Unitary Fund

Because evolution is unitary.

Unitary Fund is a non-profit working to create a quantum technology ecosystem that benefits the most people.

Introducing the Technical Team: Unitary Labs

24 March, 2020
Author: Nathan Shammah

I’m thrilled to be joining the team at Unitary Fund. This announcement gives me an opportunity to share my journey here and introduce the rest of the team.

Around three years ago I was introduced to the development of open-source software in science and have since fallen in love with it, finding in its inherently collaborative structure a strong motivation that reframed my research modus operandi.

I would have never imagined I’d become a core developer of QuTiP, the Quantum Toolbox in Python, a popular library launched in 2012. I’m a theoretical quantum physicist interested in many-body dissipative quantum systems and the description of noise in realistic devices. For me, QuTiP is indeed a quantum optician’s Swiss Army knife.

In the Summer of 2017, I began writing some numerical simulations exploiting permutational symmetries to avoid the exponential increase in computational resources that is typical of many-body quantum systems. Together with Shahnawaz Ahmed, while we were both in Franco Nori’s group at RIKEN, we developed some code that evolved into a full-fledged open-source library that has since become a popular module in QuTiP.

I then moved on to help coordinate the community project in many directions, joining the small but devoted team of maintainers and discovering a wider and supporting community of users. I’ve since realized that by engaging with other communities in science and engineering we can accelerate the adoption of open-source software and make its ecosystem more sustainable.

These experiences have convinced me that we’re witnessing the rise of communities over products or other deliverables. I’d been looking for ways to pursue both my passion for quantum technologies and open source community building.

I was thus delighted by the opportunity to join Unitary Fund. Unitary Fund was launched as a way to support open-source software in quantum computing, with a no-strings attached micro-grant program that anyone can apply to. This is a blessing in an academic world that is experiencing skyrocketing bureaucracy.

Having worked with the QuTiP community, I saw the value of open-source software and gained the skills to contribute it. Unitary Fund gives me a platform to do this on a broader scale.

Moreover, Unitary Fund is now developing its own in-house research, Unitary Labs. We’re doing cutting-edge research with a multi-year timeline. The Unitary Labs team is proudly delocalized: working remotely may very well be the future of many jobs, and is especially suited in software-based research that aims at attracting top talent. Let me introduce the amazing new team at Unitary Labs, Ryan and Andrea, who I am honored to start working with.

Ryan LaRose is pursuing a dual degree PhD at Michigan State University. He previously interned at NASA Ames, IBM Research and Los Alamos National Laboratory, and is now also a resident at X – The Moonshot Factory. With both academic independence and creativity, Ryan is very active in the field of quantum software: I recommend his 2019 Quantum paper, which provides a comparative analysis of different open-source programming languages and libraries providing quantum computing simulators or hardware in the back-end. He contributes to various open-source libraries and is the creator of NISQAI, a project that previously received a Unitary Fund microgrant.

Andrea Mari is a polyhedric quantum physicist who, with over 40 publications under his belt, has made important contributions to the field of quantum information theory and quantum optics. For example, during his PhD at the University of Potsdam, together with Jens Eisert, Andrea derived a generalization of the Gottesman-Knill theorem to continuous-variable systems. Later on, as a research fellow at the prestigious Italian academic institution, Scuola Normale di Pisa, Andrea focused on quantum Gaussian channels and quantum thermodynamics, together with Vittorio Giovannetti and collaborators. Most recently, Andrea has been tinkering with open-source libraries and quantum machine learning, and while working remotely with Xanadu Inc., a Toronto-based startup, he has been developing new concepts and applications for hybrid classical-quantum neural networks, such as introducing in that context the idea of quantum transfer learning.

With complementary skills and experience, Ryan, Andrea, Will and I are working on in-house research to help the whole ecosystem. Our mission is to build an open and inclusive quantum ecosystem. If you’d like to join us – we’ll all be reviewing micro-grant applications – you can apply here.

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