With $1.5 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Physics and Astronomy and the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics are spearheading pre-college exposure to quantum information science. Their project, Quantum Education for Students and Teachers program (QuEST), will advance quantum education, physical science literacy, and the diversity of the STEM pipeline by developing learning opportunities and materials in quantum information science and its applications.
Principal Investigator Angela Kelly leads the project, along with co-PIs Tzu-Chieh Wei and Dominik Schneble, in collaboration with the New York Hall of Science. They will advance quantum information science knowledge for secondary science teachers and their students in grades 8-12, with the potential of directly impacting 800 students and 160 teachers in New York City and Long Island.
The trio combines their expertise in quantum information theory, quantum simulation and physics education research. Teachers and students will not only learn the basics of quantum physics and develop their intuition, but will also gain some hands-on experience and get to know about the potential applications of quantum computing. Their participation will influence how future curricula can effectively incorporate quantum knowledge and how teachers will engage in related instruction.
“We are excited about implementing the QuEST project,” said Schneble. “Quantum mechanics is usually regarded as difficult to understand; even the legendary physicist Richard Feynman once said, ‘I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.’”
Kelly added, “If we expose students at an early stage to the wonders of quantum physics and its potential applications in quantum information science and technology, they will develop better intuition and become fluent in quantum reasoning. Crucially, involving teachers in our QuEST project will empower them to guide their students and incorporate topics in quantum physics and quantum information science in their teaching.”
Since the major goal of the project is to broaden quantum education through a collaboration of Stony Brook University with regional school districts, Kelly, Schneble and Wei have designed specific goals that promote critical thinking, reasoning, and communication skills, as well as student awareness and interest in quantum science careers and academic pathways.
This QuEST project also speaks to the Institute for STEM Education’s (I-STEM) mission to advance knowledge in quantum education, particularly in terms of impacts on traditionally underserved populations. QuEST develops research-based practices in pre-college quantum science and computing instruction that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.
“This is an exciting moment, considering this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three scientists who pioneered the field of quantum information,” Wei said. “There are many stories that we can share with teachers and students. The QuEST project is part of our effort to expand quantum education at Stony Brook to broader audiences.”
Wei added that, in addition to training PhD students in doing research in quantum information science, Stony Brook University is also launching a master’s program in quantum information science and technology. “We have seen a lot of excitement about quantum information science on our campus, across the nation, and globally.”