Hoping to Solve the World’s Most Mysterious Problems

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As the recipient of a United States Department of Energy fellowship, Hans Johnson has gained the opportunity to work on cutting-edge quantum computing research at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.   

With his adviser, Walter and Harriet Filmer Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering Jafar Saniie, he works on developing hardware that sits at the threshold between information in the macroscopic world and information in the quantum world for Fermilab’s Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center. 

“My involvement in that research has to do with work specifically involving field-programmable gate arrays and machine learning, which are skills I have built through the Embedded Computing and Signal Processing Research Laboratory and through the ECE curriculum,” he says. “The lab has enabled me to explore avenues of research I never would have considered before I came here!”

Hans is working toward a career in research and development on quantum computing systems. He says that he sees it as the next big paradigm shift for computer technologies, comparable to how microprocessor technology has evolved to allow mobile phones to go from the large Motorola DynaTAC cell phone developed by Martin “Marty” Cooper (EE ’50, M.S. ’57) to pocket-sized phones with speeds thousands of times faster than early personal computers.

“My hope is that quantum computing will follow a similar path and reinvent the way we think and interact with computers and technology today,” he says. “I want to be at the forefront of those cutting-edge opportunities. Though quantum computing is still a speculative technology, I believe these research topics have the power to change the world.”

Hans says he sees quantum simulations as holding the key to solving “some of the world’s most mysterious problems” across fields such as physics and health care.

Beyond research, Hans has found a new passion for teaching while working as a laboratory instructor. 

“I love being able to teach what I know and being able to introduce people to the very concepts that have gotten me interested in subjects like electrical and computer engineering as well as physics. It’s really cool to see students go from not knowing what a breadboard is to implementing their own digital designs by the end of the semester,” he says. “It’s been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences as a grad student.”

He was awarded a 2022 Armour College Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for his efforts. 

Hans says he has found the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering curriculum “both impressive and challenging.”

“The material is state-of-the-art for the upper-level courses, and the intro courses do not skip on any of the fundamentals,” he says. “If you love doing research, this is a great opportunity to explore what you want to do. The student-to-faculty ratio is terrific, and the faculty here is incredibly supportive when it comes to graduate research.” 

Hans says he especially appreciates the autonomy, industry-relevant opportunities, and connections with alumni that he has made at Illinois Tech.

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