Mr Dean Brand describes obtaining his MSc in Physics cum laude as a surreal experience.
Supervised by Professors Francesco Petruccione and Ilya Sinayskiy of UKZN’s Quantum Research Group his dissertation is titled: Investigation of IBMQ Quantum Device Hardware Calibration with Markovian Master Equation.
The first in his family to study to a master’s level, he found himself in unfamiliar academic territory but despite difficulties along the way, it was a rewarding process and he is proud to have stayed the course.
‘I was inspired by the world-class research group that accompanied me on my journey,’ said Brand. ‘It has proven itself to be a pioneering group in South Africa and is the African flagship for quantum and computational science.’
Brand said that quantum computers have entered a golden age of research and development and research gaps remain to be filled in order to understand their functionality and capabilities fully.
His research focused on experimentally validating the properties of state-of-the-art superconducting quantum computers from a theoretical perspective, providing new methods for calibration and data extraction from the device.
‘Although my research only addresses a small topic within the larger field of quantum computing, I believe it to be an important contribution that emphasises the need to bring many overlapping research fields together to offer new insight into the future development of quantum devices.
‘Over the past few years, I’ve been experiencing burnout and stress to the extent that I constantly had to make an effort to leave work and go outside during the day,’ said Brand. ‘The thing that helped me the most was running in the morning – that’s when I completely cleared my head.’
Fortunately, most of Brand’s work could be done remotely, so the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t directly derail his research. He still had to work hard to keep his mindset and mental health in good stead, however, as social isolation created unforeseen stress. He focused on healthy self-improvement habits, staying physically active by going to the gym, running and reading as much as possible to remain mentally alert.
Brand thanked his family and supervisors for always supporting him and nurturing his perseverance.
‘Professors Sinayskiy and Petruccione rekindled my passion for academic research and provided invaluable help in ensuring the success of my endeavours,’ he said. ‘Sponsorship from CSIR/eNICIS was the icing on the cake that made this journey even sweeter.’
His advice for current and future students is always to dream big and know that struggling is natural and part of the process. ‘Be patient; anything is possible.’
Words: Cindy Chamane