Tiwari Receives NSF CAREER Award for More Reliable Quantum Computing

portrait Tiwari

ECE Assistant Professor Devesh Tiwari was awarded a $560K NSF CAREER grant for “Qurious: Methods for Making Erroneous Near-term Quantum Computers More Usable.”

Devesh Tiwari, assistant professor, electrical and computer engineering (ECE), has been awarded a $560K National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant to investigate how to make the next generation of computing machines—quantum computers—more effective, as well as train technologists to use them.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

Created in theory multiple decades ago but in practice only recently, quantum computers have the possibility to solve extremely complex problems much faster than classical computers.

In essence, in classical computing every bit of information is stored as a 0 or a 1. In quantum computing, each bit can be a 0 or a 1—or both at the same time, called a “superposition.” This increased number of possible outcomes allows a significant decrease in the time it takes to process a problem.

However, the same technology that makes quantum computing so powerful also makes it unreliable: Outputs are wrought with errors. In addition, the devices must be kept at extremely cold temperatures.

“Quantum computers have a lot of mood swings,” jokes Tiwari.

Tiwari was a staff scientist at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where his expertise was in improving the resilience and dependability of classical high-performance computing (HPC) systems.

“I found quantum computing to be one of the most promising computing technologies, but I also recognized that they had a lot of resilience challenges that made them not very useful,” says Tiwari. “I hope to change that with this project.”

Tiwari’s project proposal, titled “Qurious: Methods for Making Erroneous Near-term Quantum Computers More Usable,” seeks to design and develop a robust system-software ecosystem for quantum computers to help high-performance computing (HPC) programmers better interpret the noisy and erroneous outputs. If successful, quantum computers can be used to solve computationally challenging problems of societal importance.

“The main goal of Qurious is to mitigate the side effect of the errors; based on the noisy results, we want to be able to discern the correct answer,” says Tiwari. “Hopefully in the future we will be able to reduce the number of errors overall, but the first goal is getting a correct answer despite the errors.”

While not all problems can or need to be sped up using quantum computing, this type of technology has advantages in a number of arenas, including finance, artificial intelligence, and pharmaceutical development.

Tiwari is uniquely positioned for this research because of his prior expertise in the dependability of supercomputers—predecessors to quantum systems. Supercomputers are currently used to solve difficult challenges such as finding novel drug therapies, strengthening cybersecurity, and modeling galaxies.

Another important part of Qurious is the training of a future workforce who can understand and work with quantum computing technology.

“The workforce development aspect is critical in any CAREER grant,” says Tiwari. “This is a very student-focused project because we need to make sure people are being trained in this technology of the future. If we start teaching young people about quantum computing from the beginning, then we have a better chance of developing a workforce in which quantum computing is the standard.”

Tiwari and his team are working with quantum computing platforms that IBM has made available online. They are currently exploring multiple approaches to get the correct answer out of noisy outputs, testing some techniques that other researchers have tried and seeing promising results that will help inform next steps.

Related News: How do you deal with quantum computing ‘noise?’ This computer engineer has a solution.  By Tanner Stening, News @ Northeastern


Abstract Source: NSF

Quantum computing offers exceptional promise for transformative discoveries in many scientific and business domains, including drug discovery, cybersecurity, manufacturing, financial services — realizing this potential requires urgent research efforts toward making quantum computing technology more usable and mature quickly, and developing a capable STEM workforce with strong technical skills in quantum computing.

Unfortunately, existing quantum computing machines, widely known as Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) machines, are highly error-prone and expected to remain to be reliability-constrained in the future. When computational scientists execute their applications on NISQ machines, they receive erroneous and noisy program outputs. The promise of exponential speedups by quantum computers is not meaningful if the end-users cannot infer the correct program output after executing their programs on these machines. Therefore, this project, Qurious (pronounced as “curious”), aims to design and develop a robust system software ecosystem for quantum computers to help quantum programmers make meaningful interpretations of noisy and erroneous runs on quantum computers. The methods, developed in this project, will mitigate the side-effects of errors on quantum computers, and hence, enable high-performance computing (HPC) programmers to leverage quantum computers for solving computationally challenging problems of societal importance. This project will help HPC programmers scale their programs on larger quantum machines, and exploit the heterogeneity among quantum machines in terms of resilience characteristics on quantum cloud computing platforms, to make program outputs less noisy and more reliable.

This project aims to prepare a diverse and competitive STEM workforce with quantum computing skills to achieve economic competitiveness in the quantum-enabled future and leverage the transformative changes quantum computing will bring to society. This project devises a novel three-pronged education and outreach plan. The first step aims to raise curiosity and elevate excitement about quantum computing at an early stage (e.g., high school students). Then, at the next stage (i.e., undergraduate level), this excitement is converted into the development of quantum-style thinking. At the next educational stage (i.e., graduate students), the students are provided technical expertise for efficiently managing quantum computing resources under reliability constraints — leveraging the research advances and outcomes achieved in this project.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Related Faculty: Devesh Tiwari

Related Departments:Electrical & Computer Engineering