Using quantum computers for varied applications – Samah Saeed

by Lylia Saurel
The City College of New York is widely known for its research capabilities and has and received funding from federal, state, and city agencies for research and workforce development support. The expertise in STEM has led faculty members and scholars to receive funding in many fields, with specific strength in the areas of Quantum research, Cybersecurity, Artificial intelligence, Life sciences, Energy and the environment, Robotics and Transportation (QC-ALERT).


In the area of Quantum research, professors Vinod Menon, Carlos Meriles, Alexander Khanikaev, Maria Tamargo, and Assistant Professor Samah Saeed have made major contributions to the field. Saeed, of the Electrical Engineering Department at CCNY, is the recent co-recipient of a $4.6 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to advance quantum computing for her project, “Toward Efficient Quantum Algorithm Execution on Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum Hardware.”

Saeed hopes to resolve issues surrounding current quantum computers, such as their sensitivity to noise, which make them unreliable. In collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), she looks at how to mitigate the errors caused by noises in the context of computing.

“One of the main problems with these computers is that they are very sensitive to noises,” she said. “And so the question is how do we mitigate these errors by modeling the hardware noise and how do we incorporate these models into the compilation stack to build quantum applications with as minimum errors as possible when executed on these computers.”

By noise, Saeed refers to various external factors that can influence the capacity of the computers to perform well, such as high temperatures or different operations applied to the quantum bits.

“These quantum computers are not the same as the classical computers. They require a very sophisticated, controlled environment, including ultra-cold temperature and many other things,” she said.

The impacts of Saeed’s research could bring useful advancements in various fields, such as energy, commercial and healthcare applications. In healthcare, for instance, the proposed research will enable quantum algorithms for predicting and delivering new drugs.

In addition to the research, one of the main objectives of the project is to build the next-generation workforce in quantum computing. In order to do this at CCNY and on a wider scale, Saeed believes in recruiting students from different STEM majors to work collaboratively on quantum computing.

“Students can contribute to different aspects of this whole quantum computing business,” she said. “If you are a software developer you can leverage your programming skills to build compilers and software stack to synthesis and optimize quantum algorithms. If you are an electrical engineer or physicist you can look into the quantum hardware. If you are a mathematician, you can look into the quantum algorithms.”

She particularly hopes to be able to increase the contribution of minority and underrepresented students to involve them in the quantum computing track. By the end of this project, she expects to have many students applying for internships and training programs with national labs.

The main component of the project is to incorporate deep learning into the quantum compilation stack, which requires a large amount of data from different quantum hardware that Saeed and her team started to gather before the project received funding back in February.

“We have a little server in our lab, where we store quantum circuits and their noisy results upon execution on different quantum hardware and train different deep learning models,” she said. “This project is a collaboration with scientists from LBNL and as part of the collaboration we want to incorporate our models and synthesis methods with their already existing software.”

The grant award will run until 2026 and cover Saeed and her students’ salaries as well as support for travel and computing resources.

Saeed’s background lies in testing integrated circuits and hardware security in which she looked into potential attacks at the hardware level and how to mitigate them. Her interest in quantum computing was first aroused when her co-advisor in her Ph.D. committee encouraged her to research secure reverse computing.

After one and a half years working in the security of reversible computing by leveraging her background in hardware security, she came to CCNY and started to look at the security and reliability of quantum computing.

“I come from a highly educated family that believes that education is very important and that women have to be strongly educated,” she said.  So after two years of working in the security of reversible computing, Saeed decided to come to CCNY and started to look at the security of content computing. “They knew that was my passion so they supported me from day one. And so I would really thank them for that.”

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