Industry Placement Opportunities

An integral and unique part of the QSE program is the exposure and collaboration that all of the available QSE projects have with industrial partners. A key component of this relationship is the industrial placement that all students carry out within their first year.

A common question for students on the program is “what jobs are there in the industrial sector that would utilise my particular set of skills as a quantum engineer?” The placement is aimed at going some of the way to answering this question. Most placements have some aspect that can be linked back to the student’s project but in the broader perspective, the aim is to show students an example of the type of jobs emerging as a result of the commercialisation of quantum technologies.

The placement is usually structured as a two-week (or in some cases longer) on-site internship with the relevant partner where they are introduced to skills, methods, and industrial cultures that many students would not have come across before.

Below is the first hand account from Frédéric Sauvage, a PhD student from Cohort 1, ­­about his experience on placement at Microsoft’s research labs in Cambridge. This interview was carried and filmed by fellow Cohort 1 student Shane De Silva. View the full video on line.

S: Tell me a bit about what you did during your time at Microsoft.

F: I spent one month at Microsoft research and I was looking at machine learning techniques, and in particular reinforcement learning. So I had time to look into the models, do some implementation, and also I spent a little bit of time thinking about how it relates to the quantum world.

S: Has the placement expanded your horizons in terms of possible job prospects?

F: I would say so, in the sense that I have acquired some new skills. And I feel like machine learning nowadays is an important skill to have and its good to have an idea of what’s going on in the industrial world, [to know] what people are focusing on, and to be able to talk about it and understand it.

S: Were there any particular skills that you learned that would be useful for your project?

F: Machine learning is definitely an interesting skill to have nowadays, whether or not it will be useful for my project I don’t know yet. It probably will be, but lets see how it goes. But in general I think it’s [become] more and more part of any scientific toolbox and to be able to know about it is great.

S: What impression did you get of Microsoft, and did that align with your preconceptions of them before you went?

F: Obviously Microsoft is a big technological company, but still I did not know what to expect in terms of research. I was quite impressed by the quality of research, the scope, they are focusing on a lot of different areas and also of the quality of people working there. So I would say it went above my expectations.

S: Is there any skills or gaps in Microsoft’s work force where someone with skills gained through QSE would suit?

F: There is still a gap between machine learning and quantum systems in general. It’s an active area of research but it’s still the beginning. I met some people with quantum backgrounds but I didn’t meet anyone looking at especially quantum computation, simulation or things like that. So I guess at one point when quantum will be more mature, in terms of industry, there will be a clear need for people with both computing science and quantum engineering skills.