We partnered with Sanskriti Deva, who is currently a Computer Engineering student at North Carolina State University, to tell her story.
Sanskriti Deva is a growing leader in the quantum computing community and a powerful STEM accessibility advocate. She has taught over 10,000+ students quantum computing worldwide from high school to graduate students, led several grassroots campaigns to make the field more accessible, and is doing novel quantum computational research. She is also the youngest elected official on the United Nations Association’s National Council, having been elected at 17 years old. We got the unique chance to talk to her about her experiences in quantum computing, goals for the future, and advice she has for young women pursuing the field.
Q: How did you get into quantum computing?
At the end of high school, I felt like I had a lot of different passions that didn’t seem to have a lot of intersections. Three of the biggest of those passions were physics, engineering, and business. I came upon quantum computing for the first time as a senior in high school when I got the very unique opportunity to be a visiting physics researcher at Duke University. It really caught my attention because it seemed to be at the perfect intersection of understanding the way the universe works (physics), building technology that helps people (engineering), and having so many undiscovered market use cases. When I got to college at North Carolina State University, I immediately began trying to find opportunities in quantum and was lucky enough to find a small growing community there through the IBM Quantum Innovation Center.
Sanskriti is the President of Quantum Computing Club at her university and has taken tremendous strides to help grow student interest and accessibility in the field.
Q: And from our understanding you’ve done a lot of work to grow that community and help others gain access to quantum computing in your home state of North Carolina, could you tell us a little bit more about that? What motivates you to do this work?
I think what motivates me is two reasons. First, as someone who is at the very beginning of my career and from an untraditional background, sometimes I feel impostor syndrome really hard. The only reason I‘m able to do a lot of the things I do, like for example putting myself out there for this interview, despite this impostor syndrome is because I was lucky enough to find selfless mentors and motivators along the way who helped me face my fears. I want to pay that forward, no one deserves to feel like they don’t belong in doing something they love or just being themselves. Also, building a community and getting other people excited about things I’m interested in also makes me feel less like an impostor and more confident in my own abilities. Secondly I am a firm believer in the more the merrier because I think true innovation comes from a diversity of thought and experiences which is only possible if you motivate people to join you in your pursuits. A lot of people see STEM as a very competitive field, which it can be at times, but it is also one of the most collaborative ones which is the lens I look at it through. When doing technological research and building new technologies, you’re building upon the research of the many scientists that came generations before you and inadvertently working with experts across the world who are ready to peer review your discoveries. Helping those in my community get access to quantum computing is adding to that talent pool and therefore helping everyone involved.
Sanskriti in Times Square, NYC in front of a Girls in Quantum billboard featuring her.
Q: You talk about mentors and motivators, who is someone you’ve met on your journey in tech that has made a lasting impact on you and why?
Honestly, naming one person would be really hard. I think everyone I’ve met has had a lasting impact on me in some way. As I mentioned right now I’m at the very beginning of my career and I know I have so so much to learn technically and otherwise so I try to learn as much as I can from everyone I meet. I love that quote that says everyone you meet is better than you at something, so learn from them. That’s what I’ve aimed to do so far and hope to do throughout my career. I want to be a sponge and constantly improve. I do want to say a huge thank you to all of those mentors, motivators, family, and friends who have been with me through thick and thin. You’re the reason I am able to be the version of myself I am today and constantly grow.
As a young champion for STEM inclusivity and accessibility Sanskriti thinks that storytelling is a very important and underutilized tool. “Representation is important. It’s important to see people like you doing things like science and technology, otherwise you’d assume it’s not for you.” she says on LinkedIn.
Q: If you could give yourself advice 5 years ago when you were starting your journey into technology and quantum computing, what would it be?
To not worry too much, that it’ll all work out. And that failing is not a bad thing, it’s just a part of the journey.
Q: How do you think diversity in tech will positively impact the field in the next 10 years?
In my eyes technology is not inherently bad or good, it’s a tool and we as human beings give it meaning. Having a diverse group of people working in technology helps account for many different possible experiences and problems that might occur due to that technology which lead to a better product. For example, crash test dummies are designed based on the average male body proportions which leads to the statistic that women are more likely to be hurt or even killed in road accidents. Artificial intelligence such as facial recognition also has bias oftentimes with people of color when it comes to detecting their faces. With diverse workforces problems like these can be mitigated.
Outside of quantum Sanskriti is the youngest elected UN Association National Council Member, here she is speaking at the 2022 Global Engagement Summit at UN Headquarters in NYC for which she was Chair. She is slated to be Chair again this Spring for the Summit.
Q: You’ve taught more than 10,000+ students quantum computing. Tell us about a time your students impacted you more than you anticipated.
My students amaze me every time I teach and they always help me improve as a quantum learner myself. I think one of the most memorable experiences I had with students was the first time I ever taught quantum computing. I had a class of about 50 students mostly from high school and it was online over Zoom and because it was online it was hard for me, especially as a first time teacher, to get a good read on how my teaching was going. Was I doing an okay job of explaining things? Was it interesting enough for tem? Then came time for final projects and I saw some of the most creative and coolest applications of quantum computing I’ve ever seen. On the last day I got messages from a handful of students that they were pursuing computing because of the course which they hadn’t thought possible before, which warmed my heart and has continued to shape the way I approach my career as well as STEM accessibility.Q: What are your hopes for the quantum computing field in the next decade?
I think predicting the future of quantum computing is really hard and everyone you ask will have a different answer when it comes to what they think will happen. Regardless, I hope quantum computing continues to inspire people to be motivated to break the barriers of what’s possible and I hope it is used as a positive force in the world.