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Quantum technology summer school welcomes PhDs from the MoD

Ministry of Defence funded PhD students have visited Loughborough University for a week-long summer school aimed at developing their expertise of quantum technology.

Quantum technology group

QSERG PhD students and staff (L-to-R): Joe Bowen, Ben Davies, Patrick Mills, Iliya Dimitrov, John Samson, Mark Everitt, Will Huish, Aidan Heron, Vince Dwyer, Stephan Duffus, Iain Phillips, Kieran Bjergstrom, Russell Rundle.

A cohort of more than 30 postgraduates, backed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) – an executive agency of the MoD – were welcomed by the Quantum Systems Engineering Research Group (QSERG) and took part in workshops and lectures to boost their knowledge of the world’s most rapidly developing industry.

Quantum technology is set to revolutionise almost every sector of manufacturing by providing extremely precise GPS, super-fast computers, acutely better imaging and unbreakable security.

Led by Dr Mark Everitt, a senior lecturer in quantum control, the summer school’s quantum themes included systems engineering, building reliable systems and a practical technical challenge.

He said: “We aimed to develop an appropriate systems engineering toolbox and mind-set that would provide skills enabling a more rapid development of quantum technologies than afforded by usual scientific methods.

“The students will now be able to use the techniques we taught them to be more effective in engineering new devices and products and to more quickly bring them to market.

“For example, they will be more aware of good engineering practice and the demands and limitations of manufacturers.”

The students are based at universities all over the country.

They listened to lectures and talks from staff including Dr Vincent Dwyer, who instructed them on methods for building reliable systems as well as sessions on functional failure mode and effects analysis, and quality function deployment.

Looking ahead to the production of a successful technology, Dr Laura Justham introduced real manufacturing challenges and case studies, looking at a variety of topics from research through to integration and the final product.

Professor Michael Henshaw introduced the subject of Systems Engineering and why it is important for complex endeavours.

He described the role of techniques to be used in the workshop within the context of overall systems development and arranged various project-based sessions during which student gained experience of applying systems engineering.

Dr Everitt also talked the group through the specific physical challenges with developing quantum systems.

He said: “I spoke about challenges such as the entanglement of quantum systems, which means that it is not possible to consider them as separate systems – the ability to clearly identify a systems boundary is very important in the hierarchical modelling that is often used within systems engineering.

“In this way, engineering quantum systems present a particular challenge that will need new tool and techniques not currently in either the systems engineering or physics toolsets – something we are actively working on here at Loughborough.”

Further context was provided by experienced practitioners including Jack Lemon (who recently joined the QSERG as a visiting professor), DSTL’s Neil Lindsay (another long-standing visiting professor) and, Dr Gillian Marshal, of QinetiQ.

In addition to formal presentations and work groups, skills were developed through a Systems Engineering Challenge Project, which asked students to present a complex technical product highlighting critical design features and opportunities for novel solutions.

Speaking about the week-long event, Dr Everitt said: “Student feedback indicates it was a huge success.

“It was considered as being particularly useful for developing 'big picture thinking', and giving a systematic approach to problem-solving.

“It was very pleasing to learn from one student that the summer school ‘did not meet my expectations – it was much better’.”

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