IQC welcomes Dr. Stephanie Simmons for influential talk on the future of quantum technologies

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Yesterday, the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) held its first Colloquium of 2023, including an opportunity to connect to our community with pre-presentation coffee and tea, and a fantastic presentation featuring Dr. Stephanie Simmons titled Silicon Colour Centres.

Dr. Simmons is a professor and Canada Research Chair at Simon Fraser University, as well as the Founder and Chief Quantum Officer of Photonic. This month, she was named co-chair of Canada’s National Quantum Strategy’s Quantum Advisory Council, alongside Dr. Raymond Laflamme, faculty member at IQC and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo, Dr. Simmons was captivated by the newly established quantum field. After reading about IQC in the newspaper as a teenager, she was motivated to learn more about quantum computing and decided to study math at Waterloo. Dr. Simmons recalls immersing herself in the community starting in 2003, just a year after IQC was founded, by joining faculty members and other students in meetings to read the latest quantum papers and findings each week. She made a point of putting herself in rooms with the leading experts in the cutting-edge field of quantum computing and worked as an undergraduate research assistant at IQC from 2006–2007.

In her Colloquium presentation, Dr. Simmons discussed the future of quantum technologies, and presented some of her current research into quantum computing using silicon colour centres. This research focused on building qubits that can take advantage of more flexible and scalable quantum error correction methods.

“It’s important to work backwards from where we want to be,” says Simmons. “We should all be engineering towards the finish line.”

Dr. Simmons’ current research focuses on optimizing long-range qubit interactions to facilitate the engineering of scalable, modular qubit systems. When networked together, these units could be used to create a system with enough qubits to create useful breakthroughs. By combining qubits in new ways that don’t rely on their proximity on a 2-dimensional surface, such as utilizing long-range interactions based on light, scientists can dramatically reduce the number of physical qubits needed in a system and thus also improve the error correction requirements for that system.

In her research, Dr. Simmons builds spin qubits out of colour centres, which are defects in silicon lattices that emit light at the same wavelength as telecommunications signals. The spins of these centres can be entangled using photons, however, since the photon itself is not the qubit, this system is less susceptible to data loss than a purely light-based approach. “Once you’re working with light, you can route it anywhere. The qubits no longer have to be right beside each other,” says Dr. Simmons. This opens new and exciting options for qubit connectivity and efficiency to pave the way for fault-tolerant quantum computing.

When Dr. Simmons started investigating the quantum world as an undergraduate student at Waterloo and spending her free time at IQC, quantum computing was still a newly emerging and developing area of inquiry. Today, she has helped lead it forward as a rich and vibrant field. “Quantum computing applications aren’t 20 years away anymore.”

IQC is proud to have been an early inspiration for Dr. Simmons’ journey in quantum and we are glad to have had the opportunity to invite her back to present the first Quantum Colloquium of 2023.


 Dr. Stephanie Simmons presenting at the front of the QNC 0101 lecture hall