Why Quantum Computing Clicks for EE Majors Over CS Majors

Why Quantum Computing Clicks for EE Majors Over CS Majors

Quantum Computing: Why Its More Intuitive for Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Majors

Quantum computing is an emerging field that promises exponential increases in computational power compared to classical computers (i.e., today's digital computers). While both computer science and electrical engineering students can benefit from understanding quantum computing, there are reasons why it may be more intuitive for electrical engineering students to develop quantum programs.

Designing Quantum Circuits ≈ Digital Circuits

Creating a quantum program bears greater resemblance to designing digital circuits for Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) than it does to crafting abstract software programs for conventional digital computers. FPGA programming involves designing a digital circuit, by specifying the arrangement of logic gates and connections within the FPGA's reconfigurable hardware fabric, to process data encoded in bits (i.e., binary digits).

Similarly, quantum programming involves designing a quantum circuit, that manipulates individual quantum gates and their interactions with quantum bits (qubits), to process data encoded in the qubits. Another common aspect is that both FPGA programming and quantum programming involve the translation of an abstract computer algorithm into a circuit design that is compatible with the underlying hardware.

In this manner, designing a quantum circuit will come across relatively more intuitive to Electrical Engineering majors.

Challenges for Computer Science Majors

Computer science majors may find it more challenging than electrical engineering students to design hardware circuits (for either FPGA or quantum computers) due to the following reasons:

  1. Limited exposure to hardware design: Computer science programs typically focus more on software development, algorithm design, and high-level programming languages, rather than hardware design. This lack of hands-on experience with low-level circuit design may make it harder for computer science majors to grasp the intricacies (e.g., timing constraints, resource utilization and other low-level details) of using a programming language (e.g., Verilog) to design a hardware circuit.
  2. Curriculum Emphasis: Computer science programs may not prioritize topics related to digital circuit design and hardware circuit implementation as heavily as electrical engineering programs, leading to differences in preparedness and familiarity with these concepts. Some circuit-specific topics include signal processing and circuit analysis.

Moving from Classical to Quantum Programming

To facilitate transition into quantum computing, computer programmers need to attain the following knowledge and skills:

  • Fundamental quantum physics: Understanding the principles and concepts of quantum mechanics is essential. This includes topics like superposition, entanglement, quantum gates, and quantum algorithms.
  • Ability to translate abstract algorithms into quantum circuits: Quantum programmers need to be able to convert abstract algorithms into a series of quantum gates and operations. This involves mapping the logical steps of an algorithm onto the qubits and implementing the necessary gates to perform the desired computations.
  • Strong mathematical foundation: Quantum computing relies heavily on linear algebra and complex numbers. Proficiency in these mathematical concepts is crucial for designing and analyzing quantum circuits.

Possessing fundamental knowledge and skills in quantum programming can significantly lower the barriers to entry for transitioning into this field. However, electrical engineering majors may enjoy an edge over computer science majors in this regard due to their foundational understanding of hardware circuit design.


Nicholas Ho

Nicholas seriously enjoys learning new knowledge. He is so serious about it that his hobby is to collect hobbies. His most enduring hobby, since 1997, is to continuously explore the ever-evolving domains of applied cryptography, software development, and cybersecurity. His latest aspiration is to add the word quantum in front of each of these 3 domains. Nicholas is currently a Senior Cryptographic Engineer at pQCee.com. Akin to many Singaporeans, he also enjoys collecting popular certifications, including a CS degree, an Infocomm Security masters, CISSP, and CISA.