Jonas Helsen


What kind of research are you working on?

“After finishing my master’s, while browsing for PhD positions, I found an article in Nature announcing the opening of QuTech. When I checked out the website, I found out that QuTech had a theoretical section and that an opening for a PhD student had just closed. I contacted Stephanie, roadmap leader quantum internet, anyway and she gave me a couple of days to get my application ready. After two interviews I was hired and started working on quantum information theory for quantum networks. Now I am working with the Quantum Error Correction group: the group that is dealing with the fact that quantum computers are not working perfectly. In fact we deal with complicated machines that cannot do a lot yet and fail all the time!”

“Sometimes I wake up at night knowing the theory I am working on might be completely wrong. But learning to deal with the fact that you are probably wrong is a very exciting part of the job!”

How do you like working at QuTech?

“At QuTech the scientists have the mentality ‘let’s build this thing and see how far we can get’. There’s a lot of intellectual energy and a great sense of positivity. We are making strong progress.”

“Building a quantum computer is really multidisciplinary. There is no field of study that teaches quantum computer sciences yet, so everyone joins in from their own background. While building the quantum computer, we are creating a new field of science.”

When did you first get inspired for quantum?

“When I was writing my master’s thesis, you could say I drifted into quantum from various other areas. But it was only when I came to Delft that I got really fascinated. There are very many interesting challenges that need complicated maths. And complicated maths is what I really like. About 70% of the people working at QuTech are experimentalists. A lot of problems coming out of experiments need a theoretical background. The first paper I wrote in my PhD was on reasonable accuracy in experiments.”



How do you like Delft?

“Delft is a great place to live. I have a tiny apartment close to campus. The city has a bit of a monoculture with an abundance of tech people, so I look for the balance by also having friends from architecture, who tend to be more creative. Delft is quite small, but if you want more, there are nice places very close by. So yeah, a great place to live, but the food in Belgium is definitely better!”

Do you have a tip for prospective students or PhD candidates?

“We are building something completely new here. We cannot use the classical means to build a quantum computer; we need a completely new skill set. Building the quantum computer teaches us a lot about how the world works. This search is great to be part of!”