Georgetown Professor Helps Create Workshop That Makes Quantum Education More Accessible

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Jim Freericks, professor in the Department of Physics and McDevitt Chair, collaborated with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to create a virtual workshop hosted by the Harvard University, Center for Integrated Quantum Materials (CIQM) in March of 2020. Entitled “Key Concepts for Future Quantum Information Science Learners,” the workshop was designed to identify essential concepts for future curricular and educator activities that will help K-12 students engage with quantum information science (QIS).

The workshop resulted in a list of key concepts for future QIS learners including quantum computing , communication and sensing. Freericks, who was a co-lead author and organizer, says “the key concepts are not intended to be an introductory guide to quantum information science, but rather provide a framework for future expansion and adaptation for students at different levels in computer science, mathematics, physics and chemistry courses.”

“Many people think quantum mechanics is only for ‘rocket scientists,’ but nearly all of quantum mechanics can be mastered using only high-school level math,” Freericks says. “These core concepts spell out the most important principles needed to understand the quantum world and to prepare students to enter what will be the quantum-empowered workplace of the future.”

Freericks collaborated with a group of university and industry researchers, secondary school and college educators and representatives from educational and professional organizations over three weeks to produce the document. These participants represent a set of convergent disciplines that contribute to QIS today: physics, computer sciences, materials sciences, engineering, chemistry and mathematics. 

The list of concepts is widely anticipated by the education and research communities and by agencies across the government as it provides the first critical step towards the development of quantum education curricula and empowering educators to teach quantum concepts in K-12 classrooms. Renewed focus on quantum education and workforce development is a key priority of the National Quantum Initiative (NQI), led out of OSTP. 

“American leadership in quantum information science depends on a strong quantum workforce,” says Jake Taylor, Assistant Director for Quantum Information Science at OSTP. “We’re thrilled to begin this important work helping prepare the next generation of quantum learners.” 

NSF’s role is critical in a vital and long-term effort to generate, support and sustain broad participation of society in quantum information science and technology through fundamental research and education. 

“The future of fundamental research and education is in our hands,” says Sean Jones, Acting Assistant Director at the NSF’s  Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences. “This impactful effort will empower the broad society to be included, and to actively participate in both efforts and benefits of the quantum era.”

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