The remarkable legacies of Princeton and IBM in computing and computation have provided a base for their long-time partnership. Now, as the quantum field moves closer to addressing real-world challenges, quantum science and engineering have become ever more important dimensions of their collaborations.
Princeton's relationship with IBM is an example of a long-term partnership that has adapted and grown to fit changing research priorities in a rapidly evolving field and to include activities that support the company's and the University's shared goals to advance both research and teaching in a discipline. Throughout their history of working together, IBM has supported graduate fellowships; recognized faculty with awards for their contributions to research of importance to the industry; and regularly provided IBM speakers at campus events to share the company’s research and perspective with Princeton faculty and students.
Over the years, IBM has established three endowed professorships at Princeton University. The Albert Einstein Professorship in Science is currently held by Paul Steinhardt, the John von Neumann Professorship in Applied and Computational Math is currently held by Peter Constantin and the IBM Chair in International Studies is currently vacant.
Quantum Comes to the Fore
In 2019, Princeton launched its Quantum Initiative providing a focus for the University’s many research and programmatic activities on the topic. IBM has a major quantum computing research group at its Thomas J. Watson Research Center. Increasingly, Princeton and IBM researchers not only find themselves working together directly on research projects but also as part of larger coalitions, such as through the Co-Design Center for Quantum Advantage at Brookhaven National Laboratory. This Princeton-led center is one of five created by the DOE Office of Science following the National Quantum Initiative Act of 2018. The Co-Design Center fosters collaboration with IBM, also a member, by helping institutional researchers understand industry perspective on the challenges that they face in scaling systems for industrial use.
Partnering to Advance Quantum Education
Princeton’s relationship with IBM has led to notable innovations in quantum science education for students at Princeton and beyond.
In 2019, Princeton and IBM launched a unique program for undergraduates. The “Quantum Undergraduate Research at IBM and Princeton” (QURIP) summer school offers a select group of students from across the United States the opportunity to engage in both theoretical and experimental research in quantum information. The students spend half of their summer working with researchers at Princeton and half working at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center. The aim of QURIP is to provide experience to aspiring scientists and engineers early in their careers and to connect research in quantum information to industry applications.
IBM was also instrumental in the overhaul of a senior-level engineering course at Princeton in quantum optics. Through the University’s academic partnership with the IBM Q Network, students are provided with access to quantum computers, through which they are able to carry out fundamental experiments over the cloud on IBM quantum hardware. These devices, which leverage the laws of quantum physics to store and process information, have become a major research tool for scientists and engineers across government, industry and academia. By conducting basic science on advanced hardware, students are able to bring abstract ideas of quantum physics to life and gain valuable experience working at the forefront of a rapidly evolving field.
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