Rene: Hi! Welcome to Season 2 of QuBites, your bite sized pieces of quantum computing. My name is Rene from Valorem Reply and today we're going to talk about the Unitary Fund. And I'm honored to have a special expert guest today which you might actually remember from the previous episodes Dr. Sarah Kaiser. Hi Sarah, welcome to the show! How are you and what are you wearing around your neck?
Sarah: Hey everybody! Yeah, in my non-quantum time I like making jewelry with laser cutters. So this happens to be a circuit diagram that basically makes an entangled pair, but as jewelry. So, even in my spare time it can get a little entangled.
Rene: I love it! Entangled, alright that is just fantastic! Thanks for setting it up today and as usual you look great, even without the necklace but this is just the icing on the cake, thank you, thank you so much. So for those who didn't see some of our previous episodes with Dr. Sarah Kaiser, Sarah can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as it relates to quantum computing?
Sarah: Yeah sure! So, I have a PhD in quantum computing. I did experimental quantum optics stuff, building lasers and robots for space quantum communication and now I work as a quantum software developer on a lot of different open source projects at the Unitary Fund. And I also do a lot of, I'm really passionate about helping people learn about quantum computing and learn how they can get involved. So I've written a number of books and I stream on Twitch live coding, literally just me writing quantum programs and software, and you can watch me make all of the semicolon mistakes.
Rene: Well, you’re just amazing, you’re sharing all the knowledge! And folks, make sure to join her Twitch channel, or to subscribe rather. And also follow her on Twitter and I hear a book is about to come out or maybe its already out but make sure to check out Sarah’s quantum computing book. But let’s dive into today’s topics. You mentioned the Unitary Fund already and then you’re working on a bunch of open source projects. What is the unitary fund actually all about and what are you doing there?
Sarah: Yeah, so I'm a technical staff and quantum community lead at Unitary Fund. And we kind of have two main missions. We’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which I think is really cool because I've always wanted to work at a nonprofit but don't usually see tech developer and nonprofit in the same space. So, we do two things, one we run a microgrant program where we basically give out $4,000 US grants to projects that we think will help build up the quantum open source ecosystem. So, like our main mission here is to make sure we can enable quantum technologies for everyone on all platforms in all spaces. So, we want to help actually fund projects that we think are going to benefit that ecosystem that maybe don't exactly fit into academic grant funding or industry interest. And the other thing that we do is we have our own research lab called the Unitary Labs and given the experience that we have funding microgrant projects and just kind of staying on top of the buzz in quantum open source, we can see where there might be some things that are missing or that we think would be really helpful to the ecosystem. So, that's basically where Unitary Labs comes in. And so far we have one project called MITIQ which is an error mitigation library. It's in Python and works with a bunch of different backends like Qiskit, Quil, Cirq, etc. and basically allows you to take quantum circuits that you might want to run on NISQ sort of devices and implement our package, that implements kind of a middle layer of doing error mitigation so that possibly the circuit or program that you've been wanting to run might run a little bit better. So, yeah it's kind of a really interesting research problem in space both for me personally and I think for the field more generally because, yeah, we want to make we want to make quantum computers useful, right?
Rene: Yeah, and this is open source, right? And so, this is not just about creating this but actually also sharing it with the whole community out there and that's just fantastic! Because if we all share our knowledge together, we all benefit from it in the end. And that's why we both actually love open source so much, right? That we can collaborate nicely together and also enable things and people in particular, right? Enable people that might not be able otherwise to work on these kind of things. So love it, that's great. And Unitary Fund, I mean the name has some meaning and especially in the quantum computing context, right? So, can you tell, just for our audience, to make sure we're all on the same page, what does Unitary actually mean in the quantum computing context?
Sarah: Yeah, our tagline is ‘Evolution is Unitary’, but the term in quantum computing it's basically the mathematical term to describe quantum operation. Like any valid quantum operation which basically also have the property of being reversible. So, like the Hadamard and CNOT, these are all unitary operations that you can apply. But yeah, we kind of see it as you know this is how we get to the next level, this is how we kind of evolve the quantum ecosystem to the next step. So, yeah, that's kind of the meta behind our name.
Rene: Gotcha. So for our audience, how can people get involved in the Unitary Fund? I think there are some grant opportunities like these microgrants, or even of course the money needs to come in somewhere. So also, sponsorship and donations and all of that are also possible. So, how can people get involved?
Sarah: Absolutely, yeah. So, probably the first and foremost way is to hop on our Discord. So, we have a pretty active Discord where we're working on a bunch of projects that we [the Unity Fund] is working on, but any of our grantees or anyone who's working on quantum open source, can find a lot of other people who are probably working in the same language as you or using the same packages, and ask questions. You know, along with our Unitary Labs development, we actually do our sprint standups every week and milestone reviews, all in public. So, if you are curious as to what the software development cycle looks like, especially when it comes to quantum, you can literally just drop in and either lurk in our meetings or be an active participant. We now have a ton of community members that actually are making PRs on our projects and you know we kind of do stand up with them. I'm so excited about this, it's really fun. But yeah, obviously being a nonprofit, donations are great. Support is great. We run a bunch of different events throughout the year, so we're more than happy to talk about specific sponsorships. Or if you just want to fund microgrants, that is always appreciated. And if you have an idea for a project, apply for microgrant. There are no prerequisites other than you can fill out a form. And yeah, the project need not be specifically a piece of software. So, we’ve funded grants that have been like for podcasting equipment for a quantum computing podcast, to educational resources, to student group Discords, and stuff like that. So, anything that you feel would be a benefit to the quantum open source ecosystem, we're here and we're ready to listen and hopefully write you a check.
Rene: I love that! Especially that you're basically saying, well it's all open, right? It's not just about building things with code, you don't need to have a PhD in physics, but you can still contribute to the community, right? And so, that is very inclusive in itself and I love that approach! That's awesome! And also, what I hadn't heard about is the approach you just mentioned, you're not just releasing all your projects open source but you even have the whole development flow open where people can join the sprint meetings and all of that, that is fantastic! I mean that's next level transparency right there!
Sarah: I mean it's something that I really wish I had seen as a grad student or just earlier in my career to know what it looks like. Because I thought a software developer would just sit down, open notepad.exe and write an entire application, and then save it, and it would run. That's absolutely not how software development works and so it's really neat to see that whole process.
Rene: Yeah, that's awesome. I mean same moments for me, like when I was at University many many moons ago, right? And then you graduate and then you have your first job and it's like hmm well I didn't learn how to use source control system, right? Like these are the basic things no one teaches you in College or University. I mean some do, right? To be very honest, actually they’ve changed a lot. But back in the days, it was just not part of it. You learned basics, learned all of that, not basic but the basics like C, C++, and all of this stuff and math and all that, but not the practical things. And this is awesome that you actually make that transparent and share the knowledge. And so, you can just drop in, watch it, and learn as you go, right? So, love it! Awesome!
Well, this is amazing Sarah and we could talk for many more hours but we're already at the end of the show. Thank you so much Sarah for joining us today and sharing all your insights! It is very much appreciated. And showing your new necklace, that is just fantastic! Yeah, again, thank you so much Sarah!
Sarah: Yeah, no problem!
Rene: Folks, thanks for tuning in to another episode of QuBites, you're bite size pieces of quantum computing. Make sure to follow Sarah on Twitter, subscribe to her Twitch channel, drop into some of the sprint reviews at their open source project, but most importantly, also check out her book. You will learn a lot of amazing things actually, how you can develop with the Azure Quantum QDK and Q# and many more things. Definitely worth checking out. Again, thanks for joining us today. Stay safe, see you soon, and take care. Bye, bye!