Ming Li

Ming Li joined Atom Computing earlier this year as a Senior Neutral Atom Theorist to work on our atomic array quantum computing technology. 

Ming earned his doctorate degree in 2014 from the University of Toledo. He has worked in the field of quantum science for more than a decade, as a researcher, assistant research professor, and theorist for hardware technology companies.

We talked with Ming about his role at Atom Computing and how quantum theory contributes to the development of large-scale, fault-tolerant quantum computers.

Tell us about your role at Atom Computing. What does your job as senior neutral atom theorist involve?

As a theorist, I really have three main responsibilities. The first is to help characterize our prototype quantum computer, Phoenix, through the application of quantum theory as well as modeling and simulation.  The second is to really find better controls such as designing better pulse shapes, and better calibration routines to really bring out the best of our quantum hardware. These two things really go hand in hand and are focused on improving our existing system.  The third part is to help with the next generations of hardware and quantum computing designs and bring qualitative and eventually quantitative system engineering into the process.  When you start to design a quantum computer, you only have qualitative guesses on how it will perform but nothing concrete. But once you start iterating on those designs and making incremental improvements, you can incorporate existing knowledge to help determine what the next generation will look like.

What is the difference between what a quantum engineer does versus a quantum theorist?

Quantum engineers are usually in charge of building, operating, and maintaining a quantum computer. They have intimate knowledge of every piece that goes into a quantum computer. The role of a theorist is to help figure out how the quantum computer performs, how to improve it, and what to consider if we are to build a better one.  My challenge is to bring all the information we can gather from quantum engineers such as the physical system around a qubit, various noise sources, and system imperfections, then to distill and abstract them to a model that can be simulated to provide understanding to what we are seeing and how we can improve performance.  In industry, quantum engineers and quantum theorists need to work together seamlessly.  For theorists to thrive, we really need to connect with the quantum engineers to collaboratively discover which components of  the quantum computer are most responsible for its performance and how to improve them.

Why is quantum theory important to the development of large-scale quantum computers?

A quantum computer is a device that derives its power from the “quantumness” of the quantum system it tries to harness. Quantum theory tries to formalize our understanding of how that quantum system works - its properties, dynamics, etc. - and enables us to make predictions or generalizations. It helps to establish a quantitative link between things we can control and things we want to control in the quantum system.

When a system is smaller and performance requirements are lower, you can use relatively simple models to establish that link.  As the system gets bigger, it also becomes more complex as different parts of the system become more entangled together. Usually, at the same time, the performance requirements for gate operations and fidelities are also higher.  This means the link between what we can control and what we want to control becomes more complex and must be understood more accurately.  Theory becomes very important because we need better modeling and simulations to find a more effective and efficient way to establish that link.  

How are quantum computers advancing the field of quantum science?

The development of quantum computers poses a unique challenge to both engineering’s and physics’ understanding of specific systems.  At Atom Computing, for example, we are building atomic array quantum computers based on neutral atoms. We have chosen our quantum platform but that does not mean that in terms of physics we know everything about what we build.  As our quantum computer gets bigger, more complex and requires higher fidelities, we need to understand the quantum systems we build better and more quantitatively.  That naturally drives research into understanding these systems that could benefit the broader field of quantum science. 

Another aspect is that throughout the development of quantum computers many different technologies within the ecosystem also need to advance in order to better control these quantum systems.  These updated technologies will improve the tool box of researchers in quantum science to enable better experiments that could potentially unlock more mysteries in the field.

The third part is the promise of quantum computers to better simulate quantum systems such as complex many-body systems.  These systems in general are difficult to simulate and become even more so the more complex they are.  With classical computers, there is a pretty clear boundary as to where you can go. Beyond that, it becomes harder and harder – and sometimes nearly impossible – to simulate.  Because of that, quantum theories on these very complex systems are hard to develop. You can only simulate within that boundary and you try to distill as much knowledge from the simulation as you can for larger systems. The promise of using a quantum computer to better simulate these systems could open the door to gaining a better understanding of these complex systems and advance our knowledge of how the world works.

Why did you join Atom Computing? What excites you most about the company?

What excites me the most at Atom are the potentials and possibilities stemmed from working on neutral atomic array quantum computers. We only just started to chart the path toward scalable quantum computers using neutral atomic arrays. People have studied other modalities of quantum computing, especially ones based on superconducting qubits or trapped-ion qubits, for a fairly long time. There are already established schemes to make these quantum computers work in the NISQ era as well as known hurdles in terms of scalability.  Here, I think, we are just starting to see what we can do and to chart a path of where we want to go.  To me, that is really exciting.

How did you get into quantum computing? What do you enjoy most about the field?

Like many people who have come to this industry with a physics background, I was lured by the excitement and promise of quantum computers being the ultimate machine to help expand our horizons in a variety of fields in science through quantum simulation. My background before coming to the QC industry is in the more traditional field of quantum theory where I have experienced the limitations of classical simulation first hand. It was often frustrating when we couldn’t advance our understanding of a complex physical system because a simulation is intractable even when we have pulled every trick we had to simplify our model. I hope ultimately through our work at Atom we will be able to push on these boundaries. 

Apart from having a strong long-term motivation for working in the field of QC, I also enjoy working closely with many other talented people from vastly different backgrounds. For instance, I get to work with experimentalists very closely and I get to learn a lot from them from many stimulating discussions.  Also to have them being able to test and verify my theoretical predictions is very rewarding. Another aspect I enjoy about the field of QC stems from the fact that it is such a nascent field especially for neutral atom arrays based QC systems. As I mentioned earlier in why I joined Atom, it is very exciting to be one of the first to chart the path to building a useful quantum computer.

What advice do you have for people who want to work in quantum computing?

To build a scalable fault tolerant quantum computer, we need all the talents we can get because I think it is among the most ambitious scientific and engineering quests in human history. Since the number of people with a QC background is still very limited and QC-focused education programs are just starting to take form, we need to really find ways to attract and utilize talents from different backgrounds.  I would encourage anyone interested in quantum computing with a STEM background to talk with someone in the QC industry to see how to get involved. And I think the key, similar to how one would break into many technical fields, is to understand the different technical roles that exist in the QC ecosystem and how they contribute to overall progress in quantum. From there, one could then figure out what preparation is needed given their background. In this sense, I hope some of the questions I answered earlier could be useful for people who are interested in the quantum theorist role here at Atom.

Kristen Pudenz

Kristen Pudenz joined Atom Computing in 2022 as Director of Advanced Research Programs.  Before that, she worked at Lockheed Martin for seven years, first as a quantum applications engineer, then as Corporate Lead for Quantum.

Kristen earned her doctoral degree in electrical engineering from the University of California-Los Angeles in 2014. Her dissertation focused on Error Correction and Applications for Quantum Annealing.

We sat down with Kristen to talk to her about her role, why she joined Atom Computing, how she got into quantum computing, and the near- and long-term applications for this disruptive technology.

First off, tell us about your role at Atom Computing. What does your job as Director of Advanced Research Programs entail?

I focus primarily on external collaborative research, working together with universities, government, and other companies to advance shared scientific goals. These research projects are complementary to the main processor development track and advance the technical objectives of the company. This includes anything from novel ways to use atomic array quantum computing to custom-designed hardware components that enable us to realize advanced physics and enhance our processor performance.

Why did you decide to join Atom Computing? What excites you most about the company?

I joined Atom Computing because I think the technology is sound, the scaling path is the most promising I’ve seen, and the team is excellent. The combination of long coherence times with highly controllable two-qubit gates and the flexibility of dragging and dropping identical atoms into a qubit array to form a processor make the engineering picture very attractive.

What differentiates Atom Computing’s quantum hardware technology? What are the benefits of Atom’s atomic array quantum technology based on neutral atoms?

Atom Computing uses the atom’s nuclear spin as our qubit. These energy levels are well isolated from the environment, particularly electromagnetic noise, and offer extremely long coherence times whose limits we haven’t even begun to touch. Coherence sets the stage for everything else that happens with the quantum computer. It allows room for gates to operate and enables future error correction by creating a processor that can hold quantum information in clean areas while it repairs itself in areas affected by noise. Combined with the natural scalability of atomic array qubit trapping, this shows a platform with plenty of room to grow.

How did you get into quantum computing? What do you enjoy most about the field?

I’m always attracted to first principles and mapping out technical landscapes, and I became interested in quantum computing because I saw the limits coming for classical computers with the end of Moore’s law. As a graduate student, I was able to use the very first commercial quantum processor ever sold, which I regarded from an engineer’s perspective. It was small, and too noisy to implement most of the beautiful quantum error correction schemes theorists were producing. So I stripped down an error correcting code to its simplest components and modified it to fit the tool I had available – and it worked! What I enjoy most is bringing solutions from the lab to the real world and using them to solve a problem we couldn’t before.

There is a lot of discussion about “killer applications” for quantum computing? What do you think are the most promising near- and long-term applications for quantum computing?

We have some very interesting NISQ (Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum) algorithms available right now for optimization, machine learning, and chemistry. As we move to larger quantum processors with partial error correction, results from these algorithms should improve to a point where we’ll be able to use a quantum computer to extend the reach of a classical computer by solving key problems. In the long term, the best proven speedups for quantum computers are in factoring (which is why we need new encryption algorithms) and search. These are just the mathematically proven speedups, though. Just as most classical computing algorithms we use today aren’t provably optimal, there are likely many use cases for large quantum computers that will offer speedups we can’t mathematically predict at this stage. It’s going to be an exciting journey!

Quantum computers are an early-stage technology.  Should companies or organizations be exploring quantum computing now? If so, why?  How do you recommend they get started?

Yes, it’s a good idea for companies to explore quantum computing now – my previous job was helping a large company do exactly that. The two main reasons to do so are to gain expertise and to contribute to the co-design feedback loop. Quantum computing is a transformational technology that will change what we regard as easy to do with computers. It’s important for companies to understand what this means for their industry so they can take full advantage of the new technology instead of being scooped by other firms who kept up. By engaging early, companies can also interact directly with quantum computer manufacturers like Atom Computing and influence the design choices that are shaping the large-scale processors under development, making them better suited to the use case that matters most to your company.

Finally, what advice do you have for people who want to work in quantum computing?

Get programming or get into a physics lab! We need brilliant, dedicated people working at all layers of the quantum stack, whether that’s device physicists giving us the tools to control individual atoms, controls engineers bringing the system to life, error correction and compiler developers making the processor more performant, or applications programmers connecting quantum computers to their problem of choice. There are so many opportunities to get engaged, such as workshops, certificates, degrees, and professional experience. It’s cutting edge and fascinating, and we’d love you to join us!

Miro Urbanek

We sat down with Miro Urbanek to talk about his quantum journey and why he's passionate about the work we are doing here at Atom Computing.

Why did you decide to get into quantum computing - what is your passion with this field?

Miro: I used to work on physical simulations that ran on classical computers before working in quantum computing. Some of my simulations were too slow even on supercomputers. I realized that classical computers could never solve these problems efficiently. However, quantum computers can and that's why I decided to turn my attention to them.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned since working in this field?

Miro: I tried to find an argument why quantum computing is fundamentally impossible, but I couldn't find any such reason.

What gets you excited about how quantum computing could change the world? What is a problem you are passionate about that quantum computing may help solve-for in the future?

Miro: I'm interested in simulations of physics, chemistry, and other natural phenomena. These are really hard applications for classical computers, especially if they involve quantum effects. In particular, I want to help researchers who design and explore novel materials to use quantum computers. Improved materials can lead to better batteries and other advances in energy production and storage. Applications of quantum computers are still largely unexplored. We'll only discover their full potential in the future.


Tell us why you chose to work at Atom Computing?

Miro: Neutral atoms are the most promising platform for scalable quantum computers. In fact, there have been many experiments with neutral atoms that are impossible to simulate on classical computers today. I also liked the expertise and spirit of the people working at Atom Computing.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer someone in high school or college considering getting into this field?

Miro: Learn math. Numbers rule the universe!

Katy Barnes

We sat down with Katy Barnes to talk about her career path to quantum and why she enjoys working in this field and at Atom Computing on the Control Systems Engineering team.

Why did you decide to get into quantum computing - what is your obsession with this field?

Katy: Honestly, I didn't really set out to work in quantum computing. The biggest draw for me to Engineering, in general, was that the field is always changing and I'd be forever learning. My dream was that I would have the opportunity to be part of a team that was working on world-changing, cutting-edge technology, and quantum computing is the epitome of both. I count myself fortunate to be a part of Atom Computing and I'm very excited to see what we can create together!

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned since working in this field?

Katy: The Physics behind quantum computing is fascinating; so is pondering the ways it will transform any industry it touches. Before joining Atom Computing, I envisioned Quantum Physics as this weird science that challenged the Physics principles we are comfortable with. Many of us have heard of Schrödinger's cat, but truly wrapping your mind around the idea of uncertainty and how it can be used as a computing tool is incredibly difficult. It’s not something I studied in depth in school (and I still think it’s weird), but the more I learn about how it works, the more enthralled I am.

Thinking about how classical computing changed over the years makes me very excited to see how the quantum computing industry will grow and change.  

What gets you excited about how quantum computing could change the world? What is a problem you are passionate about that quantum computing may help solve-for in the future?

Katy: I believe that quantum computing has the potential to transform almost everything in this world. I am most excited about how it could change the healthcare industry. I cannot even fathom what new treatments or cures could be created to battle the sickness and disease that plague today’s society. I’m sure there are many ways we haven’t even thought of that quantum computing could help to diagnose and treat various medical issues. 


Tell us why you chose to work at Atom Computing?

Katy: One of the major things that drove me to work for Atom Computing, in particular, is that “humble” was one of the requirements in the job description. That one word says to me that not only will I be working with brilliant people on very cool, very cutting edge technology, but I will be working with a team that doesn’t let egos get in the way of progress—that we all will have the same goal.  And now that I have worked with the team, I know that it’s true!

What is one piece of advice you’d offer someone in high school or college considering getting into this field?

Katy: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand something, keep asking questions until you do understand. In the STEM field, each new topic tends to build on something else you’ve learned, so it’s easy to get lost. Make sure you don’t just memorize, but understand the why and how—it makes it easier to apply the concepts to real-world problems. It can be intimidating to be in a room full of smart people who all seem to get it, but I can guarantee that there are several people in the room that would be happy that you asked that question. Never stop learning!

Robin Coxe

We sat down with Robin Coxe to talk about her career path to quantum and professional advice for getting started in this field, as we celebrate her promotion to Vice President of the Control Systems Engineering team.

Tell us why you decided to join Atom Computing?

Robin: I jumped at the chance to be an early employee at a startup where I could lead a team designing state-of-the-art electronic systems, help build a company, and play a part in the next revolution of computing. My job at Atom Computing makes my somewhat unconventional career path make sense.  When I started grad school in elementary particle physics, I was under the impression that I was going to be a professor. As I was finishing my PhD, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, where the Higgs Boson was eventually discovered in 2012) was delayed by a few years, so I averted a decade-long postdoc and made the leap to industry. My first role after graduating was as a systems engineer on an imaging satellite program at an aerospace giant. I went on to spend 15 years as a digital logic designer, primarily focused on wireless telecom. Prior to joining Atom Computing, I was the R&D manager for the Ettus Research software-defined radio product line at National Instruments. At NI, I gained valuable experience leading a multidisciplinary technical team and shepherding hardware designs from conception to mass production. The key elements of the control systems for Atom’s quantum computers that interact with laser systems that cool, trap, and manipulate atomic qubits and read out quantum states happen to be technologies that I’ve spent years working on with: software-defined radios, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and image processors. We are always on the lookout for talented software, FPGA, and hardware engineers with experience in these areas.

Did you have any reservations about getting into quantum computing, even though it was a relatively new technology and market?

Robin: Not really, to be honest. It was an easy decision to join Atom Computing.  I didn’t even know enough to be dangerous about atomic physics or quantum information when I started. I was very upfront about my lack of expertise in these domains during the interview process. Fortuitously, I appeared on the scene at just the right time when Atom Computing was looking for someone with expertise in FPGA and hardware design, software-defined radio, and technical leadership.  I have a long history of learning on the job and my colleagues have made figuring things out on the fly very easy. The team members at Atom Computing are not only extremely smart and capable but also genuinely nice, humble, and willing to share their knowledge. Having a Ph.D. in physics is not a prerequisite to join the Control Systems or Software teams here. We are the Non-Quantum Engineers of Atom Computing– hurrah! 

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned since working in this field?

Robin: I avoided atomic physics in college and graduate school because at the time it seemed boring. Working at Atom Computing, I have come to appreciate that we are the beneficiaries of experimental techniques using lasers to cool, trap, and manipulate large arrays of alkaline earth atoms that are astonishingly clever and deserving of the Nobel Prizes that were awarded to the physicists who created them. I still find calculating Clebsch-Gordan coefficients very unexciting, but fortunately, that is not my job.


What gets you excited about how quantum computing could change the world? What is a problem you are passionate about that quantum computing may help solve-for in the future?

Robin: In recent years, computing industry pundits have been predicting the imminent demise of Moore’s Law as transistor sizes approach limits where quantum mechanical effects can no longer be ignored. I am of the opinion that any self-respecting Bay Area tech person should be wildly excited by the promise of quantum computing to target classes of problems that cannot be solved in tractable timeframes on classical computers. Quantum Moore’s Law? Yes, please!

Using quantum computers for high-energy physics simulations appeals to me because as a former particle physicist, I would like to see that sub-field of physics continue to pursue the reductionist ideal for many years to come. Practically speaking, developing quantum algorithms to solve gnarly optimization problems (i.e., “what is the most efficient way to do X?”) would be amazing – the entirety of humanity could benefit from wasting less time.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer someone considering getting into this field?

Robin: The ability to write concisely and clearly and to give coherent, compelling presentations are often overlooked superpowers in STEM jobs. Another important skill is the ability to debug things when they break by thinking both broadly and deeply, adhering to the scientific method, writing everything down, and only changing one thing at a time.

Toni Jones

We sat down with Toni Jones to talk about her passion for quantum, how important software development is, and the journey of continuous learning.

Why did you decide to get into quantum computing? What is your obsession with this field?

Toni: My background is in software development. In this discipline, you learn that software can be applied to just about any field out there. I’ve always been passionate about the sciences; the ability to develop software that brings scientific theory to life is super exciting.
Not only is quantum computing interesting from a scientific standpoint, but it’s also about creating a whole new type of computational tool. I can’t imagine a more exciting prospect for a computer enthusiast than applying their craft towards revolutionizing computing in such a novel way.

What gets you excited about how quantum computing could change the world? What is a problem you are passionate about that quantum computing may help solve-for in the future? 

Toni: I had always heard that quantum physics was weird, and the more I learn, the more I am intrigued. With a foundational knowledge of physics, I think most of us assume we have a pretty good feeling for how most natural processes should play out. However, quantum physics takes what we think we know and flips it on its head. What we take for granted as “intuitive” can just be flat-out wrong. For me, this puts some wonder back into the universe. Luckily for us, quantum “weirdness” can be harnessed to work for us. 

Tell me why you chose to work at Atom Computing?

Toni: What initially drew me to Atom Computing was my desire to work on new types of challenges, and apply myself to an interesting and impactful field. The size of the company, and the variety of technical requirements involved, enables a lot of opportunities for challenging myself. I also knew some of the engineers working at Atom Computing which gave me a great sense of confidence in the culture and quality of the team. Now I work with a phenomenal group of coworkers, spanning many disciplines. My respect for the team continues to grow and their passion for quantum is infectious!
What is one piece of advice you'd offer someone in high school or college considering getting into this field?

Toni: Everyone’s journey will be a little different. Never let what you do not yet understand scare you off. There will always be so much more to learn. Success isn’t about knowing everything. It’s about knowing the fundamentals, building on those whenever you can, and finding time to make learning a continuous journey.
Throughout my career, I’ve often been faced with new technical challenges. And while they are intimidating at first, getting out of your comfort zone is a part of learning. Instead of doubting yourself by asking “Should I know this?”, approach the situation as an opportunity to add to your expertise. Leaning into challenges is the best way to develop yourself and get to where you want to be.

Remy Notermans

We sat down with Remy Notermans to talk about his passion for quantum, how he got started in the field and advice for those considering a career path in quantum engineering. 

Why did you decide to get into quantum computing? What is your obsession with this field?

Remy: When I first started seriously reading up on quantum computing - about 5 years ago - I realized that from an engineering standpoint we are on the brink of building useful machines. There were already some very exciting results and advancements in the field, but it wasn’t clear to me how anyone would be able to dramatically increase the number of qubits. As this problem was festering in the back of my mind for a year or so I happened to get in touch with the founders Atom Computing: Ben Bloom and Jonathan King. They laid out their strategy for building a platform that would be able to scale the qubit numbers across many orders of magnitude; and with my experience of the optical, atomic physics and engineering involved, it didn’t take much to convince me about the feasibility of their ideas.
I simply had to join this company and take part in the exciting journey of creating a truly scalable quantum computing platform. It is extremely energizing to realize that I’m working in an industry where many landmark breakthroughs are bound to happen - and already have happened.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned since working in this field?

Remy: One of the most striking things to me is that despite the variety of technologies involved with the development of the physical platforms, the hardware and software stacks are developing to a point where a user - looking from the top down - can be fully unaware of the physical platform and just think about the abstract quantum circuits they want to run or the mathematical problem they want to solve. As I work at the lower end of the stack I am seeing how we map these very physical platforms and processes to abstract mathematical operations and algorithms. This is one of the most interesting and fascinating things I’m learning in this field.

What gets you excited about how quantum computing could change the world? What is a problem you are passionate about that quantum computing may help solve-for in the future? 

Remy: Pharmaceutical applications are the most exciting commercial application for me personally because it could push pharmaceutical R&D forward at unprecedented rates. This would have two potentially major advantages: access to medication that was previously thought to be impossible to develop, and reduced R&D times leading to cheaper medication.
But I’m also still a physicist, and I can’t stop wondering about fundamental physics or mathematical problems that can be investigated with quantum computers. Major breakthroughs in science and technology have often been driven by unguided and curiosity-driven research -- so enabling quantum computing to be a broadly available resource will inevitably lead to new revelations. I take pride in knowing that I’m playing a (arguably very small) part in this.

Tell me why you chose to work at Atom Computing?

Remy:When my conversations with Ben and Jonathan started to be very serious, Atom Computing had just hired its first employee. I felt like I could get along very well with the three of them. There was a very sensible, no-nonsense approach to the technical challenges ahead of us. It was the typical start-up promise: the goals will be ambitious but not impossible. I was motivated by the opportunity to watch the company grow, while having the ability to learn about the many different aspects of how a small company is run. Additionally, I was energized by being a part of the development of the company’s first quantum computing platform.

When I joined the company our meetings were in a coffee shop, and private meetings took place by walking around the block. It was the quintessential start-up experience combined with a very strong desire to be part of something that was in its early stages that lured me in. We are doing some promising work here to make quantum real.

What is one piece of advice you'd offer someone in high school or college considering getting into this field?

Remy: Software skills are the name of the game. Yes, you can go to grad school and specialize in any of the fields that would improve your chances in the quantum computing industry. However, for any role on the engineering side you will be expected to write software. That could be software to build features, to analyze data, or to automate parts of a system. If you can manage to combine a physical sciences study with computer science (it doesn’t have to be a 50/50 split), you will have a competitive advantage. This will improve your ability to quickly integrate into new teams and increase your job mobility.
On a more personal level: If you are curious and interested in quantum computing, the best way to learn more is to reach out to researchers or companies! Most people (like me) are happy to set aside time to talk about their jobs and to provide advice. The worst case scenario, you simply learn about someone’s job. The best case scenario, you build a connection with someone who can offer career advice or even guide you to an opportunity down the road. It can be somewhat intimidating to reach out to strangers, however, it does get easier the more you do it. In my experience, responses will often be overwhelmingly positive.

Mickey McDonald

We sat down with Mickey McDonald to talk about his passion for quantum, how he got started in the field and advice for those considering a career path in quantum engineering. 

Why did you decide to get into quantum computing? What is your obsession with this field?

Mickey: I originally got into quantum physics because I loved the idea that experimentalists could build machines to tackle a huge variety of really fundamental questions.

In my own PhD I helped build an experiment designed to answer basic questions like “Are the fundamental constants of nature really constant?” and “Does the law of gravity break down at small length scales?” But since graduating, I’ve started to realize that asking questions is only half the fun - actually applying what you learn to build something useful can be hugely rewarding too.

It’s taken us nearly a hundred years after the  discovery of quantum mechanics, but we’re finally at a point where we understand the theory well enough to be able to leverage its ideas to build truly amazing machines like quantum computers.  And once we figure out how to assemble large enough arrays of qubits with low enough error rates, quantum computers are going to emerge as a paradigm-shifting technology.

The idea of being part of that technological revolution was just too exciting to pass up, so I couldn’t turn down the chance to be part of a team working to make it happen.

What is one key thing you’ve learned since working in this field?

Mickey: I learn something new every single day! And frankly, I enjoy that journey of constant learning. I did feel a little of the imposter syndrome when I first joined Atom Computing  - I had basically zero coding experience, and I didn’t really know anything about how quantum computing actually worked. But I’ve learned to embrace that uncomfortable feeling of “not knowing”, because that’s the first step towards having to ask questions and learn something new. It’s so important to surround yourself with amazingly-talented people that can help push you out of your comfort zone, people you can learn from. I find it extremely energizing to work with a group of brilliant people who share that same passion for learning - and who are just as excited as I am to be making quantum computing a reality.

What gets you excited about the possibilities of how quantum computing could change the world? What is a problem you are passionate about that quantum may help solve-for in the future? 

Mickey: I've always been excited by the idea that we might be able to design complex, quantum-mechanical materials from first principles. The traditional way of discovering new, useful materials or drugs has typically been to accidentally make some unusual thing, or harvest some weird thing from nature, and then subject that new, weird thing to tests to discover what it ultimately might be useful for. 

Quantum computing has the opportunity to flip that discovery process on its head. For example, it would be great to approach a problem from the perspective of  "I need a material which does X, subject to Y constraints", and then go solve a very complicated math problem to figure out how to make it. Having access to useful quantum computing machines I think will make those types of workflow scenarios a reality. That’s the kind of problem solving I’m most excited about quantum computers being able to unlock in the future.
Tell me why you chose to work at Atom Computing, and what was appealing about working at a start-up?

Mickey: When I joined Atom there were only a half dozen employees and we were building something we still weren't entirely sure would work. I love being in that kind of environment where every single person on the team has a huge impact on whether the thing you're trying to build will end up being successful. 

I have a fierce passion for problem-solving and I get to flex those muscles every day in different ways. Working for a start-up offers the ability to test out new ideas, move fast, and problem solve along the way. 

I also really believe in our technology platform. There are a lot of really difficult problems to solve en route to having a useful quantum computer, and high on that list is the ability to scale. We already know that neutral atoms can make great qubits, but what’s even more exciting to me is the fact that we have a clear path forward for how to scale to truly huge numbers of them. That gives us an opportunity to potentially leapfrog other platforms, and that’s a really exciting place to be.
What is one piece of advice you'd offer someone in high school or college considering getting into this field?

Mickey: Study hard, build things, have fun learning math and science, and never stop asking questions! (Sorry, I guess that’s four pieces of advice…)

A lot of my job involves thinking hard about quantum mechanics, but that's actually only perhaps 5% of my time. I spend the great majority of my time building stuff, experimenting with lasers and atoms, problem-solving a million different things, and figuring out ways to write code that will make life easier for me and my fellow engineers. 

I think the most important qualities to being a successful quantum engineer include being genuinely curious, having a strong drive to understand the way things work, and having a relentless passion for solving problems.