Heading To the Land Down Under


Part of being an academic is travel. Often, I travel to attend conferences; last month, I had the opportuntity to travel to visit an institution in Australia. Unlike conference travel, the purpose of this trip was mostly to be able to meet up with people and have in-depth technical conversations about our work. (To be fair, conference travel has that component to it as well, but this trip was almost specifically for that purpose.) Christopher Ferrie, a post-doctoral scholar at the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQuS), extended an invite to me a couple of months ago. As I had never been to Australia, and knew some about the work going on at EQuS, I jumped at the opportunity.

Getting from Albuquerque to the University of Sydney where Chris spends his time is straightforward, but very long. I took Qantas Flight 8, Dallas Fort-Worth to Sydney nonstop, which is currently the second-longest regularly scheduled commercial flight. Clocking in at 17 hours, it was a long time to be on a plane!

I arrived on a Saturday, which left me plenty of time to (a) get over the jetlag, and (b) check out the Camperdown/Newtown area and the University of Sydney campus. The campus itself is rather old (it was founded in 1850), so there is plenty of visually stunning architecture:

So, what does one do while visiting a place such as EQuS? I mostly met up with other researchers (graduate students or postdocs) and chatted with them about their work. I enjoyed being able to catch up with people I had met at other conferences, as well as meet new people. It was especially useful to be able to put faces to names on papers. As one might expect, most of the conversations were powered by lots of coffee, and thankfully, the communal machine at EQuS did not disappoint:

One special event I was able to participate in was a workshop on using Python in quantum information science. Organized by Christopher Granade, Sarah Kaiser, Chris Ferrie, and Ben Baragiola, it was a neat opportunity for people affiliated with EQuS to improve their knowledge of software, its development, and how to use helpful Python packages, such as QuTiP or QInfer, to make their scientific computing lives easier. Similar in spirit to Software Carpentry, the workshop was suppose to help researchers learn how to use computers and code to make their scientific lives easier. Overall, the workshop introduced a lot of good ideas to the attendees, and I think it had a positive impact on them.

I also gave a talk on my recent ideas and work. It was nice to be able to get some feedback about the work, and discover some new avenues to tackling problems I’ve been wrestling with. As could be typical (?) for these kinds of trips, I had the unexpected pleasure of having my visit overlap with that of someone else, whose own work has been very useful for me. (More specifically, I was able to chat with David Gross, currently at the University of Cologne, Germany, about quantum compressed sensing, and the “statistical dimension” of cones.)

Overall, the trip went very well. Visiting Australia in the summer was rather pleasant, and a welcome respite from the cold of New Mexico. If you have an opportunity to travel to Sydney, for academic reasons or otherwise, I would encourage you to do so!

Checking out the harbour. The opera house is on the left. #australia #sydney #sydneyoperahouse

A photo posted by Travis Scholten (@travis_sch) on

You might like to follow me on Twitter because I tweet about science, or Instagram because I take photos.