Columbia to Launch Master’s in Quantum Science and Technology

Degree program will combine education in quantum fundamentals with hands-on experience in quantum research labs.

Ellen Neff
March 31, 2022

A new master’s program in quantum science and technology was approved by Columbia this spring. If approved by New York State, Columbia will join only a handful of other universities offering advanced degree programs in quantum science.

“Quantum is a research frontier, and we’re excited to train students in this state-of-the-art science,” said Dmitri Basov, a physics professor at Columbia and chair of the department. 

The program was created by professors in Columbia’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Columbia Engineering to address the shortage of workers in the quantum industry, a growing interdisciplinary field that includes engineers, experimentalists, theorists, and technicians to design, build, and program novel quantum devices used for computing, communications, and more.

As the industry matures, many companies will need workers with more quantum training than typically included in an undergraduate degree but not necessarily as much as required for a PhD, said Abhay Pasupathy, a physics professor who helped develop the curriculum with input from industry. The knowledge needed covers both computer science and quantum mechanics, as well as the specialized components needed to build quantum hardware, like quantum optics and cryogenics. 

"Columbia has a rich history of developing practical quantum applications,” said Pasupathy, “We hope that this new program will produce the leaders of tomorrow's quantum technologies."

Columbia’s quantum master’s program will teach students the basics of quantum mechanics and offer practical knowledge and complementary skills in quantum hardware, software, and research. Students who want to go on further will be prepared for PhD programs in science and technology, Pasupathy said.

Columbia will admit 25 students in the program’s first year, and eventually double enrollment. Students will have the option of pursuing a track in engineering or physics and will take 10 classes designed and taught by faculty in the physics department or at Columbia Engineering, in collaboration with the Flatiron Institute and quantum-focused companies, among them IBM, Microsoft, Google, and several startups. 

The program will cover quantum theory, offer hands-on research experience in quantum labs, and provide connections with industry partners. New courses will fall into four categories under the so-called Quantum-LIST:

  • Quantum Laboratory, a research-based course for students to explore entangled photon systems and their novel applications.
  • Quantum Information, which will introduce the theoretical underpinnings of quantum information and computation.
  • Quantum Simulation, a research-based course for students to explore quantum simulation and information applications with the IBM Qiskit platform
  • Quantum Technology, which will delve into quantum applications in computing,  communication, and sensing.

Existing courses at Columbia in applied quantum mechanics and scientific computing will be updated to fit the program.  

Successful applicants will have undergraduate coursework in quantum mechanics, calculus, and linear algebra and will be admitted based on their undergraduate grades, two reference letters, and a remote interview. 

Faculty who helped develop the program include Abhay Pasupathy, Ana Asenjo-Garcia, Dmitri Basov, Alex Gaeta, Soulaymane Kachani, John Kymissis, Yuri Levin, Szabi Marka, Rocco Servedio, and Sebastian Will.

Application information will be available soon.