Students standing outside RAL Space building with Raghu and Daisy

Students from the Year 12 Quantum Experience Summer School outside the RAL Space building at the Harwell campus.

Credit: Dr Raghavendra Srinivas

Inspiring the next generation of quantum physicists

In August 2023, Oxford's Department of Physics piloted its first ever Year 12 Quantum Experience Summer School which gave nine local A-level students a taster of life as a quantum physicist. During the week, the students learned about quantum physics through tutorials and lectures, gained coding experience by designing their own quantum circuits, even running them on IBM’s quantum computers, and discovered more about a career in the field through visits to local quantum technology companies: Oxford Ionics, RAL Space, and Oxford Instruments. They also got hands-on lab experience with Oxford researchers in this cutting-edge field, where students had lab placements in smaller groups.

The programme of activities for the Year 12 Quantum Experience Summer School was conceived and led by Dr Raghavendra Srinivas, whose research focuses on creating and manipulating entangled states of trapped ion qubits. 

Dr Srinivas explained why he started the initiative: 'Quantum technologies will play an increasingly important role in our lives, and I was lucky enough to have exposure to it at various stages of my career. I wanted to help these students understand a little bit more about the physics that I love and interact with real quantum scientists. Most importantly, I wanted them to understand that a career in quantum science is accessible to them as long as they are enthusiastic about the subject and willing to work hard – not only if you are from a rich family or if your parents are scientists. I really hope that we can continue this programme next year and expand it to even more students.'

The Year 12 Quantum Experience Summer School ran in parallel to Oxford's long-established Year 12 Physics Summer School, where another 18 students participated in placements in fields as diverse as solar technology, biophysics and particle physics. Dr Sian Tedaldi, who leads the outreach programme in the Department of Physics, says: 'The summer school aims to gives young people first-hand experience of what it is like to work in a physics department. They work with our researchers and technicians to analyse real data and do practical experiments. It is fantastic that the scheme continues to grow, giving more local young people the opportunity to take part, and providing them with a taste of an exciting career in the emerging field of quantum technologies.'

The Year 12 Quantum Experience Summer School was made possible by generous support from the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC). Daisy Shearer, Outreach and Engagement Officer at the NQCC, comments: 'Part of the NQCC’s "Quantum Readiness" initiative focuses on building skills and developing the future quantum workforce in the UK. We were delighted to be able to support this summer school, giving students a flavour of quantum sciences and enabling them to connect with quantum scientists in the lab and in industry.'

Quotes from participating students

“I enjoyed taking part in the summer school as it was a great opportunity to gain experience working in a quantum lab”

“It was very fun, I felt like it really broadened my understanding of quantum physics” 

“My favourite thing was doing experiments in the laboratory, collecting the data and analysing it using python to analyse and produce graphs”

“I felt I was in a very privileged position to take part in it”

Students presenting at poster presentation

Students talking about ion traps at the poster presetation