By Jelmer Boter
In the fall of 2015 QuTech and Intel Corporation joined forces in an active collaboration working on the realisation of a quantum computer. The collaboration comprises comprises Edoardo Charbon’s control electronics, Koen Bertels’ architecture work, Leo DiCarlo’s superconducting qubits and Lieven Vandersypen’s silicon spin qubits. After having worked on the Delft side of the spin qubit part of that collaboration for almost two years, I spent three months this summer in Hillsboro, Oregon to be on the other side of the phone in our weekly Skype meetings. In this blogpost, I will share some of my experiences with you.
On the road
I left the Netherlands on June 1st, flew via Reykjavik to Portland and after spending the night in a hostel downtown, I got to my apartment in Hillsboro the day after. The weekend gave me the opportunity to find my way around in Hillsboro, resulting in me getting lost in the enormous supermarket, which is open 24/7. After some weeks I knew where to find what I was looking for, but unfortunately they recently decided to restructure everything and I could start over again. Hillsboro itself is similar in size to Delft, but there is not so much going on. Luckily, Portland is 30-45 minutes away by train. The Rose City, with its iconic bridges, has a lively downtown with a lot of bars and (micro)breweries, and there is always something going on. People are friendly and open-minded and the motto is ‘Keep Portland weird’, which some people seem to try to uphold with great dedication (not everyone though, most people are just normal). One of the big events is the yearly Oregon Brewers Festival in the waterfront park along the Willamette River, featuring over hundred fifty different beers and of course I had to try a few.
The state of Oregon is beautiful and has way more to offer than only the nice city of Portland. Ask an Oregonian what to do around Portland and the answer probably is hiking. There are plenty of nice hikes, ranging from a mile and very easy to over ten miles and very strenuous. Forest Park, close to downtown Portland, offers tens of kilometers of hiking trails. Both Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens, inactive volcanos, are only a few hours drive away, which for American standards is close enough to drive back and forth in a day. Also the coast, with both beaches and cliffs, is only one and a half hours driving from Hillsboro, but the ocean is a bit cold to swim in. I went camping close to Crater Lake with its gorgeous nature and very cold water. There even still was some snow. I visited Seattle for a weekend to see a Major League Baseball game and I also went to three baseball games in Hillsboro (I really love the sport!). I have been to concerts of Green Day and Metallica, I went bungee jumping and I spent a weekend in San Diego where I visited the zoo and Sea World, followed by the ARO Review meeting where I met Lieven, Menno, Giordano and Tom again after two months.
Intel has several campuses in an around Hillsboro (it’s Oregon’s largest private employer) and my first day started at Jones Farm with the New Employees Orientation. Every full timer and intern has to follow this to be introduced to Intel and the company’s philosophy and values, but also to be told about all kind of guidelines (e.g. on IP, Intellectual Property) and to receive their badge and laptop. A shuttle took me to the Ronler Acres campus, where Intel’s main fab facilities are, where I got my own cube (I like the offices in Delft a bit better). Here I met many people I already knew from their visits to QuTech, but was also introduced to a lot of new faces. The rest of the week was filled to the brim with all kind of trainings to even be allowed to do something at all (I couldn’t touch any chemicals, including IPA (isopropanol) and demineralized water), but once these were finished I could start my work. During my time here, I mainly worked on low temperature transistor characterization to improve the Intel-made spin qubits, and on setting up measurement infrastructure for Intel-made qubits.
Intel is huge and of course it is impossible to know all the people that work there, but it’s pretty easy to get in touch with people you think might be helpful to your job, but also to learn about their experiences at Intel and in and around Hillsboro. The “1:1” (a meeting of just two people) really is a thing, just as the acronyms that find their place in almost every sentence. There is a website listing all of them, thousands. And yes, there is an acronym for ‘three letter acronym’: TLA. Also, Intel really takes care of its employees. There are several cafeterias (with free fruit, coffee, thee, water and soft drinks), gyms and relax rooms on Ronler Acres. I really enjoyed the atmosphere in Components Research and the Quantum Computing group.
Back home, but first eclipse and some travel
Almost at the end of my time in Hillsboro, the Silicon Quantum Electronics Workshop was held at Intel and even more people from Delft came over. It was nice to see all of them again and to be their tour guide and show them and others attending the conference around a bit in the area where I lived for a few months. The day after the fortunately planned conference, August 21, there was a full eclipse in the US and Oregon was one of the best places to experience it. We left Hillsboro at 5:30 a.m. to make sure we reached the path of totality (about 40 kilometers away, but we drove a bit further) in time for the eclipse that came to a climax around 10:15. More than 1 million people were expected to visit the Portland area these days and an unimaginable traffic jam was predicted. However, the traffic was not bad at all and we made it to our planned location at Western Oregon University in Monmouth at 7:30 already. I had seen an eclipse before, but this time there were no clouds at all, so it was even nicer to experience this natural phenomenon. It suddenly gets much darker and it is interesting to see again how nature responds to it, like birds becoming quite. The trip back to Hillsboro took a bit longer though, about 4 hours and 40 minutes for 107 kilometer.
Less than a week from now, September 1st, will already be my last day at Intel. I really had a nice experience and I will miss Intel, Oregon and all awesome people I met here. It was great and time flew by. I would definitely do it again and recommend others to take the opportunity to go to Intel for an internship if you get the chance. Before flying back to the Netherlands I have some time to make a nice road trip. I’ll fly to Phoenix, rent a car and drive to the Grand Canyon. The trip continues to Las Vegas, Death Valley and Yosemite Park to finish in San Francisco. My US adventure ends there and I will fly back to the Netherlands via Seattle and Reykjavik on September 19. As I am writing this, that’s still in the future, so no stories to tell yet (but at least another baseball game is planned), so these will follow over a coffee or beer. Once you read this I will be back in Delft and I am looking forward to seeing everyone there again. Although I will miss Oregon, I will also really like to be back in the Netherlands, see everyone after almost four months and take up my work in Delft again. See you soon!
About the author:
Jelmer Boter is a PhD student working on spin qubits in silicon quantum dots in the Fault Tolerant Quantum Computing roadmap. His goal is to increase their operation temperature.
Outside the university Jelmer spends his time reading, running and cycling and he is a leader in scouting.