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Inaugural Wittek Quantum Prize awarded to Perimeter PhD student

account_circle By Stephanie Keating
Xiu-Zhe (Roger) Luo is honoured for his open-source software contributions.

Perimeter PhD student Xiu-Zhe (Roger) Luo has won the inaugural Wittek Quantum Prize for Open Source Software.

The Quantum Open Source Foundation (QOSF) administers the $4,000 US prize, which is dedicated to celebrating open-source software contributors in quantum computing. Luo won out over a competitive pool of more than 50 candidates for his work on Yao.jl, a simulation suite that models quantum computing hardware for its foundations, and its surrounding ecosystem in JuliaLang.

Luo works with Perimeter Associate Faculty member Roger Melko at the Perimeter Institute Quantum Intelligence Lab (PIQuIL). He started his work on Yao.jl in China, prior to his arrival in Waterloo. The work is supported by a global collaboration, including PIQuIL, Unitary Fund, and both the Institute of Physics and Institute of Theoretical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

As open-source science and software have gained traction in recent years, Melko said, work like Luo’s has become critical to the quantum-computing revolution.

“Really, what the software is doing is aiding science,” Melko said. “We’re using software to manipulate, validate, control, and characterize quantum devices, which are basically science experiments.”

Unlike proprietary software, open-source products offer free public access to the code, which means anyone can modify, improve, and adapt products like Luo’s. The open-source approach focuses on building a global community of collaborators rather than selling a software package.

“Building a foundation with open-source software is not easy,” said Tomáš Babej of QOSF in the announcement of Luo’s win. They hope to encourage this spirit of collaboration through the Wittek Prize. “It is critical groundwork for the quantum industry that is often not recognized proportionally to its impact.”

Luo lives by the principle that freely sharing ideas and tools is good for science.

“Software is a form of knowledge and open-sourcing the software can help propagate knowledge,” Luo said in an interview with QOSF. “I think any public-funded research and development should open source their software to make it more accessible.”

Luo has also garnered attention from industry: last summer, he accepted an internship at QuEra Quantum Computing, a Boston-based startup founded on research from Harvard University and MIT.

“It’s wonderful to see Roger’s dedication to the open-source quantum community recognized by the inaugural Wittek Quantum Prize,” Melko said. “He is a true PIQuIL’er in every sense: an accomplished scientist and a hacker extraordinaire, all rolled into one. My heartfelt congratulations to Roger on this richly-deserved honour; I can't wait to see how many GitHub commits he gets in 2021.”

The award is named in memory of Peter Wittek, a founding member of the QOSF who disappeared in an avalanche on Mount Trishul in the Himalayas in September 2019. It honours his legacy of strong advocacy for open-source software in research.

About PI

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement. 

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