Prof Gavin Brennan (right) discussing theoretical approaches to quantum problems with PhD student Elisabeth Wagner at Macquarie University [SQA]

FANCY LEVITATING electrons atop noble gases to create scalable quantum information processing? Or helping advance cutting-edge research in silicon chip technology at a fast-growing quantum computing company?

These are just some of the projects offering generous scholarships for potential PhD students who are interested in taking a leap into the world of quantum technologies — harnessing the counterintuitive physics of how matter and energy behave at the subatomic level.

Using the ‘spooky’ principles of quantum mechanics, researchers are making advances in a variety of fields: from superfast computing to ultrafine sensors, from cryptography to simulation of new drugs and next-generation materials.

And they are looking for students to sign up for three- and four-year projects that come with scholarships paying between $37,684 to $41,650 per year.

The scholarships also include a training allowance and specialised guidance, seminars, networking and work experience opportunities designed to help land you a job in Australia’s burgeoning quantum workforce.

Quantum sector is buzzing

“The time to get into quantum is now,” said Dr Maja Cassidy, a Senior Lecturer and Scientia Fellow at the UNSW School of Physics, and former Principal Researcher at Microsoft. “The sector is buzzing with excitement about the potential applications, and there’s going to be a need to fill 8,700 quantum technology jobs by 2030 in Australia alone.”

SQA's Prof Peter Turner [SQA]

Prof Peter Turner, CEO of Sydney Quantum Academy (SQA), agreed.

“Quantum technologies will have applications in nearly every industry. And quantum research in Australia is globally recognised for its excellence, which is why we have a strong line-up of startups that are pushing back the boundaries of what’s possible. It’s a thrilling time to get involved.”

There are six scholarships on offer under the Next Generation Quantum Graduates Program (NGQGP) attached to research projects at UNSW, Macquarie University and University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

Open to domestic students*, the scholarships offer a competitive stipend of $41,650 per year for 3.5 years, a $15,000 training allowance, a $5,000 travel allowance, an $840 publication allowance and a one-off $5,000 cost-of-living payment.

Industry experience

It includes a six-month industry placement with companies like Diraq, BTQ, Eigensystems and KPMG, as well as specialised coursework modules. Students undertake collaborative research at the three universities and engage with peers from diverse disciplines, contributing to multi-disciplinary solutions tackling real-world problems. They’re funded by CSIRO and managed by SQA.

“There are all sorts of commercial opportunities in quantum tech being explored today,” said Prof Gavin Brennen of Macquarie University, who has two projects with Next Generation scholarships attached. “Quantum protocols are being developed using standalone quantum processors or entangled networks that can accelerate communications for applications in energy efficient distributed consensus and high precision quantum sensing."

PhD candidate in lab
Ven Chenniappan, an SQA Next Generation Program scholar, at UNSW's nanofabrication facilities [SQA/Grant Turner]

Ven Chenniappan, who landed a Next Generation scholarship in 2023 at UNSW and Diraq, has revelled in the experience. “You have the opportunity to interact with various people from different universities and companies and attend all these quantum events and be updated with the developments in the field.”

He left his role as a research engineer at an Australian high tech instrumentation company and returned to study to rekindle his love of physics. “There is no other field that deals with nature at its most fundamental level than quantum computing – as an engineer, it is the closest you can get to quantum physics,” Chenniappan said.

The six PhD projects offered under the Next Generation banner are listed below:

  • “Levitating electron qubits on solid neon” supervised by Dr Maja Cassidy at UNSW with industry placement at Diraq.
  • “Algorithms for distributed consensus” supervised by Prof Gavin Brennen at Macquarie University, with industry placement at BTQ.
  • “Quantum algorithms for combinatorial optimisation problems” supervised by A/Prof Troy Lee at UTS with industry placement at KPMG.
  • “Advancing quantum computing with Diraq” supervised by Dr Andre Saraiva at UNSW with industry placement at Diraq.
  • “Emulating realistic quantum interference” supervised by Prof Peter Turner at Macquarie University with industry placement at Eigensystems.
  • “Quantum networks for communications and sensing” supervised by Prof Gavin Brennen and Dr Zixin Huang at Macquarie University, with industry placement at BTQ.
  • Dr Andre Saraiva (centre) at Diraq’s UNSW labs with PhD student Will Gilbert and research fellow Tuomo Tanttu [Diraq]

    Four-year scholarships for domestic and international students

    Another opportunity is the SQA Partnership PhD scholarship, open to both domestic and international students who undertake research co-designed and supervised by academics at UNSW and CSIRO.

    There are two SQA Partnership scholarships offered for two projects at UNSW. The scholarship includes a stipend of $37,674 per year over four years, a training allowance, and access to SQA’s popular PhD Experience program including tailored seminars, workshops and events. For international students, tuition fees are waived, while other costs – such as visas costs and health cover – may also be provided at the discretion of UNSW (and advised at the time of an offer).

    Successful applicants can complete up to four quantum courses offered by Sydney’s three other top research universities – University of Sydney, UTS or Macquarie University – and gain access to industry internships.

  • “Spin qubit circuit-level noise characterisation and mitigation” supervised by Dr Andre Saraiva at UNSW.
  • “Superconducting devices in novel high temperature superconductors” supervised by Dr Maja Cassidy at UNSW.
  • “The SQA Partnership scholarships were created by SQA in association with CSIRO to help expand the number of future academics, engineers and business founders who will grow the quantum ecosystem in Australia,” said SQA’s Turner. “Creating a pipeline of talent to build that ecosystem is essential, and it’s great to be working with CSIRO on this.”

    * Domestic students include Australian and New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, or any person entitled to stay in Australia (or to enter and stay in Australia), without time limits. International students must either hold or be able to obtain a valid visa for the duration of the scholarship term.

    For more information and to apply, view our PhD scholarship program page

    Be sure to stay informed of Australian quantum news and events by signing up to SQA’s mailing list here.