UBC Quantum Club will run a student-focused quantum conference this weekend

Vancouver’s first student-focused quantum conference Q-SITE is planned for September 29–October 1.

The event is organized by a team from UBC Quantum Club in partnership with sister conference Q-SITE Toronto, which will run for its second year in tandem with Q-SITE Vancouver.

UBC Quantum Club President and third-year engineering physics student Lily Watt said the conference will provide students with learning and networking opportunities within the growing field of quantum technologies.

While classic computers are based on 1’s and 0’s, AKA binary information, quantum computing uses subatomic particles which can simultaneously be in multiple states. This gives them much more processing power, opening up new computational possibilities.

“There are a lot of fields that come off this quantum computing umbrella … jobs for applied physics, applied mathematics, algorithm programming,” said Watt, “plus all the technology that is used to support that, like signal processing, like microwave pulse generation, cryogenics.”

But the conference isn’t just for quantum experts.

“There are a lot more opportunities out there: for students who are in mathematics, who are in computer science, who are even in fields further like in business — we need people to market these technologies and bring them to the world.”

Introductory talks on the first day of the conference will provide background for students with little to no exposure to quantum technologies.

“We’ve intentionally put a lot of our introductory lectures on the first day, so that people who are even coming in with no experience can understand the terminology … we’re really catering to people of all backgrounds and all interests,” said Watt.

According to Watt, Vancouver is a hub for quantum computing hardware.

“We have D-Wave, we have Photonic … 1QBit — we have all those people and then we have local professors who are doing research in terms of hardware. Even here at UBC, we have Joe Salfi who is doing [research on] spin qubits and we have Lukas Chrostowski who is doing things with photonics."

Spin qubits and quantum photonics are both ways of using quantum computers. These types of qubits are similar to the 0 and 1 bits of classical computing, but can occupy both 0 and 1 states at the same time because of quantum superposition.

Spin qubits record this information in the spin of an electron: spin-up for a 1 and spin-down for a 0.

Quantum silicon photonics qubits encode this information in the polarization of photons.

Watt emphasized how new the field of quantum technologies is. She developed an interest because of the “once in a lifetime opportunity” to be part of a field in its infancy.

“I find that a lot of topics that you learn in school have been invented at least 50 years ago. And I think [there are] a lot of new developments that are being made in this field of technology that could revolutionize a lot of parts of our lives,” said Watt.

Quantum computing has the potential to drastically improve the performance of many computing problems, like machine learning, which is a type of algorithm that learns to solve new problems by matching inputs with outputs for tens of thousands of examples. This could make developing programs like ChatGPT and Midjourney exponentially faster.

“Because this is a particularly revolutionary technology, we all have a sort of small responsibility to educate ourselves on it so that we can better make decisions for ourselves.”

Registration and schedule information can be found at qsiteconf.ca.