Leung says that it was great to work closely with Dr. Canning and his post-doctoral students in “a collaborative environment that was really about pursuing interesting science.” The experience provided Leung with a clearer sense of her potential.
“One of the important lessons that I learned from that experience was that you can apply yourself to a new field and within a relatively short amount of time, you can learn quite a lot and make progress,” she says.
It a lesson she’s taken back to her doctoral research at the University of Washington. Along with her supervisor Dr. Reinhardt, Leung is exploring the potential of the BEC and high performance computing for the study of quantum computing.
Dr. Reinhardt stresses that the work is currently at the very early stages of creating an original and challenging PhD research project. “It’s an exciting, frustrating and turbulent process,” he says.
But it’s one that Leung has eagerly grasped.
“My vision is to create a computational model that will simulate the behavior of a quantum computer,” says Leung. “So in my case, computational science not only means the application of high performance computing to a scientific problem, it also includes the investigation of new computational techniques using high performance computing.”
Amidst the enormous international scientific buzz about quantum computing, Dr. Reinhardt is cautiously optimistic that BEC research offers a unique approach.
“Because BECs are big and you can control them with lasers, we’re trying to figure out if we can use these very special macroscopic properties to make extra-stable pieces of quantum computers,” he says, noting that as a large quantum object the BEC might be less prone to the quantum decoherence that disturbs single atom quantum computing systems.
At the same time as she is working towards numerically modeling a quantum computer, Leung is also helping others push scientific boundaries. She volunteers with organizations dedicated to encouraging girls to study science and engineering.
“In hindsight, I realize that I was always really good in math when I was a kid,” says Leung. “But I never really received any encouragement to do anything with math. Quite the contrary, I was discouraged: ‘That’s not a girl thing to do’. Since I got such a late start in science, I really want to encourage young girls and women to go into science; it’s a fascinating field.”