IQC Celebrates National Engineering Month

Monday, March 20, 2023
National Engineering Month

Did you know that March is National Engineering Month in Canada?  

The Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) is proud to have a multidisciplinary community comprised of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians that work side-by-side to advance the field of quantum information science and technology. 

This month, IQC is celebrating engineering excellence by recognizing some of our amazing members from the University of Waterloo’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In sharing their backgrounds, research achievements, and personal experiences, we hope to highlight the important roles of engineers in quantum information science and technology and the impact that they have in our society. 

Michal Bajcsy

Dr. Michal Bajcsy 

Faculty, Institute for Quantum Computing  
Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo 

Dr. Michal Bajcsy joined IQC and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as a professor in 2014, after earning his PhD in Applied Physics from Harvard University and working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab at Stanford University. He also spent several years as a visiting student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

In Bajcsy’s Nano-Photonics and Quantum Optics Laboratory at IQC, his group of experimental researchers focuses on the development and studies of novel forms of light-matter and photon-photon interactions as well as their applications using nanophotonic structures such as photonic-crystal slabs, metasurfaces, and hollow-core optical fibers, combined with quantum emitters like laser-cooled atoms, quantum dots, and color centers in diamond. In particular, he is interested in interfacing different quantum platforms such as quantum-dot based single-photon sources with atomic quantum memories, or microwave photons from superconducting qubits with optical networks.   

“Many of my research projects are based on ‘hybrid’ ideas that combine research areas which don’t traditionally overlap, such as nanophotonics, cold atoms, and machine learning.” 

Besides his main research in quantum optics and nanophotonics, Bajcsy also explores the use of field-effect transistors based on doped graphene-oxide gel as biosensors capable of early detection of pathogens and biomarkers.

Katie McDonnell

Dr. Katie McDonnell 

Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Quantum Computing
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo 

Katie McDonnell attended the University of Glasgow where she earned her undergraduate degree in maths and physics, followed by her master’s degree in nanoscience at the University of Strathclyde. Preferring experimental work over theory, McDonnell then continued her research in the optics-based labs at Strathclyde, which led to earning a PhD in quantum optics and atomic physics.

At IQC, McDonnell works as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Michael Reimer and Dr. Michal Bajcsy on an experimental project that aims to interface cold atoms and quantum dots to create a hybrid quantum repeater, a system which divides long quantum communication distances into several smaller segments, each of which has its own unique quantum encryption. The techniques utilized in creating a hybrid repeater allow the researchers to convert the wavelengths of single photons or to store light in the atom, using the atom as a quantum memory.  

“Working in quantum technologies brings people together from various disciplines, including engineering and physics, all of which are necessary to advance the field. While my background is in physics, I now conduct research in the Faculty of Engineering and bring a different set of skills to the work. It is such a wonderful opportunity for me to gain experience in engineering and to further collaborative research in quantum.” 

McDonnell volunteers with IQC’s scientific outreach initiatives, having recently offered her time to teach a group of visiting high school students about quantum key distribution. She also gave a lecture on quantum computing at the University of Waterloo’s Renison University College for non-native English speakers who were interested in coming to the University of Waterloo for their studies. 

Ben Jarvis-Frain

Ben Jarvis-Frain 

MASc Student, Institute for Quantum Computing 
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo 

Ben Jarvis-Frain completed his undergraduate degree in engineering physics at McMaster University, where he established his multidisciplinary knowledge of engineering and applied physics. While earning his BEng, he focused on the areas of electrical engineering, nano-device engineering, and theoretical physics; all of which he now uses in his everyday research as a master’s student at IQC. 

Jarvis-Frain's research, supervised by Dr. Christopher Wilson, looks at superconducting circuits for quantum information processing and quantum simulation. A major focus of his research is developing better ways to measure and interpret the behaviour of superconducting circuits; due to the extremely sensitive nature of these circuits, this is no straightforward task. A great deal of time is dedicated to considering each component in the experimental set ups as well as creating custom algorithms for measurement and data analysis, to both obtain observations and understand them. 

“Being an engineer at the cutting edge of technology really feels like one of the most exciting jobs in the world. I get to study some of the most fascinating ideas that scientists are currently thinking about, and then go into a lab and actually bring these ideas to life.” 

This year, Jarvis-Frain was awarded an Engineering Excellence Fellowship from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo in recognition of his academic performance. He is honoured to have received this award and it has been a great help in supporting his research activities at IQC. 

Sarah Odinotski

 Sarah Odinotski 

MASc Student, Institute for Quantum Computing 
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo 

Sarah Odinotski earned her Honours Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) degree in nanotechnology engineering and completed the Certificate in Co-operative Education in Research program at the University of Waterloo. In this unique program, which she recommends to any students who want to pursue work in research-focused positions, Odinotski zeroed in on the areas of microfabrication, nano-electronics, and nano-medicine. She chose nanotechnology engineering because of the creativity, problem-solving, and personal enrichment that takes place in this inspiring and interdisciplinary environment. 

“I think engineering is an exciting field because it allows us to focus on creative ways that we can translate theories into practical tools which benefit society. My advice for anyone wanting to pursue engineering would be to keep an open mind and embrace your failures, because that’s where we learn the most!” 

Now a master’s student in Dr. Michael Reimer’s lab, Odinotski is developing a single photon detector for biophotonic applications, a research area that combines biology and photonics to study the optical processes in natural and engineered materials. She enjoys working toward translational research that will be accessible and beneficial to the public. Shifting her career towards medical device design revealed the direct impact that lab work can have on people’s wellbeing and quality of life. 

In 2021, Odinotski was named the Engineering Co-op Student of the Year at Waterloo as well as the Kitchener-Waterloo Woman of the Year in the Young Adult division. To date, Odinotski has helped design and create two point-of-care sensors; a hydrogel-based pH biosensor, for which she has a pending US Patent; as well as a cortisol biosensor, for which her design team received the Norman Esch Entrepreneurship Award. She hopes that these achievements are only the start of the impact she will have as she continues her master's degree research at IQC.