UCL Quantum Science and Technology Institute


Award for outstanding MRes student

11 January 2021

UCL Centre for Doctoral Training in Delivering Quantum Technologies awards prize for the outstanding work of a student on the programme

 Photo of Sami Boulebnane

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Delivering Quantum Technologies has awarded the UCL Quantum Technologies MRes Prize 2019/20 to Sami Boulebnane. The annual award celebrates the outstanding work of one CDT student during their MRes year.

Professor Paul Warburton, Director of the EPSRC CDT in Delivering Quantum Technologies, said: “Sami is from our sixth cohort of MRes students. They are an excellent group – very bright, enthusiastic about quantum technologies, and from a wide variety of backgrounds. This year, of course, the cohort had additional challenges due to the pandemic. The whole cohort had to rapidly adapt to new ways of studying - including Sami. His research project was a theoretical tour-de-force resulting in a publishable piece of work of real relevance to the nascent quantum computation industry.”

Award winner Sami Boulebnane said: “My MRes project tried to establish rigorous results on some quantum algorithms for optimization, notably the Quantum Approximate Algorithm (QAOA). We tried out a novel idea to enhance the results of this algorithm (QAOA), based on a quantum technique called postselection; we showed that a mild yet theoretically significant improvement could be achieved. On the other hand, we found, maybe surprisingly, that QAOA is not very good at optimizing locally, a task that classical algorithms can easily do. This shows there still is some room to understand the theoretical foundations and limitations of quantum algorithms for optimization.”

Boulebnane has extended the work of his MRes project to his PhD supervised by Dr Lluis Masanes (UCLQ) and Dr Ashley Montanaro (University of Bristol and quantum software start-up Phasecraft). They hope that Boulebnane’s MRes findings will have impact beyond the original intended scope of quantum optimization algorithms and apply to more near-term quantum algorithms such as those used for chemistry and material science simulations.



Photo of Sami Boulebnane (Credit: S.Boulebnane)