UO Federal Affairs News

  • UO physicist cheers passage of National Quantum Initiative

    First published in Around the O on December 27th. The University of Oregon stands to have a role in the development of quantum information science after President Donald Trump signed the National Quantum Initiative Act last week. The $1.2 billion initiative, which moved forward with input from the UO, promises to revolutionize everything from computing to navigation to encryption. “We applaud the passage of this critical initiative and thank everyone who supported our UO quantum group as we advanced this bill and as we move forward to great things,” said Michael Raymer, a Philip H. Knight Professor in the Department of Physics. In particular, Raymer praised UO Provost Jayanth Banavar; David Conover, vice president for research and innovation; and Andrew Marcus, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, for their support in the process. Raymer and physicist Christopher Monroe of the University of Maryland co-authored the original proposals for a National Quantum Initiative. The measure, HR 6227, was signed into law by the president after the Senate gave its unanimous consent. The House of Representatives had earlier approved it by a vote of 348-11. Over five years, the funding will support federal efforts to boost investment in quantum information science and support a quantum-smart workforce. The act also creates a National Quantum Coordination Office, calls for the development of a strategic plan and establishes an advisory committee to the White House on quantum computing issues. The UO is well-positioned for a key role in the initiative. In October, Raymer and two colleagues, chemistry professor Andy Marcus and physics professor Brian Smith, received a $997,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to pursue studies in quantum science. The UO quantum group plans to team with scientists at other universities on a proposal to create a research center, Raymer said. Additionally, he added, the UO and institutions like it can play important roles in training the next-generation workforce in quantum information science and technology.

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  • National Quantum Initiative Act heads to President for signature

    The National Quantum Initiative Act, legislation based on a proposal co-authored by UO Physics Professor Michael Raymer, has passed the House and Senate and is expected to be signed by the President.  The National Photonics Initiative (NPI) is a broad-based collaborative alliance among industry, academia, and government to raise awareness of optics, photonics and quantum science and technology. Michael Raymer and University of Maryland physicist Christopher Monroe authored the proposal that is the basis for federal legislation first introduced July 2018. The legislation will accelerate quantum research and development at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and authorizes robust funding for these agencies.  In the media release from the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), Ed White, Chair of the NPI Steering Committee and Vice President Test, Assembly, and Packaging for AIM Photonics, said, “The Congress has acted in a bipartisan way to move our nation’s quantum technology policy forward. This critical legislation creates the comprehensive quantum technology policy our country needs to transition this exciting research from the laboratory to the marketplace. We applaud lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate for their commitment to seeing this legislation through and look forward to working with Administration officials on its implementation.” This isn’t the first time Professor Michael Raymer’s work has been recognized by a member of Congress. In October 2017 U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon) recognized Raymer’s work on the National Quantum Initiative during a hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. In February Raymer hosted a visit by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, another Oregon Democrat and UO alumnus, to share groundbreaking photonics and quantum physics research being done by UO faculty members. 

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  • Local teachers increase equity in computer science HRVHS offers new computer science courses for all students

    First published on Hoodrivernews.com on Friday, December 7th. At Hood River Valley High School, Amy Foley and Kathryn Davis each teach a new elective class called Exploring Computer Science (ECS). It’s designed to help increase equity and create opportunities for students who may have had no prior exposure to computers. “I think it’s a really good class because everyone’s starting at the same level, especially for our school because no one has had (class) experience with computer science. So everyone in our class is at ground zero, and no one feels like you’re left behind,” said Grace, one of the students in Foley’s class. Dec. 3 marked the kickoff of Computer Science Education Week in Oregon, an annual program dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science, said a press release. Foley and Davis lead by example in this rural area of the state. Today, students are journaling, mapping-out storyboards and will begin writing HTML for their website projects, which they will create from scratch. Students are able to design a website based on their personal interests, but they won’t be using any template shortcuts so that they can learn the basics of how to write HTML, the computer language used to create the layout and appearance of websites. “I enjoyed how simple it was to understand HTML and CSS. I thought it would be complicated,” said Isaac, a student in Davis’ class. Another student, Alexandra, said, “I thought a class like this could prepare me for the future when I might want to create a website or know about programming. I could do a lot of things for myself instead of having to hire someone, and know what I’m doing.” The ECS class evens out the playing field, helping students without prior knowledge gain the computer fundamentals they need in a fun, relatable way while preparing them to succeed in whatever career path they choose, said a press release. The class is required in some of Oregon’s high schools and is offered as an elective at Hood River Valley High School. While the course is designed for all genders, looking around the classroom, one sees many girls (about a third are girls in Foley’s and a fourth in Davis’ classes), more so than in other rural areas of Oregon where they have a harder time recruiting girls for CS classes. “Traditionally, women and students of color have not been represented in ways that are proportional to school demographics,” said Jill Hubbard, CS for Oregon co-leader and president of the Oregon Computer Science Teachers’ Association. Foley said of her class, “I have a lot of female students who are really enjoying the camaraderie that has developed in the ECS classroom amongst themselves. They are excited to learn together and feel comfortable expressing themselves through projects that combine their computational thinking skills and creativity.” About 32 percent of Foley’s and 41 percent of Davis’ classes consist of minority students. When asked if she would recommend the class to other Latinas like herself, or other women of color, student Aileen said, “Yes, yes, take it! I feel like it’s not what it seems like; it’s a lot more fun. I want to do computer engineering or some type of engineering, so I find this class super helpful.” Both teachers are part of a network of school districts across the state participating in CS for Oregon, a joint university project between Portland State University, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, Cascades. According to a press release, they are committed to broadening participation in computer science by providing a welcoming and inclusive environment that is equitable, rigorous and engaging. These learning experiences are designed for all students across Oregon’s rural and urban areas, preparing them to participate actively in a digital world and economy. “Computer science is now essential knowledge to participate fully in society, and yet participation in Advanced Placement CS shows CS is the most segregated discipline by race and gender of all AP subjects in Oregon,” said James Hook, CS for Oregon co-leader and associate dean of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at PSU. “We have been teaching computer science in high school in Oregon for over 50 years, but more through the lens of enrichment for some, rather than essential knowledge for all,” he said. “ECS brings best practices in inclusive pedagogy and teacher professional development to the CS classroom.” Using a $1 million National Science Foundation grant award, CS for Oregon trained its first group of ECS teachers in 2018, a curriculum co-developed by Dr. Joanna Goode, CS for Oregon lead researcher and professor at University of Oregon. Partnering with 16 of Oregon’s school districts in 2018, the program will expand in 2019. “My classroom contains all rural students, (many) females, students in the racial minority, as well as students with disabilities. All students have a path to success with this curriculum, and it is easy to differentiate for learners at different levels,” said Davis.

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  • Gifts to new scholarship fund put Dreamers on path to graduation

    First published in Around the O on November 21st, 2018. For the cost of five lattes, anyone can help build a scholarship fund for Dreamers, UO students with Deferred Action Childhood Arrival status and those whose presence in the U.S. is undocumented. All it takes is a quick visit to DuckFunder for Dreamers. What’s more, all gifts also count toward matching a $75,000 challenge grant. The need is urgent, said Rosa Chavez, associate director of the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence. “One student who would be eligible for this new scholarship was working nearly full time as a freshman,” she said. “By sophomore year, the stress of trying to keep up with classes while working swing shift became too much. They haven’t been back this fall.” Keith Swayne, a 1962 economics graduate, made the gift to launch the Dreamers Scholarships. “These young Dreamers deserve access to an education so they can reach their potential as contributors to our great country, as have those who have come before them,” said the 1962 economics graduate. “We are a country of immigrants. That is at the core of who we are.” It’s common for Dreamers with work permits to hold down as many as three jobs during summers to pay for their next year’s tuition, but that doesn’t cover other expenses, said Justine Carpenter, director of multicultural and identity-based support services. “I know a student who can afford to take only one course each term,” Carpenter said. “It will be a very long road at that rate, but she is determined to succeed.” People from as far away as Indiana, Ohio and Massachusetts already have given more than $4,500 in the online drive, which aims to raise $10,000 by 10:59 p.m. Dec. 24. Many contributors note that their gift honors a friend or family member. The DuckFunder campaign kicks off the larger effort to complete the $75,000 match by June 30, 2019. To pitch in, contact Sally Dougherty, College of Arts and Sciences development director, at 541-346-3903 or sallyd@uoregon.edu. The Dreamers Scholarships are part of a university investment to ensure that all students have access to support and programming to help them be successful at the UO. This academic year President Michael H. Schill dedicated funding for staff and faculty support for the Dreamers Working Group to provide training for Dreamer allies. The UO has nearly 200 Dreamer allies who have taken daylong trainings to better understand Dreamer student needs and experiences. Those wishing to become an ally or who would like to get in touch with an ally or the Dreamers Working Group, send a message to UOdreamers@uoregon.edu. Additional resources for Dreamers and their families are available at  https://www.uoregon.edu/dreamers —By Melody Ward Leslie, University Communications

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  • 2019 State Legislative Agenda

    During the 2019 legislative session, the University, in partnership with students, faculty and staff, will pursue a legislative agenda that aims to ensure affordability, access, and success for students; deliver an excellent educational experience in an inclusive and diverse environment; and invest in faculty members to improve quality and promote academic research and innovation. Access, affordability, and completion for Oregon students Increase operating funding for Oregon public universities by at least $120 million for the 2019-21 biennium to keep tuition increases for resident, undergraduate students at UO at or below 5% for the next two years. Increase funding for state programs, which include UO’s Engineering & Technology Sustaining Funds, Labor Education Research Center, TallWood Design Institute, dispute resolution programs, Clinical Legal Education, and other signature research centers. Increase investment in the Oregon Opportunity Grant, the state’s only need-based aid program. Protect and expand funding for Sports Equity Scholarships through the Oregon Lottery, which helps UO meet Title IX requirements to equitably fund women’s athletics and provide graduate scholarships. Invest in facilities that produce high-demand degrees and discovery All seven public universities request the allocation of $65 million for capital improvement and renewal for maintenance of existing buildings and ensuring that students have safe and appropriate environments in which to learn and live. $54 million in state-backed bonds for the renovation of Huestis Hall, a 45-year old structure that is the teaching and research hub for biological sciences at the UO. It serves 3,000 students each year. It has urgent seismic vulnerabilities and accessibility and safety deficiencies. The project will eliminate nearly $19 million of deferred maintenance and protect many of the UO’s K-12 pipeline and summer STEM programs for girls and low-income students. Academic excellence and ingenuity Create a state matching fund for the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP), which embeds UO students and faculty members within an Oregon city, county, special district, or tribe for an entire academic year. Students work on partner-identified projects to provide ideas for real solutions to community challenges. Many communities—especially those in more rural areas—want to participate but cannot afford it.  A matching fund would allow more Oregonians to be served. Through a one-time investment purchase a new ship for the UO’s Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, which will add teaching and research capacity on Oregon’s Coast. The UO will match the state’s investment through philanthropic gifts. Investment in the UO’s prison education programming, Inside Out, which operates in conjunction with the Oregon Department of Corrections to bring credit-bearing courses to approximately 300 inmates each year. Programs like these help reduce recidivism rates in Oregon and broaden the student experience. Support Governor Brown’s ‘Resilience 2025’ proposal that will fund the full build out of ShakeAlert by 2023. ShakeAlert is the earthquake early warning and wildfire monitoring seismic sensor network operated through the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, of which UO is an active member with other West Coast universities. Partnerships for Economic Transformation Support investments in research and discovery, including grant funding and other innovative policies or funding initiatives that leverage Oregon’s industry strengths and workforce needs with the UO’s academic portfolio.

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  • Supreme Court lifts stay on climate suit, but hurdles remain

    First published in Around the O on November 6th, 2018.  A landmark federal lawsuit filed by a group of young people seeking action on climate change cleared another hurdle Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court lifted an earlier stay. The move allows attorneys for the plaintiffs to seek a new trial date. The trial was originally scheduled to begin Oct. 29 but was put in limbo when the delay stretched two weeks. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 21 young people who assert that government threatens their constitutional rights by promoting the production of fossil fuels that are destabilizing the climate system necessary to their survival and well-being. A new trial date is expected to be set soon, though the Justice Department on Monday evening made another attempt to stop the trial. A petition filed with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest in an array of motions spanning all three levels of the court system simultaneously. All have been rejected so far, but some are still pending. UO law professor Mary Wood will discuss the suit in a public talk Wednesday, Nov. 7, from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Wildish Community Theater in downtown Springfield. She will be joined by local youth plaintiffs and staff members from Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit representing the plaintiffs. More information will be posted as it becomes available.

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  • Collaboration gets $1.2 million NSF grant to boost STEM learning

    First published in Around the O, on October 31st. College students from first-generation, low-income, and minority backgrounds are 16 times less likely than other students to do well in STEM courses — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The National Science Foundation wants that to change. And it’s giving researchers at the UO School of Journalism and Communication and the College of Education a $1.2 million, three-year grant to pursue a creative, interdisciplinary solution to the problem. The project is called My STEM Story, led by UO assistant professor of journalism Ed Madison, associate professor of education Jenefer Husman, education doctoral student Ross Anderson and UO alumnus Matthew Kim, who works as a research scientist at the University of Washington. The project will pair Oregon high school students with undergraduates from underrepresented communities for a mentoring program on the UO campus — with a digital storytelling twist. My STEM Story began 2½ years ago, when Madison had an aha! moment. Each summer, the Oregon Young Scholars Program brings high school students from minority backgrounds to the UO, where they stay in dorms and take college classes for a week. At the same time, college students from diverse backgrounds are on campus for the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Life Sciences, or SPUR, which offers fellowships to promising undergraduates to study under UO research professors. “It occurred to me: What if we took SPUR students and paired them with OYSP students for a mentorship?” Madison said. The goal is to give high school students from underrepresented groups an authentic view into the struggles and successes of people who look like them working in STEM. The team hopes the project, which is funded through the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers program, will help students envision a future in the field.    With help from Anderson, Madison put the idea to the test in a trial run of the My STEM Story program in 2016. They introduced Emma, an Oregon Young Scholar, to Janice, a SPUR science fellow. Emma shadowed Janice on campus for a day to learn what it’s really like to work in a lab on a research project — especially as a black woman. Now a high school senior, Emma plans to study a STEM field in college. Madison, who teaches multimedia journalism in the School of Journalism and Communication, wanted to extend the benefits of the experiment to a wider student population. So he asked Emma to record her experience on her smartphone. That footage became part of a digital story Madison edited. In the next phase of the project, the researchers plan to present My STEM Story videos like the one featuring Emma and Janice to high school classes with high minority populations. “Then we’re measuring to see to what degree those videos inspire students who are watching them to either seek more information about a science class or register for a class they might not otherwise,” Madison said. The UO research team is currently in the internal review approval process, where they define protocols for the program. The next phase of My STEM Story will kick off in summer 2019. The project wants to put a human spin on STEM education, which can sometimes appear unattainable or overwhelming to students. “You have these ideas on and you go, ‘This would be kind of cool. I wonder if this would work,’” Madison said. “And then you see how the students involved develop this rapport so naturally and how the young woman who’s the scientist was so perfect. You couldn’t script that.” Coming from a long career in documentary and TV filmmaking, Madison loves those moments. He said recorded interactions often end up seeming staged and unnatural. But he believes that, because they are genuine interactions, high school students watching the videos will feel more connected and interested. Husman hopes that natural interest will turn into intrinsic motivation to pursue STEM education. “We hope to help students imagine their future possible selves as scientists,” Husman said. “Through near-peer mentorship, we provide them a window into the path they would need to take.” —By Becky Hoag, School of Journalism and Communication

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  • UO professor talks mega-quakes with National Geographic

    First Published in Around the O on October 29th. University of Oregon earth sciences professor Diego Melgar has been featured in an article from National Geographic discussing a recent 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Southern Mexico that broke a 37-mile stretch of tectonic plate. Slabs of the earth’s crust known as tectonic plates collide with one another on the surface, forming mountains and other topographic features. This tectonic movement is one of many things responsible for earthquakes, mountains, valleys and other topographic features, the article says. “If you think of it as a huge slab of glass, this rupture made a big, gaping crack,” Melgar says in the article. “All indications are that it has broken through the entire width of the thing.” This 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico on Sept. 7, 2017, and scientist are still unsure about how, when and why such large fractures in the earth occur. “If you bend an eraser, you can see the top half being extended and stretched, whereas the bottom bit is squashed and compressed,” Melgar says. “The same applies to these slabs. This bending can activate faults within the slab and trigger what are known as intraslab earthquakes,” the article adds. Melgar goes on to address possible answers to the question of why high-magnitude intraslab earthquakes happen. Noting that the presence of sea water, age and formation of the plate could have made perfect conditions for such an event. “Whether they feature this type of dramatic severance or not, these powerful quakes are inherently mysterious,” the article says. To read the full article, see “Quake split a tectonic plate in two, and geologists are shaken.”

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  • Senator Ron Wyden, and Representative DeFazio Register Students to Vote on Campus

    First published in the Daily Emerald on October 16th. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio  encouraged students to register to vote while on the University of Oregon campus Tuesday morning. The last day to register to vote in Oregon before the midterm election in November is Tuesday. “You always hear from politicians, ‘this is the most important election in your lifetime,’” DeFazio said to Charlie Butler’s Media and Social Action ARC seminar in Allen Hall. “Well, this one actually is.” Wyden and DeFazio, both UO alumni, spoke in front of two classes and encouraged students to register. In their comments, they focused on national issues that have gained public attention recently, as well as the impact of voting on college affordability. “Students are really facing enormous economic pressures, and the challenges are really hard,” said Wyden in an interview. “There’s something students can do that’s easy to make sure their voice is heard and they can make a difference.” Sen. Ron Wyden speaks to a political science class about the importance of registering to vote on Oct. 16 — the last day to register in Oregon in 2018. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald) The pair was on campus supporting the efforts of VoteORVote, the Oregon Student Association’s campaign to get college students in Oregon registered to vote. The non-partisan group also informs them of the impact electing “pro-education” officials can have on student life, according to ASUO’s Internal Vice President Imani Dorsey. “It’s really important that students vote just to make sure they’re keeping their elected officials accountable to them,” said Dorsey. “Here at the U of O, we can see [tuition] increases to like 10%, like we saw two years ago because the state didn’t fund us at a level that we wanted.” The Congressmen stood in front of the opening slide of Gerry Berk’s Contemporary U.S. Politics lecture as they spoke to his class. The first point on the overview slide was “low turnout,” referring to the historic pattern of low voter turnout in midterm elections. “We’re faced with the question of women’s privacy, Judge Kavanaugh going on the bench, we’ve heard what Donald Trump is talking about,” said Wyden. “Day after day, I watch the powerful come in and they get their goodies.” DeFazio shared his personal experience taking out student loans. ”I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t gotten a little help, I took out in those days what were a lot of loans,” said DeFazio, “but my loans totaled about half of what most of you are going to graduate with.” When the Congressmen asked students who was already registered to vote, the majority raised their hands. Students in each class asked questions ranging in topics from climate change, net neutrality and immigration, to the impact of Michael Cohen’s re-registration as a Democrat. The pair remained on campus briefly after speaking to classes and tabled with student organizers at the corner of 13th avenue and University street, before they headed to Oregon State University in Corvallis for the afternoon. “It is important,” DeFazio said in an interview, for students, in particular, to get out and vote. “I would say the most direct link that all students would agree on is the affordability of a college education.” Political science students raise their hands in response to being asked if this is the first time they’ve registered to vote. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

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  • UO scientists help pave the way in quantum science efforts

    First published in around the O on October 11th, 2018. UO researchers on the forefront of quantum information science continue to make major strides toward passing legislation, and last week three of them were awarded a major grant to pursue studies in quantum science. UO physicist Michael Raymer, a Philip H. Knight professor in the Department of Physics, and two colleagues, chemistry professor Andy Marcus and physics professor Brian Smith, have been awarded a $997,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The award is part of a $31 million NSF program for fundamental quantum research that, together with $281 million in Department of Energy investment, aims to help the United States take a leading role in the fast-evolving quantum technology revolution. “This is no longer exploratory physics research,” said Raymer, who has been instrumental in efforts to establish a federally funded National Quantum Initiative. “We’re now thinking about building applications and technologies, and it represents a huge leap from where we were just a few years ago.”  Quantum technology uses quantum physics principles and advanced engineering to solve real-world issues. It requires manipulating the smallest possible units of energy and matter. It is already in limited use, but is expected to take off in the coming years as scientists around the world compete to leverage the promise of quantum technology. The U.S. has been put on notice by the U.K., European Union and China, which in the past few years have invested or committed an estimated $420 million, $1 billion and $10 billion, respectively, for quantum technology development. The three UO researchers will seek to use “quantum-entangled” states of light to enhance the sensing of remote objects and to probe the structure and behavior of molecules. Remote sensing can be used to determine how far away and how fast a distant object is moving, while quantum-enhanced spectroscopy can answer questions such as how are molecules arranged and how they pass energy from one to the other in processes such as photosynthesis.   “The project aims to combine concepts from engineering, physics and chemistry to advance quantum science across these disciplines,” Marcus said. “Chemistry, for example, can provide methods and theory for understanding and designing controllable molecular networks that can be interfaced with quantum optical systems. What might emerge potentially are new quantum-based design principles that chemists can exploit.” The NSF award announcements were coordinated with a Sept. 24 summit on quantum information science convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It included leaders from federal agencies, higher education and industry to discuss how to accelerate progress in quantum information science. The White House also released a “National Strategic Overview for Quantum Information Science” that outlines a plan for advancing the field. David Conover, UO’s vice president for research and innovation, and UO physicist and Nobel laureate David Wineland attended the summit, where they helped make the case for federally funded research in quantum information science. “It’s gratifying to see such excitement and widespread bipartisan support for quantum science research and development,” Conover said. “We were invited to this White House meeting because the UO’s expertise in quantum information science is now widely recognized. Such national visibility is largely due to the scientific leadership and lobbying efforts of the UO’s Michael Raymer.” Raymer and University of Maryland physicist Christopher Monroe co-authored the original proposals for a National Quantum Initiative that became the basis for federal legislation introduced in June. The National Quantum Initiative Act would establish a comprehensive national program to accelerate research and technology development in this emerging area. Its goals are to advance the country’s economy and national security by securing the U.S.’s role as the global leader in quantum information science. Following the White House summit, a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing held the next day reviewed the Department of Energy’s role in quantum science and made clear that the legislative push to launch a National Quantum Initiative is continuing to gain momentum. Earlier this month, the National Quantum Initiative Act, House Res. 6227, passed the House without objection. The bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, and ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat. On Sept. 28, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology announced it had signed a cooperative research and development agreement with the nonprofit SRI International to lead a consortium focused on quantum science and engineering. At the White House Summit, Smith said he hopes the full Congress will pass the National Quantum Initiative Act before the end of this year. In the meantime, many unknowns remain, including the question of how best to begin to train the next-generation workforce that will confront the technological challenges head-on in the coming years. That’s one area where institutions such as the UO can play an important role, UO researchers say. “Industry needs trained applied quantum scientists,” UO physics professor Brian Smith said, “So we also need to develop new educational and training programs at the UO and elsewhere.” Companies and universities aren’t sure yet what an “applied quantum scientist” actually is, Smith suggested, so part of the task ahead is to flesh out that job description and fashion new academic programs in response. —By Lewis Taylor, University Communications

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