure and cognitive solutions. Scott received a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and with around 3 decades of his rich experience in the industry, the description about Scott provided here, does not cover it all!

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!

One thought on ““SheQuantum’s exclusive” Interview with Dr Scott Crowder, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Vice President, Quantum Computing @ IBM Systems, New York

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: