Since going on a Grade 12 field trip to the Ontario Science Center, Q-SITE (Quantum Science, Information Technology and Engineering) organization and conference founder Moji Khavaninzadeh has been passionate about quantum computing.
As he was browsing an exhibit by the Institute of Quantum Computing, he realized that, whilst quantum computing is not exactly like the Marvel Quantumania movies, its power might someday be realized and applied to the real world - with unprecedented positive impact on the world.
When Moji first tried to get involved with quantum computing as an Undergraduate, however, he was told he had to wait, as the subject was only available at the graduate level.
Rather than rolling his thumbs, however, he went about creating the very first quantum conference for undergraduates in Canada, building a community of students keen to grow their knowledge so they can tackle current and future problems.
When asked why quantum computing is so exciting to explore, Moji means its capabilities could be nothing short of revolutionizing.
“It allows you to do computations at a level that has never been done before,” he says, and explains that its ability could break the encryptions for the online call he and I are currently on – which could cause lots of trouble if deployed on a larger scale – but that a quantum computing upgrade could also bring about new, previously inconceivable solutions to major global problems.
Quantum computing success could, for example, help develop improved medicines for devastating diseases, build more efficient batteries to power electric, zero-emission vehicles, and create alternatives to materials incompatible with the sensitive biota of our planet, such as plastic. More generally, it may help humanity in its quest for co-existent quality of life and sustainability on Earth.
Whilst we still need our current technology, Moji means we need to urgently adapt our methods for building it and believes that change will come with enough effort. “An advanced quantum computer will be built in the future,” he says, “and I want to be part of the people who make that possible.”
As the quantum initiative grows around the world, both the research and business sectors have become eager to recruit new talent, strengthening the case for more engagement at the undergraduate level.
Young and passionate people are key to making the transition a reality, so we can unlock the benefits of quantum computing for future generations, says Moji, who wants students to be able to explore the quantum world as early as high school, where his own journey began.
Moji, who came to Canada from Iran when he was 11, stresses that early engagement will help Canada compete on an international level, and that Canada should seek to acquire international talent to bolster its quantum position.
“It is such an accepting country,” he says, “and should take the lead to offer life-changing opportunities to people coming in from across the world.”
An Idea to Reality
Planning for Q-SITE began in mid-2022, and the inaugural conference blossomed into a packed two-day event, attended by local and international experts and employers who shared information on quantum education and outreach programs, quantum algorithms, different quantum architectures, and more.
This year, Q-SITE will return to U of T’s campus, sponsored by IQC at the University of Waterloo, CQIQC at the University of Toronto, Quantinuum, Classiq, and the Quantum Algorithms Institute, and attended by speakers such as Aephraim Steinberg from University of Toronto, Barry Sanders from the University of Calgary, Lukas Chrostowski from the University of British Columbia and Anne Broadbent from the University of Ottawa. The conference will also expand to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Though Q-SITE began on his initiative, Moji says he could never have gotten so far alone: over the past year and a half, fellow students from the Quantum Computing Club at U of T and across Canada have joined and ensured the success of the project.
The current Q-SITE team at Toronto and Vancouver comprises a total of 49 people. In Toronto, the core team comprises, apart from Moji, of Vivek Dhande, Co-President alongside Moji, and Shaswata Chowdhury, Arkaprava Choudhury, Amelie Zhang, Emily Su, Mayank Shenoy, Maggie Li, Umi Yamaguchi, and Haneen Sakaji. The teamwork, he says, has been integral to the success of Q-SITE as an organization and conference event.
Together, they have established sponsorships and working relationships with professors, industry professionals, and fellow students, connecting with young quantum enthusiasts from U of T’s campus and across Canada. Sherwin Tiu and Lily Watt from the Quantum Computing Club at the University of British Columbia have joined in on the mission this year and are leading the Q-SITE Vancouver 2023 team, which comprises of Valentina Mazzotti, Malcolm Pidsosny, Revika Jain, Amritabha Guha, and others, bringing the conference to Canada’s western coast.
As National Chair, however, Moji continues to be the driving force behind the project, passionately seeking to build a generation of quantum enthusiasts across Canada to put the promising power of quantum into practice.
What he enjoys the most, he says, is to witness the positive impact the conference has already had: the conversations held at Q-SITE have led to excitement around the nascent quantum computing field and fostered new working relationships, ambitions, and opportunities: attendees have since become successful candidates for the CQIQC Undergraduate Summer Fellowship and USEQIP Summer School.