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Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

UNSW offers world-first degree in quantum engineering

The world may seem a little bleak at the moment, but it keeps going, and if you’re keen to get an edge on education of the future, you might want to check a new type of degree.

Science and technology are both evolving, and while the focus changes from day to day over what is most important, some fields are growing in leaps and bounds.

One of those areas is that of quantum technology, an area of study that looks at how quantum physics and engineering can come together to create things that can improve life as we know it. The area is broad, and locally, is estimated to be worth over $4 billion in revenue for Australia by the year 2040, creating as many as 16,000 new jobs.

Quantum technologies already exist in select devices, from the quantum dot crystals that hone and improve colour in LCD TVs to a very small number of phones that use quantum technology to handle security, but it’s an area that is growing and could see pathways into numerous other areas. Stretching across electronics and telecommunications, quantum technology could see the area enter other fields, such as medicine, defence, natural resources, and more.

It’s why the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has set up a world first, developing an undergraduate degree in the field of quantum engineering, allowing students keen on entering this field and innovating a place to start.

“As it stands, there simply aren’t enough qualified engineers to fill the jobs needing quantum skills in Australia – or anywhere in the world, in fact,” said Professor Andrea Morello, Scientia Professor at the university, and the driving force behind the degree.

“Quantum engineering is the microelectronic and microwave engineering of the 21st century,” he said.

“It is not science fiction: you can already buy quantum-dot TVs and quantum-enabled mobile phones in the shops, right now. Developing and applying the cutting-edge technologies in these fields demands a deep understanding of their quantum nature,” he said. “Moreover, this understanding can also be used to develop devices and capabilities that have no precedent, like quantum computers and quantum secure telecommunications. This is why we created the new degree.”

UNSW’s Bachelor of Quantum Engineering should see students learn how areas such as quantum mechanics connect with technology, and to apply that to solve problems. It will connect with circuit design and electronics, as well as communication and networks, helping not just students jump into this new and complex area, but the nation, as well.

“Quantum technology is set to transform electronics, communications, computation, sensing and other fields. It will create new markets, new applications and new jobs in Australia,” said Dr Cathy Foley, Chief Scientist at the CSIRO, the government’s leading research body for science.

“Australian science has been breaking new ground in quantum technologies for almost three decades. To maintain this position of leadership and ensure we capture our share of this high tech, high value opportunity, it’s crucial that education providers expand their quantum offerings,” she said.

“We need to build a quantum technology workforce in Australia that can translate our world-leading research into solutions to real-world challenges,” said Dr Foley. “So, I commend UNSW for creating the world’s first quantum qualification open to undergraduates.”

UNSW’s first undergraduates in the quantum engineering degree begin in Term 3, 2020.

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