MITRE's Princeton Site is a Hotbed for Quantum Information

March 2013
Yaakov Weinstein
Yaakov Weinstein

After finishing his doctorate in nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yaakov Weinstein knew he wanted to work in a highly collaborative environment that focused on advancing the field of quantum information. MITRE proved to be a perfect fit.

Weinstein is part of MITRE's Emerging Technologies Department's Quantum Information Science (QIS) group, which is located at our new Princeton, N.J., site, established when the group began collaborating with Princeton University to advance QIS. The QIS group is the brainchild of Gerry Gilbert, who upon joining the corporation in 1996 began MITRE's work in quantum physics, first at the Eatontown, N.J., site, and now at the Princeton site. Its goal is to help our government sponsors understand and enable the development of quantum information technology.

Weinstein is a theoretical physicist who joined MITRE in 2005. "The QIS group receives funding from a number of government organizations," he says. "In addition, we also receive funding from the MITRE research program to investigate quantum computing, quantum sensing, and other areas that will be helpful to many of our government sponsors in the future.

"Quantum information is truly an area of cutting-edge research. It allows for the possibility of increasing computational power by a huge amount based on the ability to control the very small. It's governed by the rules of quantum mechanics."

Basically, quantum computers, which use quantum bits or "qubits," have the potential to process information much faster than classical computers, which use binary bits. In classical computers, the binary bit operations happen sequentially. In contrast, quantum computers calculate in parallel so that the qubits operations happen all at once. As a result, when quantum computers can reliably perform these functions, they will revolutionize information processing.

A Wide Range of Work

For its sponsors, the QIS group assists various government entities who want to know more about quantum information and quantum computing. "In some cases, they want to incorporate quantum information but need more specific information and guidelines. Other times, they want a summary of the field or a description of what impact it will have on their work in the future," he explains.

"Since it can have such a significant improvement on the speed of processing information, it has tremendous implications for intelligence operations, financial operations, cryptography, and many other areas."

In its research projects, the QIS group is trying to advance the field, with the ultimate goal of building a scalable, efficient, and fault-tolerant quantum computer. To reach this goal as quickly as possible, the group partners with other researchers including those at Princeton and within the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

Currently, Weinstein's primary project supports the intelligence community. "They have a strong interest in quantum information and quantum computing and are conducting a lot of research in the field. My job is to perform independent verification and validation assessments on this customer's four large performer teams. For example, the teams are looking for ways to improve operations and cut down on the resources needed to produce algorithms. In addition, they're looking for improved error correction schemes and better ways to implement basic computational protocols.

"One of the main goals of quantum computing is to show that a quantum computer can run fault tolerantly. This means even though errors may occur, your quantum computer will still be able to successfully compute.

"There are many possible ways of accomplishing that. Our job as independent evaluators is to look at the performer teams' research and help guide the program managers in allocating their limited resources in the most cost-effective way possible."

Collaboration Leads to Opportunities

For Weinstein, MITRE's Princeton site has been an ideal blend of government-related work combined with high-level academic collaboration.

"We often partner with faculty from Princeton's physics, electrical engineering, and math departments. We'd like to develop more of these relationships with MITRE staff from other departments—bringing our government customers the joint abilities of both institutions," he says. "It would be great for MITRE, the government, and Princeton University."

"I really enjoy being here," says Weinstein. "I like the people and appreciate the technical challenges inherent to advancing the field of quantum information."

—by Kay M. Upham

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