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Pursuing a career in quantum technologies

Scott, an A Level student at Lytchett Minster School, Poole, is currently studying Maths, Physics and Further Maths. He is also undertaking an Extended Project Qualification as an AS course and was tasked with writing a 5000 word dissertation on a topic of his choice, Scott chose to focus on “What are the uses of quantum entanglement for communication and data transfer”. During his time working on the dissertation, Scott has liaised regularly with Quantum Communications Hub Director, Tim Spiller. He hopes to go on to study at the University of Cambridge, Durham or York. We caught up with Scott to ask what sparked his interest in quantum physics, how he went about developing it within school and what his plans are for the future. Read on to see what he had to say.

“I believe one of the most beneficial qualities to have in life is curiosity, a thirst for knowledge and the ability to ask questions in order to fully understand an idea. To simply accept a fact you have been given as the truth, without ever considering why, is completely useless. How then are you meant to explain it to another person or apply it later in life, if you don’t first fully understand it yourself?

One of the most powerful words in the English language is “why”.  By asking it, not only do you further your understanding of a topic, you push the person you are speaking to to question the idea too. I’ve always had a natural fascination for this word, when I was younger, I would annoy my mum at every possible instant when I didn’t understand a concept. When I was 2, I asked her where the petrol in the car goes and why it needs refilling. She told me how the fuel enters the engine, is ignited, and then expands thus pushing the car forward. The next thing for me to ask was why the fuel expands, my Mum explained that this is to do with science, more specifically physics.

I noticed as I grew older that most ideas generally boiled down to some form of science if you ask why enough times.  I find the idea of working in scientific study so interesting, on a daily basis you are able to contribute to the general understanding of the world around us and get paid to do so.

I’ve recently developed a fondness of quantum physics. I find the idea of being able to understand and manipulate the smallest form of matter we are exposed to incredible. Matter behaves very differently on the quantum scale and being able to use these differences to our advantage can be very beneficial. It has already proved to be so with developments in quantum computing, encryption and many other fields.

At school, quantum technology research is touched upon, however, speaking to teachers and other professionals can help with extending knowledge and building relationships. Reaching out to Professors or researchers at Universities can also be a great way of getting into specific fields of sciences. They often tend to be very open to answering questions or helping with ideas if asked, especially with young students aspiring for careers in science. This can allow (especially aspiring scientists) an opportunity to speak to a professional and learn more complex topics that spark your interest at a younger age.

In the future I want to go on to study physics at Durham, Cambridge or York then specialise at postgraduate level. I currently would like to specialise in quantum physics or computing but I’m sure the initial Physics degree may spark interest somewhere else.

I would love to work in quantum computation technologies as I find the applications of such an abstract topic incredible. With companies like Google and IBM leading research on these topics I think it would be amazing to travel to America for a few years work on some of the most complex computers on the planet. ”

This interview was originally posted on the Quantum Communcations Hub Blog 'Quantumness, Randomness and Endless Possibilities'.