Women of Quantum Technology: Abby Casey of the National Quantum Computing Center (NQCC)
As a Quantum Readiness Delivery Lead at the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC), Abby Casey and her team are passionate about enhancing quantum computing literacy and ensuring the technology benefits society. “The team I lead at the NQCC specifically focuses on developing quantum computing knowledge and skills across the talent pipeline from schools to professional development, inspiring the next generation through public outreach engagement and ensuring the responsible and ethical use of quantum computing.” Her work at the NQCC, from overseeing key engagement events such as the NQCC’s annual Quantum Hackathon to fostering collaborations across the ecosystem, showcases a deep commitment to advancing quantum technology and ensuring its accessibility and readiness for future challenges.
Casey first became interested in quantum technology through its interactions with chemistry and material sciences. “My background is designing advanced materials and small molecules for various applications,” she told Inside Quantum Technology. “I am probably biased, but I find the potential impact of simulating chemical systems using quantum computing really exciting. The potential of understanding chemical processes at the molecular level, to a much higher level of precision than is possible today, could give us fascinating insight.”
Because of her chemistry and material science background, Casey’s journey into the growing quantum ecosystem was far from linear. “For my current role, many transferable skills I learned leading industrial R&D and new product development projects have been critical,” Casey added. She highlighted that the NQCC was influential in helping her to learn the skills needed for her position. “I know first-hand that to address the quantum skills gap, we must upskill people in quantum-adjacent fields such as maths, engineering, computer science, chemistry, etc. The NQCC offers two different professional development courses on Quantum Computing, an online self-paced training course, and short courses developed with the University of Bristol.” She hopes that many others who have also entered this ecosystem in a non-traditional way can utilize those resources to learn more about quantum technology.
As one of two Quantum Readiness Delivery Leads within the NQCC, Casey is key in advancing stakeholder engagement with quantum computing. She explained, “We are responsible for delivering the NQCC’s quantum readiness strategy. Our key delivery mechanism is our user engagement program, SparQ, which takes users of quantum computing from awareness to technology advocacy. Through SparQ, we support users on this journey by providing access to application development expertise, quantum computing resources, upskilling activities and courses, and networking opportunities.”
Because of this leadership position, Casey has seen firsthand the need for more inclusivity and diversity within the quantum ecosystem. She emphasized that a first step could be “ensuring that STEM disciplines have diverse representation at an early stage,” she elaborated. “That’s why my team selects outreach events to reach a broad range of audiences. STEM subjects need to feel accessible to all.” However, she also mentioned that a more specific issue may be a lack of awareness of what types of roles will be needed to develop quantum technologies. “A broad range of skills will be needed to scale quantum computing, the technology itself but also growing the wider ecosystem. We need to raise awareness of different roles and career paths and ensure there are easily accessible opportunities for those interested to gain experience,” Casey added. “For example, this year, the NQCC took in our first cohort of summer interns who worked on diverse projects.”
Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is the Managing Editor 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, quantum computing, and AI. Her work has been featured in National Geographic, Scientific American, Discover Magazine, New Scientist, Ars Technica, and more.