“SheQuantum’s Exclusive” Interview with Prof. Dr. Claudia Linnhoff-Popien, Head of Quantum Applications and Research Laboratory (QAR-Lab), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany

Prof Dr Claudia Linnhoff-Popien

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: Could you please briefly describe the current quantum research undertaken under your leadership @ Quantum Applications and Research Laboratory (QAR-Lab)?

Answer from Prof Dr Claudia, LMU, Germany: In the QAR Lab, we develop the possibilities of quantum computing for practical applications. We are exploiting an early quantum advantage in the topics of optimization and of Artificial Intelligence. To this end, we are already putting use cases into practice on four quantum computers. We evaluate these quantum computers, we compare the architecture and the performance, and we use our specially developed UQO platform as middleware for architecture-independent programming. 

“In the QAR Lab, we develop the possibilities of quantum computing for practical applications”

The QAR-Lab has three main research areas: Quantum Optimization and Quantum Artificial Intelligence (QAI) are two major areas. And third, we are currently working on a software platform. Its core is the middleware UQO for unified and easy access to quantum hardware. 

The QAR-Lab focuses on the application of quantum computing and its economic potential. Therefore, we prefer to work with (mainly bigger) companies that are interested in exploiting these potentials. On the one hand we use our research results and on the other hand we receive impulses that help us to focus further research work.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: Is Quantum ML and Quantum Artificial Intelligence research a long-term dream or will it produce applications in the near future?

Answer from Prof Dr Claudia, LMU, Germany: We are already transferring basic research into initial applications. The first pilot projects are being set up in many companies to gradually make quantum computing technology commercially viable. There are countless fields of application. Companies are hoping for strong progress in efficiency and new opportunities, particularly in the areas of optimization and computation of complex processes, as well as in the further development of artificial intelligence. The central challenges in the context of quantum computing currently still lie in the formulation of (practical) use cases. In addition, the access to quantum computers is still limited and using them is very expensive. 

“We are already working on quantum computers. The QAR Lab even uses four different computers: IBM Q System One, Rigetti Aspen-9, D-Wave Advantage and Fujitsu DAU.”

Regarding your question: We are already doing what some others are still dreaming about – we are already working on quantum computers. The QAR Lab even uses four different computers: IBM Q System One, Rigetti Aspen-9, D-Wave Advantage and Fujitsu DAU. 

These computers are currently running use cases from the industry, for example for optimization problems in production and logistics or supply chains. Here we are expecting a quantum advantage in about five years. This means it then will be possible to solve tasks of the same real complexity faster on a quantum computer than on classical computers! 

“Here we are expecting a quantum advantage in about five years. This means it then will be possible to solve tasks of the same real complexity faster on a quantum computer than on classical computers!”

The fields of QML and QAI are mathematically related to optimization. Here, it may take a little longer than five years before a quantum advantage is visible. But our generation will experience it. 

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What is your take on the women representation in the field of QC? Are there enough women involved in quantum research?

Answer from Prof Dr Claudia, LMU, Germany: At the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (LMU), we have been organizing the large-scale internship “Quantum Computing Optimization Challenge” for students since April 2021. The proportion of women there is 37 percent. However we still see that the proportion is lower among the scientists who are doing their PhD in this field at LMU.

“The proportion of women there is 37 percent. However we still see that the proportion is lower among the scientists who are doing their PhD in this field at LMU.”

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: As a computer scientist, how do you see Quantum Computing revolutionizing the fields of physics, chemistry, and the like?

Answer from Prof Dr Claudia, LMU, Germany: I am not a physicist and not a chemist. However, I am active in the field of applications for industry and business. Therefore, I would like to explain it from a different perspective. Let us consider the example of optimizations: Optimization problems are the fundamental issues of logistics and Industry 4.0, the factory of the future. To become more efficient, you have to optimize time, routes, material or money. Everywhere in production, optimization is the central issue in order to become faster, more competitive or more resource-efficient, for example.

“In the medical and pharmaceutical industry there are tasks of combinatorial optimization, e.g. which vaccine is best suited for the mutation of which virus.”

There is a need for optimization in a wide variety of industries; the automotive industry, logistics and the healthcare sector are just a small part. In finance, there is portfolio optimization. In the medical and pharmaceutical industry there are tasks of combinatorial optimization, e.g. which vaccine is best suited for the mutation of which virus. The energy industry needs the optimization of power grids. Artificial intelligence has numerous applications. Our whole life and work involves unlimited optimization problems across industries.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What according to you are the prerequisites for a beginner in their quantum journey, especially for girls?

Answer from Prof Dr Claudia, LMU, Germany: The best is, not to be afraid. Easier said than done – but dare to learn, explore and try new things. Basically, you should be interested in mathematics and linear algebra and be good at it. Overall, quantum computing is one of the most exciting topics of our time, where it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from as long as you are good at what you do.

“Overall, quantum computing is one of the most exciting topics of our time, where it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from as long as you are good at what you do.”

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What is your one advice to young women who are enthusiastic about pursuing a career in quantum?

Answer from Prof Dr Claudia, LMU, Germany: You just have to like what you do and just do it. You need the right supervisor, the right lab – and then let’s do it! If a woman is interested in new topics in computer science, quantum computing is an excellent research area. Find an institute that you personally like. And network with like-minded people in forums, at conferences. Share your research results, learn from each other. Have confidence in your accomplishments and very important: make your work visible. 

“If a woman is interested in new topics in computer science, quantum computing is an excellent research area. Find an institute that you personally like. And network with like-minded people in forums, at conferences.”

I am excited about quantum computing and I wish all women interested in the quantum field much success and joy!

About Prof Dr Claudia Linnhoff-Popien

Prof Dr Claudia Linnhoff-Popien is a German Computer Scientist and Full Professor of Mobile and Distributed Systems at the Institute for Informatics of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich in Germany. She heads the Quantum Applications and Research Laboratory (QAR-Lab) @ LMU and is revolutionizing research in quantum optimization, quantum artificial intelligence and quantum machine learning. She holds the Chair of Mobile and Distributed Systems at the Institute of Computer Science and is the author of 70+ journal articles, book chapters and conference papers. As a key member in 50+ programme committees like IFIP, ACM, IEEE, German Society of Computer Science, among other prestigious organizations, ClaudiaLinnhoff-Popien is truly an inspiring woman scientist in quantum.

About Nithyasri Srivathsan

Nithyasri Srivathsan is the Founder & CEO, SheQuantum and is a quantum technologist, author and keynote speaker in quantum computing. She is pioneering simplified quantum computing education and breaking down barriers in bringing more women globally into quantum computing and enabling them with skills they will need to enter the workforce, through her quantum EdTech startup, SheQuantum. She is also the ‘Best International Quantum Computing Author 2020’ and has delivered various tech talks globally. Her research interests lie in programming languages, quantum algorithms, computer science, applied physics and applied mathematics. Nithyasri is a firm advocate of the interdisciplinary nature of science and her vision is to inspire more women globally to pursue careers in quantum technologies.

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