Dr. Lei Zhang Awarded Hrabowski Innovation Fund Grant

The Department of Information Systems is excited to share that Dr. Lei Zhang is a recipient of the Hrabowski Innovation Fund Grant for his project, “Quantum Immersion for Information Systems Undergraduates: An Experiential Learning Approach.”

A team led by Dr. Zhang incorporated introductory quantum computing modules into existing curricula to bring the knowledge of this growing field to a broader audience and prepare students with cutting-edge technologies for the job market. Dr. Zhang presented a one-week quantum module into IS 471 and another module into IS 636, with the expectations to expand to further courses. It is important for Dr. Zhang to introduce quantum principles in the classroom, as he states, “quantum computing is the next industrial revolution, just like what traditional computers have done since 1942. Thus, it is imperative to introduce the knowledge of quantum computing to the existing higher education curricula. This is a repeat of how we introduced traditional computers to most U.S. classrooms when computer technology rose in the 1990s.”

He continues with what he hopes the students get out of these presentations by adding, “we (including my collaborators, Dr. Aryya Gangopadhyay, Dr. Ida Ngambeki, Dr. Lujie Karen Chen, and I) want to bring awareness of quantum threats and post-quantum cryptography to the next generation. Hopefully, our students will be encouraged to participate in the research and development of this cutting-edge technology.”

Lei Zhang presenting to students and faculty in a classroom
Dr. Zhang talking with students in IS 471 during a spring 2023 class.


Zhang and his team plan extending these existing efforts in two directions. First, they would like to build a more comprehensive course on post-quantum cryptography within the IS department, options include a special topic graduate course or an online workshop. Second, they will work to integrate this learning module into more courses. They are seeking partnerships and are open to feedback and suggestions. For the public interest, the team has uploaded video and slides from the previous presentations to Dr. Zhang’s research lab website, est.umbc.edu, with the intention anyone can reuse the materials.

Quantum computing has the power to change the world of computation and bring about the biggest evolution of computing to date. The field has attracted billions in investments as of 2022, and companies are eager to hire individuals with interdisciplinary expertise. For the career opportunity potential for our current students Dr. Zhang finishes by saying, “there are more and more opportunities in the field of quantum computing. For example, IBM hosts internships in quantum computing year-round for undergraduate students. Other companies, such as Intel and Microsoft, also provide internship opportunities in this area. After graduation, candidates with knowledge of both classical cybersecurity and post-quantum cryptography will be more competitive. For instance, our graduates can become security engineers or quantum software engineers. Later on, they may advance to become security architects or quantum cryptography scientists.”

Congratulations to Dr. Zhang and team on this award and their work over the last several months. We look forward to your future initiatives.

powerpoint slide detailing the timeline of quantum

From the presentation, a slide with the history of quantum computing and its current status.


A slide summarizing the impact of quantum attacks on modern cryptography

From the presentation, a slide summarizing the impact of quantum attacks on modern cryptography.