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Quantum in the summer

A-level physicists take part in a student-led summer school at the University of Bristol.

Published: 19 August 2022

The Quantum in the Summer School (QITS) is a student-led activity organised by the Quantum Engineering Technology Labs (QET Labs) research group at the University of Bristol. This year the Ogden Trust supported the programme to help it reach a wider audience. PhD student Naomi Solomons is a widening participation tutor with the Department of Physics. She helped organise Quantum in the Summer in 2021 and continues to support the initiative. She gives us an insight on this year’s event.

QITS 2022 took place in August and welcomed 17 students, all between Year 12 and Year 13, from across England. It was organised by a panel of four PhD students, alongside over 25 volunteers who were a mixture of fellow PhD students, postdocs, university technical staff, academics and members of industry.

We were proud to welcome a mix of students from diverse backgrounds – one student commented on how rare it is to study physics in a majority female group. Thanks to the generous support of The Ogden Trust we were able to offer bursaries to any student who needed it to cover costs incurred by attending the summer school.

During the programme, the students were given a combination of theoretical and experimental sessions. The PhD students and volunteers covered a wide range of topics including History of Light, Quantum Superposition, Quantum Erasers, Entanglement, Hong Ou Mandel Interference, Quantum Cryptography, Quantum Metrology, Quantum Computation and Integrated Photonics. Students learned topics in a high level of mathematical detail, and these were put into context based on current scientific advances and technologies. We were really impressed by some of the answers given by the students, showing a great understanding of topics like entanglement, computational complexity, and the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics!

a group of students in a dark lab looking towards a person explaining an experiment

The lab sessions provided an excellent opportunity for the students to review a variety of experiments including building a quantum eraser, a live demonstration of HOM interference, laser alignment experiments (including our ‘optical microphone’ experiment) and quantum programming using Qiskit in the computer labs. The students were given access to tour QET Labs specialist facilities and given demonstrations where they could investigate silicon chips through a microscope.

“I personally really enjoyed the summer school and would like to say thanks to all the staff there who made it an amazing experience and were willing to help me understand the content.”

The final session of the week was an in-person careers panel, discussing different possible careers following a physics degree. Members of the panel came from diverse socio and academic backgrounds, consisting of Dr Jorge Barreto (University of Bristol), Will Foxall (Films at 59), Nuala O’Flynn (Ogden Trust/SEPNet outreach officer at the University of Hertfordshire), and Dr Brian Flynn (Phasecraft). Students were able to ask questions about the panelists’ career trajectory, life goals, experience of life in industry, and experience of their degrees and higher education.

We were glad to be able to host a fully in-person summer school again and are grateful for the funding that allowed us to make this such a positive experience for students. We hope that we’ve helped inspire a new generation of quantum physicists!

two students taking part in physics investigations


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