Living science

Solving the unsolved: quantum computing at DLR

Dr Karla Loida in the office of the DLR Quantum Computing Initiative in Cologne
Dr Karla Loida in the office of the DLR Quantum Computing Initiative in Cologne

The DLR Quantum Computing Initiative is now underway. DLR’s Dr Karla Loida is the Strategic Project Manager for hardware and tells us what makes quantum computing such an exciting area of research for the future.


What comes to mind when we think of quantum computing, and what makes it so exciting?

Quantum computers have the potential to change our world in unexpected ways. They can facilitate breakthroughs in areas such as medical or materials research, as a quantum computer can calculate things that conventional computers cannot. Think of it as a normal computer that works on the basis of quantum physical properties. While standard computers calculate in bits (0 or 1), quantum computers process quantum bits (qubits), which can also be superimposed on the states 0 and 1 (‘superpositions’). There are ‘entanglements’ between the qubits, too, which means that one qubit has information about the state of another qubit. This does not necessarily make quantum computers faster, but it allows us to use new algorithms to research complex questions in a completely new way and open up new solution spaces, making the previously unsolved questions solvable.

How did you end up in quantum computing and how long have you been involved with it?

The world of quantum physics has fascinated me for many years now. I did my doctorate on quantum simulation with ultracold atoms – potential technology for creating quantum computers. At the time, however, I was not very focused on computing as an application. After completing my doctorate, I switched to industry and worked for an IT service provider for two years as a project manager for infrastructure and software projects. My current role at the DLR Quantum Computing Initiative allows me to combine my professional background with my experience in managing large projects.

I’m responsible for the hardware element of the initiative, which in this case means the different technological platforms that can be used to build quantum computers. There's a lot of quantum physics involved. I develop the strategy and oversee all aspects relating to hardware, which is where my project management expertise comes into play. At this level, the job is highly diverse. I have an overview of the latest developments in different areas of technology and track the development of quantum computing at every turn.

How is the project team of the Quantum Computing Initiative structured and what are its objectives?

The initiative team network encompasses sites in Hamburg, Cologne and Ulm

Our goal is to have prototype quantum computers for different technologies built by industry and to establish an industrial ecosystem in the areas of hardware, software and applications. These areas are managed by three teams as part of the DLR initiative and involve industry, research institutions and start-ups. DLR is also expanding expertise in quantum computing across a number of institutes and building innovation centres in Ulm and Hamburg. Our quantum computers will be operated from here, and those involved in the project from industry and DLR will work together on site.

Initially, my work on the initiative involved a lot of strategy development. Now I mainly carry out our tenders relating to hardware in order to bring industry partners on board. At the same time, we commission our DLR institutes to implement projects in conjunction with industry. The project management team for the initiative has recently been expanded and is set to grow further. In future, these team members will primarily be responsible for implementing projects on the client’s side, with support from industry and the institutes. That means pretty exciting work for my team all round, from strategy development and project initiation to monitoring project progress.

What kind of people are you hoping will join the initiative?

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that you can work from Ulm, Hamburg or Cologne – the network spans these three locations and we can also work flexibly from the offices on all sites during business trips. In terms of the project management team, we're looking for employees who are excited about quantum computing and keen to promote this technology in Germany through the initiative. A professional background in this area is helpful but not a must. Of course, we would be delighted if you have experience in project management.

If you want to get into the hardware team, it's best to have a background in, or at least a real interest in, quantum technologies. The software team works on standard IT issues, so it offers plenty of scope if you’re interested in this area. And when it comes to applications, having qualifications in mathematics or computer science are an advantage, but we are also looking for people coming from related disciplines – perhaps with experience in security, transport or material development applications, for instance. It goes without saying that new members of staff should be self-starters who are keen to get to grips with the initiative and the topics involved.

By the way, we’re also looking for laboratory management and logistics staff for our innovation centres, preferably with experience in these areas. Those with commercial knowledge are welcome to apply for positions in controlling and quality assurance, and we will soon be looking for PR employees, too. There are a number of different positions available at the participating institutes. I would like to invite everyone who is interested to apply to us and become part of the quantum revolution in Germany.


Anyone interested in a job in the DLR Quantum Computing Initiative can see all current vacancies here. We look forward to receiving your application!


The interview was conducted by Iris Werner