Ohio State-led QuSTEAM initiative to transform U.S. quantum education

Posted: October 28, 2020

The Ohio State University leads a group of scientists and engineers from five universities across the Midwest in an effort to redesign quantum science education, working together with industry and national laboratories to develop a diverse, capable and effective quantum workforce.

Zahra Atiq
Zahra Atiq

The new, multi-institutional program, QuSTEAM: Convergent Undergraduate Education in Quantum Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Convergence Accelerator, aims to change how quantum information science and technology is taught throughout the U.S.

The rapidly evolving field of quantum information science will enable transformative technologies that will have significant impact on our economy and society. Reaching that promise, however, requires developing a large quantum-ready workforce that can meet growing demand for skilled workers across the communications, optics, computing and materials industries.

“Quantum information science is a shift in the way technology works,” said Ezekiel Johnston-Halperin, professor in Ohio State’s Department of Physics and the project’s lead investigator. “That requires a fundamentally different skillset and knowledge base than a traditional STEM degree offers, and as a result, we need a new educational approach for training a quantum-ready workforce.”

Along with Johnston-Halperin, QuSTEAM's Ohio State contingent includes: co-PI Andrew Heckler, professor of physics and physics education research specialist; Zahra Atiq, assistant professor of practice, computer science and engineering; David Delaine and Emily Dringenberg, assistant professors of engineering education; Edward Fletcher, associate professor of educational studies in the College of Education and Human Ecology; and Chris Porter, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics.

“The goal of this project is to develop a revolutionary curriculum that will provide a model for the national education of those who will lead the emerging field of quantum information science and technology that integrates best practices for inclusiveness and convergent disciplinarity,” said Dringenberg.

David Delaine
David Delaine

The three engineering professors will bring theoretical and methodological expertise to the core research team. Specifically, they will support implementation of data collection via focus groups and surveys across stakeholders from academia, industry, and the national lab system to determine teaching and learning needed to develop a diverse quantum workforce. Atiq, Delaine and Dringenberg also will help develop data analysis plans and provide insight on how diversity, inclusion and equity remain a challenge in the development of STEM curriculum.

QuSTEAM will develop modules built around single concepts that can be arranged to shape an array of educational paths — from bachelor’s and associate’s degrees to certificates and minors.

The modular curriculum would provide educational opportunities for two- and four-year institutions, minority-serving institutions and industries. It addresses the need for diversity and inclusion in both STEM education and the STEM workforce, systematically building a structure that works to undo barriers that have historically limited inclusivity. By incorporating content beyond traditional STEM disciplines and gearing the modules toward project-based evaluation to broaden participation, QuSTEAM aims to focus on inclusivity while confronting and dismantling longstanding biases in order to advance diversity

Emily Dringenberg
Emily Dringenberg

across STEM fields.

“Turning out large numbers of high-quality undergraduates who excel in their fields and have a significant impact in the economy is something Ohio State and our partners do well already,” Johnston-Halperin said. “Quantum information science is a rapidly growing field and we are positioned to be early actors with the opportunity to innovate in a way that will serve the whole community. The QuSTEAM group is optimally positioned to fill that urgent need.”

based on College of Arts and Sciences article