Mentions of quantum technology may bring to mind images of a certain insect-like superhero, but research in the emerging field happens everyday at the University of New Mexico, and undergraduates from around the state are invited to get in on the action.

Applications are open for the third annual QU-REACH program, a 10-week summer undergraduate research program run by the Center for High Tech Materials (CHTM), academic departments at UNM, the Center for Quantum Information and Control (CQuIC) and Quantum New Mexico (QNM). The program focuses on three research areas: quantum computing, quantum communications and quantum sensing.

The program is set to take place from May 30 to Aug. 4 and participants will receive a $6,000 stipend. A limited number of housing stipends are also available for students located outside the Albuquerque metro area. Students studying STEM at any college or university in New Mexico are invited to apply. Applications are due Friday, March 17.  

Victor Acosta

Victor Acosta, an associate professor in UNM’s Physics and Astronomy department, helped develop the program with colleagues at CHTM. Acosta recognized an opportunity to create a research opportunity geared towards New Mexicans.

“It gives students in our state a leg up, specifically towards this topic of quantum technology, which is where my research is centered. It is a relatively new topic that can be a little bit inaccessible, hard to get into and requires a fair amount of coursework,” Acosta said. “This program makes it a little more accessible.”

QU-REACH participants attend weekly seminars about quantum basics and new research findings presented by quantum researchers from CHTM, UNM and the nearby national labs. The program culminates in a poster presentation attended by faculty.

Acosta encourages all interested STEM students to apply, even those outside of Physics, as the program is designed to introduce students from a variety of educational backgrounds to the field of quantum technology. Faculty mentors belong to several UNM departments including Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

“The research is really related to quantum technology, so not necessarily someone building a quantum computer, but maybe doing some engineering research on a component that would go into a quantum computer or doing some theoretical research into the basic physics that might be exploited in a quantum sensor,” he said.

2023 QU-REACH research projects include:

Optical Table
(Credit: Lily Wood)
An optical table used in Acosta's lab featuring a laser and diamond mount with an electromagnet loop.
  • Quantum sensing with Nitrogen-Vacancy centers in diamond with Prof. Victor Acosta

  • Quantum chemistry with Professor Susan Atlas

  • Optical resonances in nanostructures for quantum sensors and simulators with Prof. Viktoria Babicheva

  • Quantum dot single photon sources at telecom wavelengths with Prof. Ganesh Balakrishnan

  • Precision measurements of simulated gravitational waves using optical interferometry with Prof. Elohim Becerra

  • Piezoelectric optical filters and quantum fabrication with Prof. Tito Busani

  • Electron transport and optical generation of molecular spin qubits with Prof. Martin L. Kirk

  • Measuring positions and separations of single molecules at the quantum limit with Prof. Keith Lidke

  • Quantum algorithms in the presence of noise with Prof. Milad Marvian

  • Silicon quantum photonic integrated circuits (SiQuPICS) with Prof. Marek Osinski

Nearly 30 students from four different colleges and universities have participated in the program. QU-REACH is supported by a combination of grants from Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement, Google Quantum AI, National Science Foundation, an EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Collaboration and the Q-SEnSE Quantum Leap Challenge Institute, among others. Students from historically excluded groups in STEM, including women, hispanic, American Indian, and Black students, as well as, first-generation college students are strongly encouraged to apply.

Lily Wood standing next to her research poster.
Lily Wood presented her poster at CHTM during the 2022 QU-REACH Poster Presentation, last summer.

Lily Wood, an Astrophysics major at UNM, participated in QU-REACH last summer. She worked in Acosta’s lab on research about quantum sensing in Nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamonds. The lab manipulated the spin states of nitrogen-vacancy centers and observed them with an optical table featuring a 532 nanometer laser. 

The program was Wood’s first research and poster presentation experience.

“I had never made a research poster before and I thought it was great learning how to correctly organize and present my research,” she said. “It definitely prepared me for future poster presentations I will have.”

Wood was able to learn not only what a career in quantum research might look like, but also what to expect as she continues her education in Astrophysics.

“I enjoyed the hands-on learning aspect of the project,” she said. “I also got a lot of professional advice about graduate school and what research might look like in an advanced degree.”

The advice, research experience and learning opportunities would not be possible without the passionate faculty who get involved with QU-REACH every year, Acosta said.

“The willingness of the faculty to spend their summers doing this is a key part of the program,” he said. “They do it because they love to see undergraduates have their first or second research experience and see the light in their eyes,” he said. 

Learn more about the application, this year’s projects and frequently asked questions on the QU-REACH website.