I've been considering a career change for a long time and recently discovered the Two-Slit Experiment, which, to put it frankly, blew my mind. I then started some hefty reading and investigation into all things Quantum (Bell, Campbell, entanglement, QIT), which has led me here.

I have 20 years experience in IT working as a programmer, having graduated with a Bachelor in Computer Science back in the early 90s. As mentioned, I have been considering a career change for some time (having become quite burned out in this industry), and have found something that has piqued my interest more than anything else (tho I did consider Astrophysics a couple of years ago). I am not yet sure which area of "Quantum" I will be most drawn to, possibly Quantum Information Theory/Science.

I am aware that there is a significant amount of Maths and Physics pre-requisites involved. It seems likely, given that I have not done any Maths or Physics study probably since I was doing my CS undergrad, that I will need to start over with an undergrad in Science/Physics in order to get the fundamentals.

So my questions are:

  1. What is the ideal path of education to get to QIT/QIS or QM?

  2. Is the path to QIT/QIS also via the Physics route? Can I leverage my CS background?

  3. Resources (books, online courses, etc) that would help with the transition from CS-type thinking to Physics/Maths-type thinking.

Apologies if this encompasses elements too broad or off-topic, I'm trying to get a better understanding on what is to come following this path. Thanks in advance.


closed as primarily opinion-based by John Rennie, Qmechanic Mar 12 '14 at 10:22

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Book suggestion: Quantum Computation and Quantum Information by Michael A. Nielsen and Isaac L. Chuang is a great book. It is by no means an easy read but it has quite a bit of CS content. It could at least direct your studies to the topics in which you require additional knowledge. $\endgroup$ – Julien Mar 12 '14 at 4:00
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Julien, this books is mentioned quite a lot, so I am adding it to my reading list. $\endgroup$ – mbyrr Mar 13 '14 at 3:20
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure how to edit this to remove the "on hold" status. $\endgroup$ – mbyrr Mar 14 '14 at 2:39

I'm only a grad student myself, but this is my take on the subject:

Any advice on the best path of education to get to QIT/QIS or QM?

Difficult, as depending on what you want to learn. Generally speaking, there are many different routes - you can go via maths or via physics. You probably whant to start out with quantum computation, since this is nearest to your field. You'll find enough material there to work on (especially quantum complexity theory).

Is the path to QIT/QIS also via the Physics route? Can I leverage my CS background?

Naturally, the usual path would be to learn quantum mechanics and build from there. You can learn quantum mechanics either with an applied background, focused on doing calculations and understanding the phenomenology of experiments, or you can go and study the mathematical framework directly and study physics from there. Neither of these two "natural" approaches lets you use your CS background very much, but if you go directly into quantum computations, you might find it easy to go from there.

Any suggestions on resources (books, online courses, etc) that would help with the transition from CS-type thinking to Physics/Maths-type thinking.

There are many resources - as already mentioned in the comments, Nielsen&Chuang is a very good starting point. There are not many requirements needed to read this book and it has a mixture of CS and QM. If you know everything that's in there, you have a good background to go into every other field. Generally speaking, if you want to start out with finite dimensional quantum mechanics/information, all you'll need is linear algebra (and that's what Nielsen&Chuang needs) and I hope, as a computer scientists, you know that.

If you want math heavy books on quantum mechanics, there are many, e.g. a wonderful book by Holevo "Probabilistic and Statistical Aspects of Quantum Theory".

As a teaser, maybe you want to have a look at the book "Quantum Computing since Democritus" (something in between a popular science book and a real course book) by Scott Aaronson (also, have a look at his web resources). He's a complexity theorist who got into the field as a computer scientist and (from my perspective) still thinks this way. If you like complexity theory, this might be an interesting starting point for you!

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Martin. what is the entry point to quantum computations? It sounds like it is not via the usual route of physics or maths. I had resigned myself to studying undergrad physics for the foundations, however if there is another entry point I am certainly interested to hear about it! $\endgroup$ – mbyrr Mar 13 '14 at 3:22

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