The Deggendorf Institute of Technology (DIT) is trying to do what no other university has done, offer an M.Sc. degree in quantum computing. Leading this master’s program is DIT professor Dr. Helena Liebelt. With over 15 years working in high-performance computing (HPC) at Intel, Liebelt is excited by the possibilities of this program. “I’m a tenured professor at the university,” she stated. “And one of my biggest achievements so far in that direction is the actual starting of a full-blown, quantum computing master’s program. This program is incredible, and designed to actually teach the next generation.” Currently, most other quantum education programs are provided by private companies, or when provided by universities, they involve one or two courses, but nothing as in-depth as a master’s program.
The need for quantum education is bigger than ever. With the quantum industry expanding significantly, the talent shortage is being felt by most companies. “I come from industry,” Liebelt explained. “So, I talk to my peers and everyone seems to have the same problem. We built this program jointly with industry partners to address the shortage.” While many physics degrees specialize in quantum research, Liebelt emphasizes that this master’s program will be focused on application and less on fundamental research. “We haven’t focused on quantum from the physics perspective, but more from the computational perspective.” This allows the program to also teach students HPC tools, which can complement the tools learned in quantum computing.
Liebelt’s own background gives her the right qualifications to lead this program. “I’m actually a software engineer by trade,” she said. “I started as a software developer, then software architect for a while, and so on. But then I moved into high-performance computing. I spent over a decade in that field, gradually moving towards quantum, which is basically the next evolutionary step.” With her unique background and skillset, Liebelt has found herself wearing multiple hats. Besides being a DIT professor, she continues to work at Intel, looking further into the applications of quantum computing. She finds that she enjoys having multiple roles. “It´s my take on procrastination. When you’re kind of overwhelmed or stuck in one place, you kind of switch hats, and can move in a different direction,” Liebelt said. “This gives you a new perspective and new ideas.”
Besides her industrial and academic endeavors, Liebelt also sits on the Board of Advisors for SheQuantum, an organization working to simplify quantum computing education. “We are trying to share internships and we’re trying to share research opportunities. With SheQuantum, we’re working to build a community,” she stated. From her experiences as a software engineer, and her work at SheQuantum, Liebelt is only too familiar with the need for diversity within the quantum industry. “If you look at HPC for example, the actual number of women participating is quite small,” she said. “So I’m trying to give women and any other minority, to be honest, a helping hand in entering this field. One way is to provide opportunities for these groups to access knowledge. It sounds simple, but in reality, it’s difficult still.” SheQuantum not only provides this accessible knowledge for Liebelt but also a community. “When you have this established community, like HPC for example, it can be difficult for minorities and women to enter,” she added. “So, with quantum, we’re trying to get that community to be as open as possible.”
While performing her many roles, Liebelt is thrilled to be in a position where she can watch the quantum industry grow firsthand. She is looking forward to releasing the first cohort of DIT’s master’s program this winter and hopes to make an impact in helping to educate the next generation of quantum professionals.