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Clemens Adolphs’s Journey from Intern to Tackling Quantum Computing’s Most Challenging Problems

Clemens Adolphs first realized his passion for quantum computing back in Germany while studying physics in high school. This experience influenced him to enroll in Germany’s RWTH Aachen University of Technology in physics and computer science programs. He remained in both programs until he completed his master’s degrees in both disciplines. 

“In the near future, as devices mature, it will become clearer where quantum computing can provide an advantage and where its promises might have been overhyped.”
Clemens Adolphs

Clemens later went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics at the University of British Columbia. Toward the end of his Ph.D., his classmate and now colleague, Gili Rosenberg, encouraged him to apply for a position at 1QBit. In 2015, Clemens began working at 1QBit as a Mitacs intern, and, after completing his Ph.D. in 2016, he was offered a full-time position as an applied researcher. In 2019, Clemens made the step from individual contributor to leading a team of researchers. 

We sat down with Clemens to explore what he is currently working on, why he loves working for 1QBit, and what he believes is the future of quantum computing.

What do you do when you are not working?

The first thing I did on the UBC campus was to sign up with the Varsity Outdoor Club. I love exploring the outdoors. Over the years, I have done lots of backpacking, backcountry skiing, and rock climbing. Now that I have two small children (born in 2018 and 2020), there is a brief pause in the more ambitious outings, although, back when we had just one kid, we were able to take some longer overnight hiking trips. 

 
Clemens Adolphs

Clemens and his daughter


The focus of my indoor hobbies seems to oscillate. There’s a time where I’ll practice some classical pieces on the piano for weeks on end. There are times where I play lots of online chess. Yet, there are other times where I just read books or refine my photo editing skills.

What is your role at 1QBit?

I am a Senior Optimization Solutions Lead in the Optimization division. The “lead” part means I’ve got a great team that works with me on our projects. I get to assist them in their growth and development and help them perform to the best of their abilities. The “solutions” part means that my projects tend to be those that directly involve solving a problem for one of our clients. These can be projects of exploration and knowledge transfer with respect to quantum technology, or using purely classical (non-quantum) methods to solve a pressing problem for them right here, right now.

What are you currently working on?

My main project for the past year has been leading a great team on a client project. We’re trying to solve a pretty big problem in the logistics sector. An internal optimization tool (called FOCUS) developed by another team at 1QBit shows very promising results there. Our client is excited, and the potential impact is tremendous.

What excites you about your work?

I love a good challenge, and there’s no shortage of those when it comes to solving hard optimization problems. And now that I am a team lead, I am excited to see how much a dedicated team can accomplish. I still like getting my hands dirty and diving into a tricky coding challenge; but I am also learning to step back and let my team members shine through.

 
Clemens Adolphs

Clemens Adolphs working from home in Vancouver, BC

 

What do you enjoy most about your position?

Supporting a team of great researchers and developers to help them realize their full potential is incredibly rewarding. Additionally, in my current role, I am right on the boundary between clients on the outside and our work on the inside and can directly see the real-world impact of what we are working on.

What is the future of quantum computing?

In the near future, as devices mature, it will become clearer where quantum computing can provide an advantage and where its promises might have been overhyped. As much as we would love to see quantum computing make every type of computation faster, it is important to focus on what works. Long term, I see quantum computing accessed via cloud providers who can afford the required infrastructure and then rent out time on the chip. The most significant medium-term impact will likely be in the study of molecules or materials, whereas it will be some time before it can make a big splash in less physical fields, such as finance or logistics.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Clemens. It was a pleasure learning about your career and your unique perspective on quantum computing.

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