Womanium Quantum Computing and Entrepreneurship Program

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PhD students Lajoyce Mboning (Bouchard group) and Ashley Shin (Caram group) were part of UCLA team to win two hackathon prizes at the Womanium Quantum Computing and Entrepreneurship Program. 

Students and professionals from over 88 countries participated in the six-and-a-half week summer program, which was conducted online. 

Lajoyce Mboning and Ashley Shin were part of the UCLA Bruinium team, a group of aspiring UCLA quantum scientists (three Ph.D. and three undergraduate students) from UCLA chemistry and physics departments. The other members of the team were Changling Zhao (Campbell group from AMO physics), and Amanda Younes, Lambert Kong, and Will Wang (undergraduate students majoring in Physics). 

Mboning is a second-year chemistry and biochemistry, theory and computation graduate student in Professor Louis Bouchard’s group. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, Davis, in 2020. “Getting to participate in program was an amazing experience,” Lajoyce said. “I had the opportunity to not only make friends but most importantly learn!”.   

Shin completed her undergraduate studies in chemistry and computer science at Washington University in St. Louis in 2017, after which she conducted post-baccalaureate research at Oxford University and at the University of California, San Diego. She joined UCLA’s chemistry program in 2018, working with Professor Justin Caram. “I’ve been very fortunate to join a graduate project in qubit development, which introduced me to the exciting new field of quantum computing. I learned a lot from participating in this program and had a lot of fun with the UCLA Bruinium team!”. 

The Global Quantum Computing & Entrepreneurship Program trains students from all over the world in quantum computing software/hardware and exposes them to entrepreneurship and career opportunities. The program consisted of two parts: Part 1 (July 10 – August 5) was the Quantum Training Program, consisting of lectures, tutorials, panels and lab tours. Part 2 (August 8 – 25) was the Global Quantum Hackathon where participants showed their skills to future employers by solving their hackathon challenges.   

The UCLA Bruinium team won the “World-class Quantum chemistry with TKET” Hackathon Challenge, which was: “Your company builds hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and is interested in finding new ways for a cost-effective and compact hydrogen storage system. You are working in the research and development (R&D) department and are tasked to evaluate the feasibility to simulate the quantum state of a Lithium Hydride (LiH) molecule using a gate-based quantum device. Based on the known gate sets and the qubit coupling map, you are tasked to find the best quantum device currently available.” 

The team was also a runner up for the “start-up potential” category for the entire hackathon.   

The team’s prize-winning two-minute presentation can be viewed here.   A transcript of their presentation is below. 

The UCLA Bruinium’s Prize Winning Presentation

Problem Statement

We set out to demonstrate one of the direct applications of the near-term implementation of quantum computing in quantum chemistry simulation. A cost-effective way to simulate the potential energy of molecules would be monumental to theoretical chemistry research, with direct applications to real-life problems in environmental and energy storage chemistry. The first step to this eventual technological goal is to optimize the problem for small molecules, come up with innovative ways to design QED circuits, and expand to larger molecular systems. And for our project, we demonstrate our various approaches to simulating the potential energy surface of LiH. 

Summary of VQE Results

We successfully minimized the circuit depth in simulating LiH, as well as trouble shoot different backends. We captured the full potential energy surface of the molecule as demonstrated here with our own VQE Hamiltonian and ansatz.  

Innovative approach

In addition, we tried a new approach that would differentiate our product from other companies. Our approach is unique in that we simplified  the problem from simulating the full molecule to doing it in two pieces, representing the core and valence configurations separately to calculate the ground state energy of the full LiH molecule. This approach will scale in accuracy and cost-efficiency with larger atoms and bigger molecules.  With this team of experts with diverse backgrounds and collaborative spirit, we came up with an innovative approach to this quantum chemistry problem. Moving forward, we think a chemically informed, creative approach like our solution will lead to more innovative ways create cost-effective QED simulations of larger molecules. 


Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.