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Women of Microsoft Quantum (Part 2)

In honor of International Women’s Day, Microsoft is proud to recognize some of the amazing women of Microsoft Quantum. These engineers, scientists, program managers and business leaders are working toward realizing Microsoft’s mission of building a scalable quantum computer and global quantum community to help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.

Last year, we introduced you to some of the women working on quantum software; this year we’re profiling more women delivering impact in the Microsoft Quantum program, across quantum hardware, software, partnerships, and business development.

This is the second of a two-part series. In case you missed it, meet The Women of Microsoft Quantum in Part 1.

Sydney Schreppler – Quantum Hardware Engineer

Sydney Schreppler bio pictureQ: Tell us more about your role in the Microsoft Quantum group. What exciting things are you working on right now?

I am a Quantum Engineer working as part of a global hardware team that characterizes quantum materials for the development of our topological qubit technology. Our team measures electrical transport properties in cryogenic environments, probing the quantum nature of the materials. Right now I’m excited to be working in Redmond, where, together with the Quantum Systems team, we span Microsoft’s full quantum stack, from our topological qubit layer at the very bottom all the way up to the algorithms offered in Azure Quantum.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the technology field? How and why did you decide to join the domain of quantum computing?

Long before I knew I wanted to study physics, people around me seemed to know it. I think it was because I was always asking for simple explanations for how the world worked and because I liked to understand those answers through a mathematical lens. Once I started studying physics, the more I learned, the simpler and more elegant the explanations got.

What attracted me to quantum measurements first, and later to quantum computing, was the idea that something that seemed so non-intuitive and mysterious was nonetheless observable, and even useful! I wanted to see quantum effects for myself, so as a college student, I sought out opportunities in labs measuring quantum things. And once I had “seen” quantum, I was hooked. I measured the quantum mechanical motion of tiny membranes, the interaction of ultracold atoms with laser light (obtaining my Ph.D. in physics along the way), and the quantum entanglement of superconducting circuits. Now at Microsoft, I get to harness these same kinds of measurements to develop our quantum hardware.

Amrita Singh – Quantum Hardware Engineer

Amrita Singh bio picture

Q: Tell us more about your role in the Microsoft Quantum group. What exciting things are you working on right now?

I am a hardware engineer and coordinate the substrate fabrication activities with a small team of nanofabrication engineers at Microsoft Quantum Labs – Delft. We engineer the substrates and create a platform for selective area growth of a high-quality III-V semiconductor/ superconductor hybrid network, which is a building block of the topological quantum qubit.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the technology field? How and why did you decide to join the domain of quantum computing?

I was born and raised in a remote rural village in northern India where a girl’s education wasn’t important and the only expectation from a girl was to get married at an early age, raise children, and at the most, become a primary school teacher in the village. Mathematics and Science were considered to be boys’ subjects and weren’t even available as an option until the senior year at my all-girls school when I started. I was fortunate though, in that they were introduced a year before I reached my final year.

I studied science in my school to prove my worthiness as much as the boys in the neighborhood, but didn’t fully believe in it because it conflicted with my belief in God and other superstitions. But I always loved mathematics because of its precision, as no belief could justify 2+2≠4.

My exposure to technology was very limited and I had my first encounter with computers during my Masters (Physics) degree at IIT Delhi. During my Ph.D. in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics, I started appreciating the power of scientific attitude when I would verify a hypothesis with experimental data. Being an experimental physicist, I would feel restless for my blind faith and that is when I started to question my deep-rooted superstitions and religious beliefs, getting rid of them over the course of about four to five years. This was only possible due to my career choice in Science and Technology and it has shaped me into who I am today.

I did my Ph.D. on quantum devices for spintronic application and I extended my knowledge to superconducting spintronics during my postdoc work at Leiden University, where I gained expertise in interface engineering for hybrid quantum devices. I believed that, with my diverse background in quantum physics and device engineering, I would be able to contribute toward the realization of an ambitious topological quantum computer at Microsoft, as well as be able to learn and grow without limit by working with great minds.

Science for me is not just a profession but a way of living. I strongly believe that we could change the lives of millions of unprivileged deserving children in the world by giving quality education and bring them into the mainstream by using technologies.

Aarthi Meenakshi Sundaram – Researcher

Aarthi Meenakshi Sundaram bio picture

Q: Tell us more about your role in the Microsoft Quantum group. What exciting things are you working on right now?

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Research and Applications team at Microsoft Quantum, where my overarching goal is to understand both the power and limitations of using quantum computers to solve some of our most challenging problems. Sometimes, this means defining efficient quantum algorithms for various problems. Other times, this means defining a mathematically rigorous computational model and analyzing which problems are “easy” or “difficult” in this model à la complexity theory.

Currently, I am looking forward to tackling both aspects in the context of quantum machine learning. It’s a nascent but rapidly evolving area with new algorithms being discovered and comes with its own set of challenges for us to understand precisely what kinds of learning problems can be sped up with quantum resources and to what extent. In classical computational learning theory, there are many well-established models of learning. Inevitably, we find that there may be various ways to “quantize” these models (i.e., add some “quantum magic” to these models, and each way could be useful in vastly different scenarios – some abstract/mathematical, some very real and even implementable in the near-term on quantum computers! Investigating these in all their variations is what excites me right now.

On a slightly different track, I also care about building tools that could help to efficiently verify quantum programs – through type checking or other methods. One of the main challenges is that any quantum program debugger that observes or measures how a quantum state is manipulated in the program could destroy the quantum nature of the state itself. Another challenge is that certain techniques that work well on small quantum programs will scale badly with the size of our program and could take too long to verify realistically. So, along with my collaborators here, we are investigating ways to build efficient type checkers that could provide us with the ability to verify some, if not all of the properties of interest in a quantum program.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the technology field? How and why did you decide to join the domain of quantum computing?

I have been reliably informed by my mother that, as a 4- or 5-year old, I took great joy in sitting on her lap and helping her with her programming work by entering the programs into our computer at home and marveling at this new object that knew how to follow my orders (or throw error messages!) So, while I don’t remember ever having to make a conscious choice to work in the world of computing, it has always seemed like a foregone conclusion in my mind, leading to my Math and Computer Science majors during undergrad.

For the first time at my university, one of my professors offered a course in quantum information and computing. I had just started getting interested in cryptography then and being introduced to this new computing model that could break state-of-the-art cryptosystems was a revelation! I was intrigued by this field that almost sounded like something out of science fiction and seemed so counterintuitive, at first.

Encouraged by my professor to pursue it beyond that one course, it was a natural progression for me to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in quantum complexity theory. It allowed me to blend the skills I had learned from both of my undergrad majors seamlessly. Being interested in the more abstract and theoretical aspects of computer science, I spent my Ph.D. analyzing the power of quantum analogs of various computational models. A continuous inspiration since I’ve delved more into quantum computing is that by living at the intersection and cutting edge of many different fields, one gets to work and learn from people whose expertise is vastly different than your own. With Microsoft Quantum’s aim of delivering a full stack of quantum services, that means, I am thrilled for the opportunity to interact with everyone from material scientists to mathematicians within the team.

Judith Suter – Senior Researcher

Judith Suter bio picture

Q: Tell us more about your role in the Microsoft Quantum group. What exciting things are you working on right now?

In my work as a Senior Researcher in the Microsoft Quantum Hardware Program, I focus mainly on electrical characterization of different device types, materials, and fabrication processes. My days revolve around planning and designing experiments, running and optimizing low-temperature measurements, and exploring the resulting aggregated data. As part of a global team, another element of my job is cross-site collaboration where we leverage the diverse expertise of the whole team to collectively tackle challenging projects.

Recently I also became part of the Azure Hardware Systems and Infrastructure Diversity and Inclusion Council, where I represent the Quantum Hardware Program. I am excited to help drive the efforts towards the ambitious goals of Microsoft to fuel systemic change, widen our pipelines to reach and engage a diverse group of people, and transform our culture to ensure that everyone feels welcome and valued.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the technology field? How and why did you decide to join the domain of quantum computing?

My path to working on quantum computing was not without detours. As a high school student, I was fascinated by surrealist painters and the strange but self-consistent worlds they portrayed, so I commenced my studies at an arts and graphic design academy. Eventually, I left, longing to do something completely different, something I knew nothing about. I signed up for an undergraduate degree in Nanoscience, where I felt I could get a taste of different scientific fields. There, quantum physics intrigued me from the start: counterintuitive concepts born out of creative boldness – surprisingly, some lectures ended up reminding me of my art classes studying surrealism. I was hooked. I bought a one-way ticket to the epicenter of quantum physics, the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, joined Prof. Charles Marcus’ lab there at the Center for Quantum Devices and started my training to become a quantum physicist.

Vicky Svidenko – Partner Quantum Data Sciences

a woman smiling for the camera

Q: Tell us more about your role in the Microsoft Quantum group. What exciting things are you working on right now?

I am leading the Quantum Systems Integration team – helping to accelerate quantum research and development. The Microsoft Quantum group is exploring ways to build a full-stack quantum computer and has become the world’s center of expertise on topological quantum computing. I am incredibly humbled by the opportunity to support this development effort and contribute to the new breakthroughs, together with an amazing team of talented researchers and engineers.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the technology field? How and why did you decide to join the domain of quantum computing?

I came to Quantum because I enjoy the loosely orchestrated chaos of early product development and the frenzy of excitement for every new learning and every new benchmark. I like that incredible sensation of being part of something futuristically amazing, now evolving and materializing.

Another reason: This was my first opportunity to work for an amazing female manager – Krysta Svore – and I wasn’t going to miss it.

Meet more of The Women of Microsoft Quantum in Part 1 of this series.

This is just a small sample of the amazing people on the Microsoft Quantum team. If you want to join us as we build the quantum future, we’re hiring!