Women in Quantum Series: Anna Naden of the Chicago Quantum Computing Revival

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For some people, quantum technology, specifically quantum computing, can be a reason to get together. That’s what happened for Anna Naden, a transgender woman in her early 70’s, who decided to start a community meetup group focusing on quantum computing. “I studied physics in my youth,” she explained. “Then I became a software developer, and so I was involved with computers most of my life.” She took a break from physics for a few years while focusing on computers, only to return to it after she retired. “I had heard about quantum computing on the internet, and got tired of studying alone.” She knew there were people in her community who also wanted to learn more about quantum computing.

Naden started the quantum computing group in Chicago, before the pandemic. “I invited people to the building where I live and gave presentations on quantum computing and physics. Quantum computing stands at the intersection of physics, math, and computer science, which are three of my strongest interests.” She named the Meetup group the Chicago Quantum Computing Revival. The group currently boasts around 270 members and has frequent meetings to discuss aspects of quantum computing, including entanglement, the quantum internet, and qubits. Naden found the group to be so popular that last June she started a second quantum computing group.

Besides leading the Chicago Quantum Computing Revival and her second new group, Naden is busy with other activities relating to quantum. “I make YouTube videos. I’ve made about half a dozen now. A lot of them have been simulations of entanglement, where I’ll use a simulator, just to demonstrate that entanglement works,” Naden added. “The last one I did was a quantum repeater like you’d have in the quantum internet, demonstrating that you can reconstruct the transmitted qubit at the destination.” Using her experience as a software developer, Naden has been able to use her YouTube videos as part of her talks at the Chicago Quantum Computing Revival. She also works to bring in guest speakers to talk about the industry as a whole. Because her groups have grown in size, she’s found a receptive community to quantum computing within the Chicago area.

Naden has also been able to use her coding skills in working with open-source quantum computing software. “They’re called Q-Algebra and QuTiP,” she explained. “For QuTiP, I’m doing documentation, because I want to learn about the system before I dive into the coding.” QuTiP offers free software to anyone interested in learning about quantum mechanics and dynamics. Since its inception in 2013, QuTiP has been influential in helping the global community better understand quantum. It’s had hundreds of thousands of downloads from around the world. The software itself runs on Python, which is used by many coders including Naden.

As a transgender woman working in the quantum industry, Naden has experienced the lack of diversity first-hand. “My Meetup group is around 95% male-identifying and all the regulars are,” she said. “I feel the lack of diversity. I’m a transgender woman in the industry, I want to see more people like me. I think women have a unique contribution to make, maybe, in some cases, a more collaborative work style.” Naden believes that in order to best implement this diversity, individuals should be seen as role models. “Technology is mentally demanding, and if we can see people that are role models, or people that we feel we can relate to and identify with, it just makes the thinking, the analysis, the coding, or the study easier, and any ideas can flow.”

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Kenna Hughes-Castleberry

Science Communicator at JILA

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