The University of New Mexico recently announced its new Quantum Photonics and Quantum Technology (QPAQT) graduate program, made possible by a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Named NRT-QL: Quantum Photonics Interdisciplinary Training to Advance Quantum Technologies, this initiative marks a significant step forward in quantum science and technology education.

QPAQT is a dynamic graduate program situated at the intersection of physics, chemistry, and engineering. With a core focus on interdisciplinary training, the program aims to equip students with a versatile skill set in quantum technology. This approach empowers graduates to excel in a broad spectrum of basic research and applications within the field of Quantum Science & Technology.

“It's a way for students that are already getting a Ph.D. or intend to get a Ph.D. in chemistry, physics, Optical science & engineering (OSE), and Engineering for them to gather together in a cohort working on the diverse topics in quantum photonics and quantum technology, and QPAQT offers students a formal way for them to do it together,” said Victor Acosta, director of QPAQT.  

The NRT-QL grant serves as a catalyst for UNM's commitment to advancing quantum research and education. Through QPAQT, students will receive comprehensive academic preparation, enabling them to emerge as adept generalists in quantum technology in addition to generating and disseminating new knowledge in their focus research area. The program's curriculum and innovative training methods promise to shape the next generation of leaders in the rapidly evolving landscape of Quantum Science & Technology. 

QPAQT Training Roadmap Guide

“Quantum technologies (computing, communications, and sensing) use quantum mechanical properties like superposition and coherence and entanglement to try to design and create new devices that are much better than their classical counterparts that don't use those quantum mechanical properties. That's what the topic of the program is and where the name comes in,” Acosta said. “These technologies are now at the stage scientists from a wide range of traditional disciplines–chemistry, physics, engineering, etcetera--can make a big impact” 

The first cohort is set for 2024. However, the brunt of their core coursework will begin in the fall of 2025. Along with the $3 million grant from NSF, The Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM) has also provided a lot of resources in terms of funding for this graduate program. 

The QPAQT graduate program is now accepting applications for the upcoming academic year, and UNM invites prospective students to explore the possibilities within this cutting-edge initiative. 

All students admitted to QPAQT will receive training perks which may include a conference travel budget, computer and software supplies, textbooks, and funds for activities like cleanroom training.

In addition, a select number of students will receive 12-15 month fellowships with a stipend of $34k/yr (+tuition and medical insurance) to begin in their second year.

Any student who has already been admitted to a UNM Ph.D. program in Chemistry, Engineering, OSE, or Physics, and is interested in pursuing Quantum Technology-related research with one of the QPAQT faculty may apply.

“We've been laying the groundwork, setting up the program and designing the curriculum. We’re recruiting now for the first cohort of students. Students apply to one of the regular Ph.D. programs at UNM, either chemistry, physics, engineering or Optical science & engineering (OSE), and they're welcome and encouraged to mention QPAQT in their letter of interest in the application package. But they need to be admitted to their regular program before they can apply to the interdisciplinary QPAQT program,” explained Acosta. 

In addition to Acosta, the QPAQPT core faculty includes Susan Atlas, Viktoriia Babicheva, Ganesh Balakrishnan, Elohim Becerra, Tara Drake, Terefe Habteyes, and Keith Lidke. 

Acosta also points out that this is an exciting time for quantum science and technology at UNM and worldwide and that QPAQT has been a long time in the making.

“This program is somewhat of a movement across the country, not just at UNM. UNM has some specific unique attributes that I think will make this successful. We have one of the larger optical sciences and engineering Ph.D. programs which is kind of unique and there’s maybe only a handful or so in the country," said Acosta. "We have a long tradition of research in quantum science and technology, including two interdisciplinary centers that are already here, the Center for Quantum Information and Control and the Center for High Technology Materials.

"And then we've also been trying to integrate some of those research efforts into the new Quantum New Mexico Institute as well. The unique part is that we kind of already have existing programs in those two areas–photonics and quantum technology–and we're kind of trying to merge them in this program.”

After students have been admitted to a UNM Ph.D. program, they can apply for the QPAQT program and the deadline is Monday, March 18, 2024. A link to the application form will be posted in February.

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