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UCL Quantum Science and Technology Institute

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Undergraduate Summer Placements

Summer research opportunities for undergraduate students.

The UCL EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Delivering Quantum Technologies offers paid summer research placement opportunities for undergraduate students. These placements are an excellent way for students to gain experience working in a lab on a research project and obtain research experience during the summer months. During the project, you will be based within the research group of your academic supervisor and provided with relevant training as required.

Each summer we are offering research bursaries to work on projects of up to 8 weeks with academic staff and PhD students from the Centre for Doctoral Training. These projects will provide direct and relevant research experience to interested undergraduates. The projects are especially beneficial to students who are considering doing a PhD and want to get a better understanding of what doing research in quantum technologies involves. Previous experience is not required, only enthusiasm and the intention to learn.

The key details:

  • Placement Length: Up to 8 weeks
  • Placement Dates: Between June and August 2022
  • Location: UCL, Bloomsbury, London
  • Funding: Placements include a bursary of £2900 (£1450 per month) 
  • Application Deadline: 23:59 (UTC) Sunday, 20th March 2022

Eligibility criteria

To apply for these placements:

  • You must be enrolled on an undergraduate degree programme at a UK university (e.g. BSc, BEng, MSci, MEng)
  • You must be in your 2nd, 3rd or 4th year of study
  • You cannot also apply for admission to the Centre for Doctoral Training’s MRes+PhD programme this year
  • No previous experience is required: we welcome applications from students who have not done an internship or research placement before

We particularly welcome applications from women, people with disabilities, and candidates from minority ethnic and socially disadvantaged groups as they are under-represented within STEM disciplines. UCL is committed to equality of opportunity, supports and encourages under-represented groups, and values diversity.

If you are unsuccessful for this scheme or have missed the deadline to apply please consider applying to our summer school

Available projects

Project 1: Developing Superconducting Resonators for Quantum Memory Applications

Supervisor Details: Prof. John Morton, London Centre for Nanotechnology

Summary of main research project: Hybrid quantum systems provide a route for scalable quantum computing and large scale quantum networks. Integrating different quantum systems together into a hybrid architecture utilises the benefits of each of their components. Superconducting quantum devices offer fast gate times and reliable readout while spin defects in silicon exhibit long coherence times, using superconducting microwave resonators these two systems can be coupled together. This allows for quantum information to be coherently stored and retrieved from a spin system forming the basis of a quantum memory.

Summary of undergraduate scholar’s project: You will be designing and characterising superconducting resonators for the next generation of quantum memory experiments. This will involve simulating the microwave properties of the resonators before testing the designs at cryogenic temperatures using existing microwave spectrometers. You will be measuring resonant frequencies, quality factors and the field resilience of the resonators and updating designs based on these parameters. If this is successful, the resonators can then be used to perform ESR on relevant spin systems and test their suitability for more advanced quantum spin dynamics experiments.  You will gain experience of operating cryogenic experiments, microwave spectroscopy and high-sensitivity ESR.

Essential skills which the undergraduate scholar must have in order to undertake the project successfully: Experience with Python and/or MATLAB would be desirable

Project 2: Diabatic Quantum Annealing

Supervisor Details: Prof. Paul Warburton, London Centre for Nanotechnology

Summary of main research project: Adiabatic quantum annealing (AQA) (as, for example, is implemented on the D-Wave machine) depends upon a quantum system being initialized in and staying in the ground state at all time. This requirement puts a speed limit on how fast the annealing process occurs. In diabatic quantum annealing (DQA), on the other hand, transitions to excited states are allowed, potential circumventing the speed limit. Paul Warburton’s group is interested in the possibility of using DQA to allow optimization problems to be solved more quickly than AQA and potentially more quickly than conventional classical computation.

Summary of undergraduate scholar’s project: The undergraduate student will work closely with a PhD student on analytical and numerical methods for quantifying the potential speed-up of DQA for optimization problems. This is likely to focus on the maximum-independent-set (MIS) problem which we have already studied extensively. While we have studied the static properties of DQA applied to MIS, quantification of speed-up will require dynamical simulations. While the framework of such dynamical simulation tools exist in the group, we have not previously applied them to DQA for MIS. The student will therefore extend the existing dynamical simulation tools to study DQA for MIS, initially in an closed-system setting and (if time permits) extending this to the open-system case. 

Essential skills which the undergraduate scholar must have in order to undertake the project successfully: Familiarity with the Python language. Some familiarity with quantum mechanics and linear algebra.

Project 3: Fast Decoding of 3D Quantum Error-Correcting Codes

Supervisor Details: Prof. Dan Browne, UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy

Summary of main research project: While the first quantum computers with more than a hundred qubits are currently being released, noise remains one of the main obstacles to do any useful computation on a quantum device. Quantum error-correction is a key method to mitigate the effect of noise in quantum computing architectures, through a clever encoding of each qubit of information using multiple physical qubits. A particular type of encoding consists in arranging all the qubits in a 3D lattice.

While those 3D codes have many advantages, existing methods to decode them, i.e. correct errors happening in real-time, are either slower or less accurate than with 2D codes. The objective of the research project is to implement faster and more accurate decoders for 3D quantum error-correcting codes.

Summary of undergraduate scholar’s project: The goal of this project is to adapt a particular decoder, called the Union-Find decoder, to 3D quantum error-correcting codes. While decoders usually have to trade off between computational complexity and performance, the Union-Find decoder has been shown to be both fast and accurate in 2D codes, making it one of the most promising decoders for real quantum devices. A generalization of this decoder to N-dimensional codes has recently been constructed theoretically, but it has yet to be implemented and evaluated for the most common 3D codes.

For this Summer project, the student will have to understand the 2D Union-Find decoder and its recent generalizations, implement a first prototype in Python that works for 3D codes (building on a quantum-error correction library we are currently developing), and simulate its performance. This project is a good starting point for students wanting to dive into quantum computing research, and could lead to a scientific publication if accomplished successfully. Moreover, the decoder developed by the students is expected to be added to an open-source quantum computing library and potentially used in many subsequent projects.

Essential skills which the undergraduate scholar must have in order to undertake the project successfully: This project is at the intersection of several fields, including quantum physics, theoretical computer science and software development. To undertake it successfully, good programming abilities are required, as well as some background knowledge in either computer science (algorithmic, data structures, complexity) or physics (advanced quantum  mechanics or quantum computing). Good math skills (particularly in linear algebra) would also be useful.

Project 4: Integrated Quantum Memories: Characterization of Integrated Photonics Cavities

Supervisor Details: Dr Alfonso Ruocco, UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Summary of main research project: Quantum memories provide a mechanism to store quantum bits (qubits) for a finite time period before the state of the qubit is lost due to environmental conditions. They are essential components of not only quantum computing but also a theoretical quantum network as part of a quantum repeater, which would enable qubits to be transported over long distances through fibres. The main aim of the project is to create a scalable and integrable quantum memory device using doped rare-earth ions, which operates in the near-IR and/or the short wave IR wavelength range.

Summary of undergraduate scholar’s project: The activities of the internship will be carried out in the Optical Networks Group’s (ONG) lab at UCL where the student will characterize the passive response integrated photonics devices: more specifically microring resonators and other cavities. These cavities need to provide high quality factors in order to enhance the light-matter interaction, which is (on of) the key figure of merit for the implementation of integrated quantum memories. The expected learnings for the student are the knowledge of the theory of integrated photonic cavities, the hand-on experience of integrated device characterization and data analysis. The expected outcomes of the project are the measurement of integrated photonics cavities and the data analysis with the end goal of benchmarking the performance via the figures of merit against the state of the art.

Essential skills which the undergraduate scholar must have in order to undertake the project successfully: Fundamentals of electromagnetism and basic hands-on experience in a lab environment are essential. Quantum and photonics technologies are a plus.

Project 5: Multiscale Simulations of Quantum Chemistry

Supervisor Details: Prof. Peter Coveney, UCL Department of Chemistry

Summary of main research project: Simulating quantum chemistry / solid-state physics is one of the most important problems that quantum computers are anticipated to help approach. Current quantum computers are limited in what they can achieve due to low qubit numbers and lack of error correction. This project will investigate utilizing a hybrid quantum-classical method - under investigation in our group – to study some of the largest chemistry problems to date.

Summary of undergraduate scholar’s project: This project has a number of different possible avenues. The main output, would be electronic structure calculations of molecules previously intractable for standard approaches. There are a number of open questions with the algorithm and more theoretical students can look into these problems.

Essential skills which the undergraduate scholar must have in order to undertake the project successfully: As this is a computational project, background in Python is required.