Grad Research: Are Quantum Computers Better, Stronger, Faster?

This post originally appeared on the Graduate Studies website.

After entering the Communication PhD program at Carleton, Derek Noon created Communication Studies’ first Video Game Studies course.

These days, Noon is focusing on researching quantum computers. He says that, “This is potentially the biggest change to how computers work since before World War II.”

Noon notes that it is important to understand that a “quantum computer” is currently a big umbrella with a lot of very different projects under it.

“Quantum computers have components that use quantum mechanics to let them run unusual algorithms and theoretically outperform the digital computers we use every day,” explains Noon.

He shares that there has been a lot of uncertainty and even controversy about the best way to make and use these computers. His research examines some of the leading companies who make quantum computers and explore the process of how some kinds of these machines get built rather than others.

Says Noon: “Most of us will never see a quantum computer even when they become more common, but they will be part of the available computation resources either for those who own them, or over the cloud.”

Noon says that a lot of the development is being done in Canada, “so it’s also a story of how new ways of doing computation are being constructed in this particular place and time.”

During his PhD, he was awarded an OGS grant to pursue his research. He was also funded under the Mitacs Accelerate Program, for the maximum length for a PhD in that program. “Like most of their programs, Mitacs helps you connect and fund a research internship with an industry partner,” says the PhD candidate.  He spent over two years embedded in a quantum software company to get familiar with the technology and see how the industry operates.

Noon appreciates the assistance he has had from his supervisor, Dr. Chris Russill, “who has made me aware of the broader literature and research relevant to my work and helped bring out the novel aspects of my own research.”

After completing his MA in Media Studies from the University of Western Ontario, he published a book chapter based on his MA. As a PhD student, he has organized workshops and conferences for the Communication Graduate Caucus, Canadian Communication Association and National Communication Association.