Our podcast ML4Q&A

Nature is fascinating and so is physics let alone quantum physics! Join us as we delve into the lives of scientists and the complexity of their research topics. Grab a drink, hop on a bus or go for a walk and listen to the many different stories about being a scientist and basically doing something for a living only a few can understand.

Our guests are all involved in the research mission of ML4Q, a German consortium dedicated to develop the best hardware platform for quantum information technology, and provide comprehensive blueprints for a functional quantum information network.

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In the podcast’s last episode in 2023, Chris talks to ML4Q member, Julian Schmitt, leader of the junior research group “Quantum fluids of light” at the University of Bonn. Julian recently received an ERC Starting Grant as well as the ML4Q Independence Grant. In 2022, he was awarded the ML4Q Young Investigator Award honoring his contribution to the cluster’s program which particularly requires the collaboration between different sites.

Chris and Julian talk about Bose-Einstein condensates and the differences between the atomic and the photonic sort. They recap how Julian got into the atomic, molecular and optical physics (AMO) research community where major breakthroughs often seem to be possible already with relatively small teams. They also chat about how optical quantum gases can shed new light on exciting open questions in physics, such as grand canonical condensates or the interplay between quantum physics and thermodynamics.

Listen here to the full podcast episode with Julian here or using your podcatcher.

00:00:00     Intro
00:01:20     Welcome Julian
00:02:02     From photons to quantum technology – a brief history
00:11:40     Working with Bose Einstein condensates
00:18:41     BEC: cold atoms versus hot photons
00:27:50     How Julian got into AMO physics
00:30:50     Achieving scientific breakthroughs in a team of four people
00:39:12     Current research goals
00:42:47     Photon BECs in the grand canonical ensemble
00:47:58     How flexible is the photon BEC experiment?
00:51:35     The photon BEC community
00:52:46     Quantum mechanics or statistical physics?

Archive | #13 Global Quantum Leap with Steve Koester



We are excited to have our first external guest on the show. Steven Koester, Professor of Nanotechnology in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota, is joining us mainly as the Director of the Global Quantum Leap program – a network of networks including ML4Q – which provides an essential linkage between the fields of nanofabrication and quantum information sciences on an international level.

They talk about his electrical engineering background, how he got a first taste of quantum devices during his Masters studies at Notre Dame, eventually leading to his PhD work on indium arsenide. They also discuss his industry experience working at IBM.

But as a main topic, he introduces the Global Quantum Leap program and the cultural exchange it fosters in order to tackle big global challenges as in the field of quantum computing.

Steve visited Germany this summer together with three students who took part in the IRTE funding line (International Research and Training Experience) being hosted by the groups of Markus Müller, Lars Schreiber and Christoph Stampfer at RWTH Aachen University. ML4Q members and associated members are also encouraged to plan ad-hoc research-specific exchanges and visit institutions from the GQL network on an individual level.

Listen here to the full podcast episode with Steve or using your podcatcher.

00:00:00        Intro
00:01:40        Welcome Steve
00:02:47        first taste of quantum devices during Masters studies at Notre Dame
00:04:40        PhD studies at the interphase of nanofabrication, quantum physics and electrical engineering
00:07:20        studying quantum mechanics with an electrical engineering background
00:09:42        challenges with material growth of indium arsenide
00:13:46        joining IBM as a postdoc working on silicon germanium
00:18:34        integrating silicon germanium in CMOS
00:24:00        becoming professor at University of Minnesota after 14 years at IBM and working on 2D materials
00:30:35        taking on the role of the director of the Nano Facility
00:39:03        Global Quantum Leap – the network of networks
00:41:45        possibilities of funding exchange within GQL
00:48:05        partnering up with industrial R&D departments to tackle upscaling challenges

Archive | #12 Electron quantum optics with Erwann Bocquillon


In our latest episode, Chris talks to Erwann Bocquillon, ML4Q professor at the 2nd Institute of Physics at the University of Cologne who started his group in October 2021. They talk about Erwann’s educational and research journey touching upon differences between studying physics in France and Germany. They also discuss electron quantum optics and learn about Erwann’s best memory from his PhD time.

Listen here to the full podcast episode with Erwann or using your podcatcher.



00:00:00          Welcome Erwann
00:01:20          Talking about electrons
00:10:35          When did you get interested in physics?
00:16:15          Talking about Erwann’s educational path and the French academic system
00:32:40          Working on electron quantum optics during the PhD studies
00:53:00          Coming to Germany for postdoc studies and working on new materials
01:02:49          Back to Paris as a permanent researcher at CNRS
01:06:10          Starting the ML4Q professorship in Cologne

Archive | #11 How David DiVincenzo got into quantum computing



In our latest episode, we are thrilled to talk to David DiVincenzo, Director of the Institute of Theoretical Nanoelectronics at Forschungszentrum Jülich & co-founder of the Institute for Quantum Information which is a joint institute of RWTH Aachen and the Forschungszentrum. We start by listening to David’s take on different aspects of the fast developments in the field of quantum computing. Then, we take a deep dive into the mid eighties and early ninties and discuss how David started working on quantum computing before Shor’s algorithm and quantum error correction were discovered. Naturally then, him and his collaborators at IBM were ready to contribute to the developing field. We touch upon the DiVincenzo criteria and the Loss-DiVincenzo quantum dot proposal and get to know some of the mentors David was lucky to have had.

Listen here to the full podcast episode with David or using your podcatcher.

00:00:00     Intro

00:02:00     Quick questions

  • Is building a quantum computer predominantly a science or an engineering effort?
  • Name a quantum computing platform you’ve never worked on before!
  • Conceptual or technical papers?
  • How much mathematical background do you need?
  • Which quantum computer platform do you find most exciting right now?
  • Do you believe that solid state platforms will prevail on others?
  • Will their be a commercially viable application for NISQ devices?
  • Is it better to sell quantum computers or quantum computer access in a cloud?
  • Did you have important mentors in your career and how did they influence you?
  • Name one thing that you like about being a university professor and one about working in a large corporation like IBM!

00:25:43     David’s – hybrid – degree and research path

00:28:30     Transition to quantum mechanics inspired by Charles Bennet

00:31:39     PhD with Eugene Mele

00:35:00     Postdoc at Cornell University with a growing attachment to IBM

00:36:15     Joining IBM in 1985 and connecting with foundational computing and low-temprature device research (working with David Awschalom)

00:42:10     1993: turning point at IBM and first work on quantum computers

00:48:44     1993 – 1995: a fascinating time in the history of quantum computing

00:52:57     The DiVincenzo criteria

01:04:17     The Loss-DiVincenzo quantum computer proposal

Further links to topics that are mentioned during Chris’ and David’s conversation:
Archive | #10 Quantum Chemistry with Christian Gogolin and Gian-Luca Anselmetti


We continue our new season by featuring members of the cluster who are working at the intersection with other stakeholders in the larger quantum community. In this episode, we talk to Christian Gogolin and Gian Anselmetti who are in-house scientists at Covestro and associated to ML4Q. We discuss solving chemistry problems with quantum computers, research in a company setting and the PhD student-supervisor-relationship.

Listen here to the full podcast episode with Christian and Gian or using your podcatcher.

00:00:00    Intro
00:00:45    What does Covestro do and what sort of projects is undertaken in its digital R&D department?
00:02:44    How did the partnership with the University of Cologne and ML4Q come about?
00:04:45    How much effort and resources are invested at Covestro in digital R&D and what are the company’s goals and expectations from its research program?
00:10:38    @Gian: How different is it to do a PhD in industry in comparison to doing it in a university institute?
00:14:00    @Christian: How different is your career now in industry than in the academic setting?
00:18:15    Talking about Gian’s background: switching from experimental physics during the master’s project to a theory PhD project
00:23:20    What made Gian stand out among other applicants for the PhD project?
00:24:55    On setting up the codebase
00:32:36    Talking about Christian’s background: working as a PhD student with Jens Eisert in Berlin and as a postdoc at ICFO and Xanadu Quantum Computing
00:40:30    a or b? (questions were sent to Gian and Christian beforehand)

1. Are you more annoyed by people claiming that a quantum computer a) solves chemistry or b) solves problems by just trying out all possible answers?
2. Is Christian as PhD supervisor a) too close or b) too distant?
3. Should Gian spend more time on a) his code or b) reading literature?
4. Should Gian spend more time a) listening to his supervisor or b) following his own ideas?
5. Are your codes a) more performant or b) more understandable?
6. What year do you think the first commercially viable quantum computer will be available?

00:49:05    Talking about computational chemistry – in general and classically
01:00:35    Talking about quantum computational chemistry with variational algorithms
01:08:35    Between simulating the quantum computing setting on classical hardware and running algorithms on-chip using available quantum computers
01:11:00    Standing of the quantum computing department within the long established computational chemistry department


Archive | #9 Quantum (hype) control with Tommaso Calarco


In our new season we feature members of the cluster who are working at the intersection to other stakeholders in the larger quantum community. In this episode, we talk to Tommaso Calarco, Director of the PGI Institute for Quantum Control at Forschungszentrum Jülich, professor for Theoretical Physics at the University of Cologne and member of ML4Q. We discuss how he started working on apparently useless science which soon turned out to be the future of quantum. We also talk about many synergies: between theory and experiment, science and government as well as academia and rising startups in the field.

Listen here to the full podcast episode with Tommaso or using your podcatcher.

00:00:00          Intro
00:01:20          Early work in the late 90s on apparently useless physics (foundations of quantum mechanics) and recognizing the technology potential in this science
00:06:24          Are you still interested in the foundations of quantum physics today?
00:09:04          Working on neutral atoms for superconducting platforms in Innsbruck with Peter Zoller
00:11:26          How similar is the current neutral ion quantum computer to the things that you thought about 20 years ago? Talking about hyped vs. underhyped experiments
00:14:55          Working with Mikhail Lukin at Harvard University
00:16:52          Current research on quantum control theory (along with a bit of hype control) – Talking about the interwining of theory and experiment, building teams and diversifying them to cover different competencies
00:27:24          Plethora of quantum computer prototypes at Forschungszentrum Jülich and how it is influencing the future research on quantum control
[correction: note that at 00:28:40 Tommaso refers to the midterm review of ML4Q not OpenSuperQ]
00:28:26          1 or 2?
00:33:24          Politics and the background of the quantum manifesto
00:36:38          Quantum hype
00:42:13          The flagship progam and European bureaucracy
00:45:27          Was Brexit a blow? How much did research in UK suffer?
00:47:34          Synergy between EU funding programs and other national funding structures
00:50:02          Different governance dynamics in quantum research between Europe and the US
00:55:32          Quantum startups and exit strategies
01:01:38          Education in IP, entrepreneurship and economics

Archive | #8 Quantum dot spin qubits with Jan Klos


We continue to feature some of our experimental physicists. In this episode, we talk to Jan Klos, PhD student and associated member of ML4Q. Jan – who is almost done with his PhD thesis – performed his project in the group of Hendrik Bluhm and Lars Schreiber at the JARA Institute for Quantum Information. In the episode, Chris talks with Jan about going from a Master project in simulating quantum dot spin qubits to a PhD project fabricating them. They also discuss outreach, student supervision, thesis writing and working with engineers.

Listen here to the full podcast episode with Jan or using your podcatcher.

00:00:00            Intro
00:00:35            Undergraduate studies, Bachelor thesis at Fraunhofer ILT
00:02:20            Master studies in theoretical solid-state physics and quantum information at RWTH Aachen
00:05:25            Settling on the Master project with Dr. Lars Schreiber
00:07:30            Basic principle of spin qubits and quantum dots
00:09:30            Simulating quantum dot spin qubits
00:16:15            What do you enjoy more – theoretical or experimental work?
00:20:11            Getting started with the PhD project
00:22:57            Beyond silicon – talking about other materials
00:26:05            Academic silicon vs. industry silicon
00:28:49            Partnering up with engineers at the Institute of Semiconductor Electronics
00:34:45            How did you build your first quantum dot device?
00:36:48            Partnering up with industry to transfer academic know-how
00:38:20            How is your day-to-day life in the lab?
00:43:35            Supervision of Bachelor and Master students
00:49:00            1 or 2?
00:52:33            Impact of quantum dot spin qubit research on materials science
00:53:55            More quantum dots or better quantum dots?
00:54:55            Aluminum oxide or silicon oxide?
00:57:09            How does ML4Q influence PhD students
00:58:16            Outreach activities
01:00:40            Future of quantum
01:02:00            Finishing the PhD thesis
01:06:46            Plans after the PhD

Archive | #7 2D materials with Annika Kurzmann

We continue to feature some of our experimental physicists. In this episode, we talk to Annika Kurzmann, Junior Principle Investigator at RWTH Aachen and associated member of ML4Q. We discuss her work on optical quantum dots during her PhD and bilayer graphene quantum dots in her postdoc and how she is now bringing this together to detect single electron dots in graphene. We also discuss the Ruhrgebiet, tenure tracks and starting a lab during the pandemic.


Archive | #6 Semiconductor quantum photonics with Beata Kardynal



We continue to feature some of our experimental physicists. In this episode, we talk to Beata Kardynal, group leader at Forschungszentrum Jülich and at RWTH Aachen. We discuss her career and her training in electronic devices to using these devices to couple to single photons. She reveals her favorite materials and how she didn’t see a strong distinction between physics and engineering from the start.


Archive | #5 Superconducting quantum computers with Rami Barends




ML4Q&A now moves on to feature some of our experimental physicists and we start with Rami Barends, recently appointed head of the Institute for Functional Quantum Systems at Forschungszentrum Jülich and associated member of ML4Q. Chris Dickel (postdoc in the Ando lab) prepared for our listeners a great outline touching upon different topics in Rami’s career and research experience. He starts off talking about his research on superconducting circuits and the long way from his PhD work on superconducting detectors for astrophysics to demonstrating beyond classical computation with superconducting qubits at Google. Chris also didn’t miss out on getting some impressions about the differences Rami experienced in conducting research in acadmia as opposed to his time at Google.


Archive | #4 Theory of topological quantum matter with Kathrin Dorn



ML4Q&A continues featuring theoretical physicists in ML4Q. In the fourth episode, Federico Grasselli (Postdoc, Bruss group) speaks to Kathrin Dorn, PhD student in the group of Reinhold Egger, head of the Institute for Theoretical Physcs IV in Düsseldorf. They talk about Kathrin’s PhD project and how she started off to combine maths, physics and arts in her studies and ended up in analyzing theoretical aspects in topological insulators.


Archive | #3 Quantum key distribution with Dagmar Bruss



ML4Q&A continues featuring theoretical physicists in ML4Q. In the third episode, Kathrin Dorn (PhD student, Egger group) speaks to Dagmar Bruss, professor at the Institute for Theoretical Physcs III in Düsseldorf. They talk about Dagmar’s passion about quantum information theory, how a coffee break in Oxford changed her research focus to quantum key distribution, her experience with the impostor phenomenon and how she got involved in a supercosmos project in astronomical technology.



Archive | #2 Quantum information theory and many-body theory with David Gross


ML4Q&A continues featuring theoretical physicists in ML4Q. In the second episode, Chris Dickel is talking to David Gross, professor in Cologne and vice spokesperson of the ML4Q cluster. David’s research interests lie on the application of rigorous mathematical methods to problems in quantum information theory and many-body theory. We talk about his career path, advising student projects in theoretical physics, teaching quantum mechanics and the Google event he was probably never invited to.


Archive | #1 Quantum control in ultracold atoms with Martino Calzavara
In the first episode, we are talking to Martino Calzavara, a PhD researcher in the PGI-8 Institute for Quantum Control at the Forschungszentrum Jülich. We talk about him moving to Germany for his PhD and learning German, his experiences in academia as part of ML4Q as well as ultracold atom systems and how quantum control could help to cool these. We also talk about his simulations of these systems and machine learning, conferences in the times of a pandemic and Italian Pannetone vs. Pandoro. We also prepared this short video to give you a taste of the full episode.

What is ML4Q&A?


In our podcast series ML4Q&A we want to give researchers in the cluster the opportunity to explain their research activities to the scientific community and the scientifically interested public. We will talk about specific projects, but also about how the field of quantum technology is evolving and how it is to be part of this field. The podcast is going to feature the work of members in and close to ML4Q in different academic positions.

Why podcasting?


Because voice is the new thing! Well, this may be part of it, but we also want to offer content in different formats and make the travel sessions between the different locations of ML4Q – now that traveling is finally possilble again – more interesting by giving you something to listen to.

How often will episodes be released?
  Just make sure to subscribe to the podcast on your podcatcher and you will know whenever there is a new episode out for you 😉
What do you think? Do you have any suggestions for guests and topics?
Then write us an email to: ml4q-outreach(at)uni-koeln.de