Working in Quantum. Insights and behind-the-scenes with ParityQC’s Federico Dominguez
Our Working in Quantum interview series puts the spotlight on the people that are part of the flourishing quantum computing industry. Our latest interview is with Federico Dominguez, Quantum Software Engineer at ParityQC. Federico is a physicist from Argentina, now based in Munich and working on ParityQC’s collaborative projects in Germany, primarily QuaST, but also MUNIQC-Atoms, MUNIQC-SC, QSolid and ATIQ.
What’s your role at ParityQC?
I work at ParityQC as a quantum software engineer. The company is part of many consortia in Germany pursuing the development of quantum computer demonstrators. These projects are huge, include many partners from industry and universities, and work with different hardware platforms such as cold atoms, trap ions and superconducting qubits. My role within these projects is to find ways to improve the Parity Architecture by taking advantage of the special features that each experimental platform provides.
Tell us about the path that led you to working in quantum computing
I have been puzzled by quantum physics since I was young, so I have always looked for jobs related to it. I never really planned my career path, but always tried to be open to possibilities. Quantum computing simply appeared along the way. After a sabbatical during the pandemic, I started looking for postdoc positions and found so many companies, so many people working in quantum computing that I thought, okay, this is getting serious, it would be awesome to be part of this!
What fascinated you the most about physics that you chose to continue your studies to the postdoc level? What knowledge were you looking to gain?
I suppose it was a lot of things. In my postdoc in Argentina, I had the opportunity to work with world class Nuclear Magnetic Resonance equipment, which was very appealing to me. My current position also gives me the chance to be close to developments in cutting-edge technologies, which is definitely fascinating to me. I mean, people move and control individual atoms, it’s crazy!
What did you enjoy the most about your teaching experience, especially in the science popularization programs of the Ministry of Science of Argentina?
All in all, it was one of the coolest and most enriching experiences I have ever had. I had the opportunity to travel around Argentina, visiting science fairs and advising science clubs about their work, mainly children and teenagers but also adults. It is very nice to see how people from all over the country self-organize to push scientific projects, many of them related to local issues such as environmental protection, crime, health or drug addiction, but also pure science projects, or even crazy (and adorable) speculations about aliens and Egyptian pyramids. Doing science with kids is the best, they are full of energy and curiosity.
You completed your studies in Argentina, a country that is very far from Germany in terms of geography but also culturally. Have you found a different way of researching, approaching problems, and cooperating, between the two countries?
I don’t know if the cultural gap is that big, after all, Latin America has been greatly influenced by Western culture and European immigration (in fact, in my province, Cordoba, they also celebrate Oktoberfest!). Before coming, I was afraid that people might be cold, or distant, but I have been super happy to find friendly co-workers. What is new for me is the scale of the projects, here I am working on very large projects, which involve many partners and require stricter planning.
What are you busy with right now?
I am now fully engaged in writing a problems library, that is, a collection of quantum solutions to many interesting problems related to logistics, chemistry and other industries. It’s mostly about dealing with maths, and finding simplified representations of the problems in terms of qubits. This work is part of QuaST, a project funded by the German government that develops tools to facilitate end-user access to quantum technologies, without requiring detailed knowledge of quantum mechanics. We are also working in other consortia, such as MUNIQC-Atoms, MUNIQC-SC, QSolid and ATIQ. These projects aim to develop quantum computer demonstrators, using different hardware platforms: cold atoms, superconducting qubits and trapped ions. It is very interesting to see how the ParityQC Architecture can be adapted to platforms that are so different.
What has the experience of working at ParityQC taught you so far?
In addition to tons of technical stuff, I’m learning how large and ambitious projects require intense planning, but also continuous evaluation, and even turnarounds. I also feel like I’m learning a lot about communication. People in general are super busy with many different things, and that’s why it’s important to think clearly before speaking, what is the main idea I want to communicate? How much does the other person know about this project? With so many things to do, it’s impossible for someone to know everything that’s going on.
What advice would you give to someone with a background in physics looking to enter the quantum computing industry?
I would recommend that they think carefully about their background and how it can be useful in a quantum computing position. Most of us, after our PhD, become narrowly focused on our projects and lose sight of the big picture. Also, we tend to think that everyone will easily understand what we have done, and that is not the case at all! If you have a background in physics, chances are you have important skills that will be appreciated in the industry at large. Take some time to think about what you have done, how it relates to the positions you are applying for, and how you can explain it to others briefly and clearly. And always talk to people, friends, co-workers, professors, discuss your plans, be open to suggestions and opportunities that may arise.
What are the tools of the trade, that someone looking to enter this sector should learn? Programs as well as written resources that were helpful to you.
The field is broad and, therefore, there are many options available. In my case, I took online courses from QWorld that helped me relate my experience with Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to the language of quantum computing. I also use YouTube to watch many presentations of the best research in this field, to learn about the latest advances and open questions. After COVID, many important physics conferences and events took place online, and are freely available.
What inspires you to come to the ParityQC office (or log in) every day?
It’s always the people, and knowing that this is a collective effort. What I do is just one small piece in a giant puzzle, but others are waiting for it.