Postdoctoral researcher at UKZN’s Centre for Quantum Technology Dr Uriri Solomon was a member of the winning team at the recent Qiskit Hackathon Global – a 24-hour virtual experience.

Solomon joined forces with teammates from the United States, Tunisia and India to take the crown in the international competition for a tool they developed for making quantum experiments reproducible, trackable and shareable.

Qiskit is a quantum software programme used to programme IBM’s quantum computers. Participants in the hackathon had the opportunity to learn about the latest updates to Qiskit, to virtually meet researchers and developers behind the product, and to create connections within the Qiskit community.

The event was the first real-time 24-hour virtual hackathon experience hosted by IBM’s Qiskit Community Team, an invitation-only event which brought together members of the quantum community for a five-day experience that included four days of training sessions and technical talks, concluding with the 24-hour hackathon where teams of three to five members, organised according to their expertise, competed for the top prize of US$1 000 each as well as individual, custom Qiskit Hackathon trophies. Teams consisted of a combination of developers, physicists, computer scientists, researchers and engineers.

Usually hosted at IBM’s general headquarters in New York City, this year’s competition went virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but still afforded participants the opportunity to network with leading international scholars in quantum computing, both from industry and from top-rated institutions of higher learning and research.

Solomon was one of only 96 participants selected from entries received from universities around the world, as well as from regional Qiskit Camp competitions. The participants were joined by 23 mentors from leading computing companies and research institutions across the globe, and by six support staff representing top information technology companies, research institutions, and IBM itself.

Solomon’s team included solutions architect Mr Iskandar Sitdikov of the United States, final-year Telecommunications Engineering student Mr Mohamed Yassine Ferjani of the National School of Electronics and Telecommunications in Tunisia, and second-year undergraduate student Mr Shashwat Shukla of the Institute of Technology in India.

Aware that the rapidly-growing field of quantum computing faces the software development consequence of technical debt including boundary erosion, hidden feedback loops, undeclared consumers, data dependencies, configuration issues, changes in the external world, and a variety of system-level anti-patterns, Solomon’s team developed a tool to enable the platform to track, share and run quantum experiments in a clean and understandable way for developers, researchers and students. To do this, they made use of QiskitFlow, which annotates and wraps code using a developed library, and enables tracking through the back end where annotated experiment code is consumed, and versions thereof are stored and shared with quantum engineers through the user interface, displaying the experimental details in a visual representation.

Solomon, an experimental physicist who obtained his PhD from UKZN, his MSc from Rhodes University and his undergraduate and honours degrees from Delta State University in Nigeria, is working on projects at the Centre for Quantum Technology that involve quantum communication, experimental open quantum systems, quantum plasmonics and quantum metamaterials, and quantum biosensing.

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Words: Christine Cuénod

 Photograph: Supplied