“SheQuantum’s exclusive” interview with Dr. Markus Hoffmann, Quantum Computing Partnerships and Programs for the EMEA and APAC regions at Google Quantum AI, Munich, Germany

Dr Markus Hoffmann

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What has influenced you to choose quantum computing as your career?

Answer from Markus, Google Quantum: Joining quantum computing is not at all a straight career path in my case. Back in early 2017, while I was taking care at Google of the automotive industry in EMEA, I received a request from VW for a discussion with our Quantum group. The team was back in the days looking into first industrial relevant problems, so I finally took care of our first industrial quantum research partnership.

“What I learnt quickly is that many problems humanity faces will never be solved using classical computers, but there is a good chance that for some of them quantum computers might be capable of doing so in the future.”

What I learnt quickly is that many problems humanity faces will never be solved using classical computers, but there is a good chance that for some of them quantum computers might be capable of doing so in the future. For example the worldwide car production is at around 100 million cars per year. If all of them were electric cars, the planet would quickly run out of certain rare earths like Cobalt to produce their batteries. The hope is that in the future a quantum computer will for example help find replacements to make electrification of the auto industry and a reduction of CO2 emissions happen. With that potential of global impact, even though it was obvious to me that my scope will be limited to bringing brilliant people together, I decided to join the Google Quantum AI team.  

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What is your role at Google Research – Quantum Computing?

Answer from Markus, Google Quantum: My role at the Google Quantum AI team is about managing our quantum partnerships and programs in Europe, Middle East, Africa and also in the Asia-Pacific region. This spans from engaging with our industrial research partners, the software and hardware start-ups in these regions up to engaging with academic institutions and partners in the quantum supply chain.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What’s your approach in accelerating quantum computing research via strong collaborations with academia?

Answer from Markus, Google Quantum: Our strategy around accelerating research in the field is built on the concept of open research. For that reason all our research is published, while all our quantum software is broadly accessible to the quantum community as open source.

“For that reason all our research is published, while all our quantum software is broadly accessible to the quantum community as open source.”

All our software packages like Cirq for programming a quantum computer, OpenFermion for electronic structure simulation, TensorFlow for Quantum machine learning or our high-performance quantum circuit simulators qsim are open sourced under the Apache 2.0 license. In addition we provide tutorials based on our latest experiments, so everyone can for example learn about QAOA or VQE.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What is your role as a member of the management board in Quantum Computing Prosperity Partnership @ UCL, University of Bristol?

Answer from Markus, Google Quantum: The Prosperity Partnership in Quantum Software for Modelling and Simulation is a collaboration between the University College of London, the University of Bristol, the UK start-ups GTN, PhaseCraft and Google Quantum AI.

“A collaboration between the University College of London, the University of Bristol, the UK start-ups GTN, PhaseCraft and Google Quantum AI”

Together we are looking into four research projects like for example around Quantum simulators for tomorrow. The role in the advisory board is about review meetings on the overall research progress and future direction.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: Being an industry expert in quantum computing, you are a part of the quantum academia as well. What’s your opinion on women choosing academia vs the industry?

Answer from Markus, Google Quantum: This is a hard question to answer, as every individual independent of gender has different interests and career goals. First of all, I would recommend every student to follow their passion, as I believe in success being directly related to doing what you love the most.

“First of all, I would recommend every student to follow their passion, as I believe in success being directly related to doing what you love the most.”

A positive note in that context is that it’s still early days for the global quantum industry and given the limited number of students graduating in the field every year, I think students should not be concerned about finding a role in industry in the future. From my perspective we will see a significant growth of industrial roles over the coming years.

“From my perspective we will see a significant growth of industrial roles over the coming years.”

My personal preference would be to stay longer in academia and making a decision at a more senior level, but this is as said a very individual decision.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What’s your one advice for young girls who aspire to pursue the field of quantum computing?

Answer from Markus, Google Quantum: In general it’s great to see more and more students being interested in the field, as humanity is facing many challenges where classical computers come to their limits. This is especially true when it comes to the simulation of quantum mechanical processes, like finding better materials for electric car batteries, as mentioned above or improving energy efficiency of the Haber-Bosch process, which is responsible for about 1.4% of global carbon dioxide emissions. From my point of view we need more brilliant young scientists across the globe starting a career in the field, to increase our momentum on scientific progress to tackle these problems. 

“From my point of view we need more brilliant young scientists across the globe starting a career in the field, to increase our momentum on scientific progress to tackle these problems.”

 My personal advice for young students is to become an active member of the global community early. As an active member, in whatever form, they will easily find mentors, learn from a broad variety of peers and build relationships with other scientists around the world.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: Does Google Research have any programs specific for women in quantum computing?

Answer from Markus, Google Quantum: Google Research offers a wide range of collaborations with the research and academic communities. This spans from our Inclusion Research Program, Research Scholar Program, Visiting Researcher Program or PhD Fellowship Program to Internships and our Research Mentorship Program.

“This spans from our Inclusion Research Program, Research Scholar Program, Visiting Researcher Program or PhD Fellowship Program to Internships and our Research Mentorship Program.”

In addition we are supporting all kinds of events, like the Women in QST at the Munich Center for Quantum Science and Technology or MINT Zukunft e.V which is about increasing the interest in STEM of pupils and schools.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: Do we have enough women in the quantum computing?

Answer from Markus, Google Quantum: The answer to this question is sadly no. From my perspective women are drastically underrepresented in the quantum computing field.

From my perspective the field will see significant growth in the coming years, which can be seen as a big opportunity to improve this out of balance ratio. The global quantum computing community has to manage, to become over proportional interesting for women to pursue an academic or industrial career. For that reason I am very thankful for all formats and organizations like SheQuantum, who contribute to this joint goal. 

“The global quantum computing community has to manage, to become over proportional interesting for women to pursue an academic or industrial career. For that reason I am very thankful for all formats and organizations like SheQuantum, who contribute to this joint goal.”

As delighted as I am for the opportunity of this interview, I would also like to question my full qualification to answer all questions properly. My personal recommendation, especially to women considering starting in the field or thinking about how to continue their career, is to seek a female mentor, if possible from the field, who has firsthand experience about the challenges and how to pursue a successful career.

About Dr Markus Hoffmann

Dr. Markus Hoffmann leads Quantum Computing Partnerships and Programs for the EMEA and APAC regions at Google Quantum AI. With more than 15 years of experience in a myriad of technical roles, program management to strategic partnerships, his focus is on accelerating quantum computing research via strong collaborations with academia, start-ups and industrial research partners.

About Nithyasri Srivathsan

Nithyasri Srivathsan, Founder & CEO, SheQuantum, 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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