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Discovering Quantum

Sabrina Wang
Phasecraft Scientist and former intern Sabrina Wang writes about her unlikely journey from theoretical physics to quantum computing.

My path to quantum computing was unexpected and more than a little fortuitous. I love engaging in fundamental research, and I thought I might be interested in working outside of academia, but as a classically trained theoretical physicist I didn't expect to embark on a career in the collective effort to achieve scientific quantum advantage.

I now spend my days at Phasecraft doing work I love. I'm still deeply engaged in fundamental physics and theoretical development, but have more focus now on practical/tangible implementation and realization on real hardware.

I feel very privileged to be part of a thoughtfully curated, multidisciplinary team of quantum physicists, materials experts, computer scientists, and mathematicians. I still have the freedom to pursue projects of special interest, but I’m also participating in the progress of a commercial venture focused on relating algorithms performed on a quantum computer to practical, real-world applications. And that, I find, is particularly energizing. 

I earned my undergraduate degree in physics from Imperial College London and my PhD at Oxford focusing on materials modeling, with a focus on density functional theory (DFT) and the theory of inelastic electron scattering for ultra-low loss EELS. As I was completing my doctoral studies, many of my peers changed fields and went into finance or software. I had considered doing this as well, and was open to exploring options outside of a career in academia, but I was really more drawn to research.

At the advice of a friend, I looked into Phasecraft’s internship. Phasecraft's motto and goals presented the perfect marriage of fundamental research with an industrial setting –– so I applied.

My three-month internship was intense, satisfying, and formative. The team welcomed me with enthusiasm and brought me onto interesting, challenging projects right from the start. I had not assumed I’d be encouraged to make contributions to new and ongoing projects so quickly. I jumped in with both feet and when not engaged in research, I absorbed everything I could about the ever-expanding field. I was happy to be finally applying a lot of the concepts I've touched upon in my lecture courses but never fully grasped, and through this hands-on research experience, I was able to re-learn these concepts and make new connections. I started recognizing patterns and connecting engineering and physics principles that I hadn’t much thought about since undergrad. I felt the thrill of discovery pulling me closer to the work. 

After completing my internship, I was thrilled to accept a full-time position at Phasecraft. I felt I had found a home here, and I’ve never looked back. 

As a quantum software researcher, I focus on the simulation of many-body physics on quantum computers and its relation to condensed matter physics and real material systems. Most recently, I’ve been working on studying systems involving interacting fermions and bosons from an algorithmic perspective. I’m starting to think about relating it to real materials and applications. This is especially useful as we've got collaborations with companies working in (for example) the photovoltaic industry. 

At Phasecraft, we’re tackling ambitious problems and accelerating the practical application of quantum computing. We have the freedom to to lead our own projects and see them through to completion, but we work collaboratively to realize our personal and shared goals. 

Individual careers often develop in ways that resist simple explanation. They emerge and develop in various social, economic, and intellectual contexts. I’m grateful that I’m able to pursue my interest in materials modeling in the context of a new and exciting field. I’m driven to do my best work at Phasecraft not only because I believe it is both scientifically and practically valuable but also because it is a way of being together and connecting with my colleagues. That, I find, is as powerful a motivation as the thrill of discovery all scientists share. 

If you or someone you know is interested in either an internship or career at Phasecraft, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m happy to further discuss my journey from Phasecraft intern to full-time scientist and the exciting work I’m doing here.