Internship Spotlight: Conner Williams, S.B. ’21

Thursday, September 5, 2019 - 11:45am

Internship Spotlight: Conner Williams, S.B. ’21

Name: Conner Williams

Concentration: Electrical engineering and physics

Graduation Year: 2021

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

Internship focus: Quantum computing and devices

Internship location: IBM in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. and Thompson Lab at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.

Describe your internship.

This summer, I worked at the QURIP program, which is a quantum computing research program that consists of working at a lab for six weeks at Princeton and four weeks at IBM. At Princeton, my lab was centered around an ytterbium atom array which had an array mobility problem. To fix this, I set up a spatial light modulator which could create highly uniform optical tweezer arrays with full flexibility in moving the trapped atoms. At IBM, I set up and automated a laser-system to test the efficiency of microwave devices in IBM Q’s optical transduction lab.

What is one of the most valuable lessons you learned from this internship, and why?

The most valuable lesson I learned was that none of the research you see in journals and websites is done in a day. It takes months or years of hard work and long nights. The projects I took part in seemed straightforward at first, but ended up containing many interesting challenges and hurdles.

What is one of the biggest challenges you face during your internship, and why? How did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges I faced was learning how to interact with scientific devices using code. I overcame this challenge by finding out how others had done it before. There are thousands of pages on GitHub from people who have solved similar problems, and all you have to do is look.

What skills from your courses at SEAS helped you the most during this internship, and why?

To be honest, learning Python in Introduction to Computer Science (CS50) was one of the most important skills I’ve learned. Python is used literally everywhere in scientific research and knowing how to use it and its modules is huge. IBM’s QISKit quantum computing module is in Python.

Why has this internship been a good experience for you?

This internship was great for me because I’ve always been stuck between going into industry or academia after college. In this program, I was able to see the pros and cons of both and find which I enjoy more. I still don’t know which I will go into, but I do know more about what both would look like, which is very important.

How do you think this experience could inform or benefit your future career path?

I now have a deeper knowledge on what the current professional field of quantum computing looks like. I’ve found that I’m very interested in it and would love to pursue it further.

How did you find out about this internship?

I found this opportunity on the Society of Physics Students email list.