Quetzal, a New Quantum Career Accelerator Program in partnership with 1M1B, is Open to All Undergraduate STEM Students and is Looking for Internship Partners
While many quantum computing educational programs, such as Qiskit or QubitxQubit, help individuals learn the basics of quantum computing, only some programs end with a career placement or internship. Shraddha Aangiras, the Founder of Queztal, a quantum career accelerator program, is trying to change that. “A major starting point was my participation in the QubitxQubit course,” Shraddha explained. “While it gave me a good foothold in quantum computing, I was unsure how to translate my skills into career readiness.”
As a high school junior, Shraddha finds that many other young people are hungry to learn more about quantum computing and find jobs within this industry but lack the tools to do so.
The Struggles of Learning Quantum Computing
As one of the many young people interested in this up-and-coming technology, her journey in learning quantum computing was somewhat haphazard. “When I was in eighth grade, my dad showed me a TED talk, which compelled me to learn more,” she explained. “But I found that it was very inaccessible. On one hand, there were metaphoric pop-science articles, and on the other was graduate-level quantum computing material. As an eighth grader who barely knew trigonometry, I naively downloaded books on the basics of quantum computing, only to find symbols I’d never seen before. I then began learning all the prerequisites of the graduate-level courses I was coming across.”
By the end of ninth grade, she had learned second-year engineering math using Khan Academy and MIT OpenCourseWare, hoping that would help her transition into a quantum career. “When I got into quantum equipped with more math skills, I realized so much of what I learned was unnecessary for quantum computing,” she elaborated. Because of her experience, Shraddha saw a need for better education and communication systems for the incoming workforce.
As a Qiskit Advocate, she organized the IBM Qiskit Fall Fest at her high school, RV PU College, where 215 students attended the workshop. She was the primary speaker at this event, which taught the basics of quantum computing to 11th and 12th-grade STEM students. She also found that a great way to improve her quantum computing skills was through challenges like hackathons, having won in the Youth category of the Classiq Coding Competition.
Drawing from her experience, Shraddha began creating Quetzal with the idea that quantum computing should be straightforward to learn and accessible to all ages. She partnered with 1M1B, under The Purpose Academy, to launch her program. 1M1B (One Million for One Billion) is mentoring Shraddha and supporting her in taking this to the 1M1B network of partner engineering colleges across India. Shraddha has also been selected to present her work on Quetzal at the 1M1B Purpose Academy Summit at UC Berkeley, 16-23 April 2023. Besides students and faculties of UC Berkeley, SCET, and the College of Engineering, the audience will include senior corporate leaders, startup founders, philanthropists, and academicians from Silicon Valley.
Quetzal’s Quantum Computing Career Accelerator is designed to bring fundamental quantum computing education to two cohorts of highly motivated undergraduate students interested in STEM careers. The program will launch in May and have two cohorts with 1,000 students each. Top students will be matched with quantum workplace experiences to enable them to accelerate their careers as future quantum leaders.
Around 15% of individuals with advanced education in India are currently unemployed, which Shraddha sees as an opportunity to ferry these individuals into the incoming quantum workforce, hoping to stop the industry’s talent shortage.
Shraddha explained, “The course will be 15 days long and require about 25 to 30 hours of student commitment. It will have a variety of sessions, starting from the absolute basics, and will have no prerequisites. The course will cover quantum algorithms, coding with Qiskit, and have talks featuring a guest speaker.” As very few free courses focus on covering the course content for the IBM Certified Associate Developer – Quantum Computation using Qiskit certification, the accelerator will additionally focus on it. For these 15 days of learning, there would be learning and mission days. While learning days will cover course content, the mission days will aid in assessing students’ consistency and knowledge. The program will culminate with a final project, after which students will be selected for quantum workplace experiences.
In order to make these internships and positions happen, Shraddha and the rest of the Quetzal team are looking for partners in quantum computing companies and organizations. “We’re currently reaching out to as many people as possible,” Shraddha added. “We need partners who are willing to give our students workplace experiences such as internships, projects, jobs, gigs, and industry visits.”
Besides offering exclusive positions, Shraddha hopes to launch a fundraiser to give girls from underserved backgrounds fully funded personal laptops to encourage female participation, and bridge the stark gender equality gap in quantum, where only 19% identify as female. “Although many students may have access to STEM education, they don’t have access to computers,” Shraddha said. “I’d say it’s commonplace to see girls and women being encouraged to tone down their studies and later expected to sacrifice their careers. However, I’d say I’m extremely lucky in this regard, as my parents have ensured that my environment has no inequality and that their decision to stand by me has never been conditional due to my gender,” she added. “While I recognize my immense privilege of being in this position, equality is something that everyone must have.”
Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a staff writer at Inside Quantum Technology and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, the metaverse, and quantum technology.