Published On: May 9, 2024

Javier Mas Solé, professor of theoretical physics, has been working at the University of Santiago de Compostela since 1990. He has devoted his career to research in various aspects of string theory and the AdS/CFT correspondence. With a solid academic background including studies and a doctorate from the Autonomous University of Madrid, and a postdoctoral stage at the Technical University of Munich, Javier is the author of over fifty publications in the field.

Currently, in addition to his work in the String Theory group of the Department of Particle Physics at the University, he is also the coordinator of the TalentQ program within the Quantum Spain project.

In this interview, Javier discusses the main objectives of the TalentQ program, the challenges and opportunities of quantum computing in Spain, and points out possible future directions for this field.

What is TalentQ and what are its objectives?

As its name suggests, TalentQ is the talent generation programme at Quantum Spain. The Quantum Spain project is not just about infrastructure. It is also about the user community. To attract high-level users, training must be provided at all levels, from basic to advanced. That is the objective of TalentQ. We are aligned with other initiatives (masters, schools, companies, etc.) that seek the same goal.

What training opportunities does TalentQ offer?

TalentQ is highly transversal and promotes training activities at all levels. On one hand, we have face-to-face activities or online training. We have organized the first masterclasses in 2023 and 2024 with the participation of students and individuals without training in quantum computing. The one in 2024 has been very satisfactory because we have made the first social use of the recently inaugurated 5-qubit BSC quantum computer, with a case study in which around 50 people have submitted their work and connected via video conference to share their results and see the real computer. We have also co-organized high-level schools, such as the recently held one in Benasque on “Near Term Quantum Computing,” which has been a participation success. Additionally, from TalentQ, we support initiatives aligned with our objectives. For example, we have awarded 11 scholarships to master’s and doctoral students to attend and participate in Quantum Matter 2024. Challenges, or hackathons, are our next step, and they are essential to foster talent among those with experience. Lastly, there is the fixed platform with educational content: courses, videos, pills, etc. We are beginning to fill it with content.

Who is this training program aimed at?

The potential user population of quantum computing has a pyramid shape, very wide at the base and quickly narrowing. We aim to serve all levels. For example, at the basic level, we are very interested in penetrating secondary education by training FPI and Baccalaureate teachers. But we also have to offer opportunities to educated individuals to leverage their knowledge and talent by participating in challenges and hackathons. Lastly, we have to take care of the business aspect, promoting activities that showcase use cases.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for quantum computing in Spain?

I would say the main challenge is to synchronize the implementation of quantum computing in terms of supply and demand. Today, quantum computing is a developing technology, and we know that it is only a matter of time before it reaches maturity. In the meantime, we must make the best use of use cases where the quantum paradigm is already finding advantages over the traditional one.

In the future, what changes do you think this new computing paradigm will bring?

Quantum advantage is a more friendly and realistic concept than supremacy. It has many facets. If expectations are met, mastering Quantum Fourier Transform could be a game-changer in many areas. But even before that, there are bottlenecks in classical computing such as the growth in energy demand that quantum computing circumvents with an advantage. This significantly affects popular AI models now, where Quantum Machine Learning seems to need to train many fewer parameters. Technologically, there are opportunities in many areas because quantum computing has not yet chosen a natural niche for implementation.

What do you consider to be the differentiating element of Quantum Spain compared to other quantum computing projects?

On one hand, precisely its commitment to opening up to society. Other projects remain in the academic sphere and even within a few large companies. On the other hand, its willingness to go through the whole process from scratch, gradually building both the infrastructure and the relationship with academic and social agents. In R&D&I, shortcuts are paid for in the long term.

What advice and recommendations would you offer to someone considering a career in quantum computing, taking into account the opportunities and challenges presented by this field?

Open your mind. You have to train lateral thinking so that intuition works differently than you’re used to. My experience is that people who try this world later get bored with other jobs. Here everything smells new. Challenges are precisely incentives and are present daily. On the other hand, get well informed about the quality of what is offered in terms of training. There is a lot of dubious offer. It is worth going out and traveling. Lastly, train in entrepreneurial skills. Without looking for it, you will come across solutions as groundbreaking as the lollipop stick. You just have to train your eye to recognize a possible business project and know the mechanisms that allow transforming the idea into reality.