Women of Quantum Technology: Dr. Si-Hui Tan of Horizon Quantum Computing
Like many individuals within the quantum industry, Dr. Si-Hui Tan, the Chief Science Officer at Horizon Quantum Computing (a leading quantum computing company), credits scientist Peter Shor for inspiring her interest in quantum computing. “I started looking at Ph.D. programs in the 2000s,” Tan explained. “At the time, Peter Shor’s factorization algorithm was in vogue, and many people were talking about it. I was fascinated by how interdisciplinary quantum computing was, and the chance to apply physics principles to do useful things. That’s how I ended up working in quantum technologies.” She, like many others, is glad that the 2023 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was awarded to Shor for recognizing his significant impact on quantum physics.
With her own interests in quantum physics, Tan’s path from research to the industry was far from straightforward. “It was a pretty long path,” she said. While working as a researcher, Tan also watched the quantum industry, seeing it evolve. “As quantum computing matured, I realized that there were a lot of unsolved problems that could really only be solved with industry,” Tan added, “It’s limiting in academia to hire people for solving these problems, so the industry offers a bit more freedom for these pursuits.” At some point. the industry opportunities became appealing enough that Tan transitioned from her position as a research scientist at the Singapore University of Technology and Design to the Chief Science Officer at Horizon Quantum Computing.
Now at Horizon Quantum Computing, Tan finds her day full of various activities. “I’m overseeing the R&D of building our product,” she said. “We are building a compiler that will take classical code and compile it into a quantum program. And along the way, we’re finding ways of accelerating it using quantum algorithms and synthesizing those algorithms.” When she’s not overseeing the science, Tan is actively contributing to Horizon’s development through coding, management, recruitment or outreach. “It’s really a hands-on approach,” she added.
As Tan is a leader within Horizon Quantum Computing, she has thought about her influence in making her company and the quantum industry more inclusive to all. “I’m not an expert in diversity,” Tan stated. “But I think, it would help to be conscious of the biases that we might face, and how these biases might influence our decisions.” Tan said that she thinks this is especially important in hiring practices. “It is something you can remind yourself of when going into an interview for hiring, or even outreach. Just be open-minded and mindful.”
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.