CMSC 858K: Introduction to quantum information processing (Fall 2015)


Syllabus (PDF)


A quantum mechanical representation of information allows one to efficiently perform certain tasks that are intractable within a classical framework. This course aims to give a basic foundation in the field of quantum information processing. Students will be prepared to pursue further study in quantum computing, quantum information theory, and related areas. No previous background in quantum mechanics is required.


Basic model of quantum computation (reversible computing, qubits, unitary transformations, measurements, quantum protocols, quantum circuits); quantum algorithms (simple query algorithms, the quantum Fourier transform, Shor’s factoring algorithm, Grover’s search algorithm and its optimality); quantum complexity theory; mixed quantum states and quantum operations; quantum information theory (entropy, compression, entanglement transformations, quantum channel capacities); quantum error correction and fault tolerance; quantum nonlocality; quantum cryptography (key distribution and bit commitment); selected additional topics as time permits.


Familiarity with basic concepts in linear algebra (e.g., eigenvalues, eigenvectors, Hermitian and unitary matrices) is required. Students are not expected to have taken previous courses in quantum mechanics or the theory of computation.


Time: Tuesday/Thursday, 11:00 am–12:15 pm
Location: CSI 3120


EmailOfficeOffice hours
Instructor: Andrew Childs AVW 3225 / CSS 3100F Tuesday 1:30–2:30 pm (AVW 3225), Wednesday 3:30–4:30 pm (CSS 3100F), or by appointment
TA: Michael Jarret CSS 3100M Monday 11:30 am–12:30 pm or by appointment


Primary: Paul Kaye, Raymond Laflamme, and Michele Mosca, An Introduction to Quantum Computing, Oxford University Press (2007). (errata)

Supplemental: Michael A. Nielsen and Isaac L. Chuang, Quantum Computation and Quantum Information, Cambridge University Press (2000).

Copies of both texts will be available on reserve in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Library (Math building, room 1403).


Your final grade will be determined as follows:

Assignments 13% each (65% total)
Project 20%
Final exam 15%


There will be 5 homework assignments during the course. Assignments will be made available here and will be due at the start of class on Thursdays. Solutions will be posted here soon after the due date, so extensions will not be granted. Graded assignments will be returned in class.

You are encouraged to discuss homework problems with your peers, with the TA, and with the course instructor. However, your solutions should be based on your own understanding and should be written independently. For each assignment, you must either include a list of students in the class with whom you discussed the problems, or else state that you did not discuss the assignment with your classmates.

A1 problems solutions
A2 problems solutions
A3 problems solutions
A4 problems solutions
A5 problems solutions


Students will be expected to write an expository paper on a topic of their choice from the quantum information literature. Further details, including a list of possible project topics, are available on the project page. Students must email a project proposal to the instructor by October 22, including a one-paragraph summary of the chosen topic and a list of selected references. Papers will be due by the date of the last lecture, December 10.

Final exam

The course will include a take-home final exam. The exam will be made available on the morning of Monday, December 14, and will be due by noon on Thursday, December 17. Students may choose to take the exam during any three-hour period during that time.

Academic accommodations

Any student eligible for and requesting reasonable academic accommodations due to a disability is asked to provide, to the instructor during office hours, a letter of accommodation from the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) within the first two weeks of the semester.

If you plan to observe any holidays during the semester that are not listed on the university calendar, please provide a list of these dates by the end of the first week of the semester.

As mentioned above, extensions to assignment due dates will not be granted for any reason, so that all students can have timely access to solutions. In the event of a medical emergency that affects your ability to complete coursework, appropriate accommodations will be made. However, you must make a reasonable attempt to notify the instructor prior to the due date, and you must provide written documentation from the Health Center or an outside health care provider. This documentation must verify dates of treatment and indicate the timeframe that you were unable to meet academic responsibilities. It must also contain the name and phone number of the medical service provider in case verification is needed. No diagnostic information will ever be requested.

Course evaluations

Course evaluations are an important part of evaluating instruction. The Department of Computer Science and its faculty take student feedback seriously. Students can go to to complete their evaluations.


Sep 1, 3 From classical to quantum information 1.1-7, 3.1-4 1.1-2, 2.2.1-5, 2.2.7-8 First lecture on Sep 1
Sep 8, 10 Quantum protocols and quantum circuits 5.1-2, 4.1-5 1.3.6-7, 2.3, 4.1-6
Sep 15, 17 Introductory quantum algorithms 6.1-6.5 1.4.1-4 A1: Sep 17
Sep 22, 24 Quantum Fourier transform, phase estimation 7.1-7.2 5.1-2
Sep 29, Oct 1 Order finding, factoring 7.3 5.3 A2: Oct 1
Oct 6, 8 Quantum searching 8.1-4, 9.2-3 6.1, 6.3-4, 6.6
Oct 13, 15 Quantum complexity theory, mixed quantum states 9.1, 3.5 3.2, 2.4 A3: Oct 15
Oct 20, 22 Quantum operations and measurements 3.5, A.8 8.1-3, 2.2.6 Project topic: Oct 22
Oct 27, 29 Distance measures, entropy, compression, entanglement transformations 9.1-2, 11.1-3, 12.2, 12.5 A4: Oct 29
Nov 3, 5 Quantum channel capacities 12.1, 12.3-4
Nov 10, 12 Quantum error correction 10.1-5 10.1-4 A5: Nov 12
Nov 17, 19 Stabilizer codes 10.5 10.5
Nov 24 Fault tolerance 10.6 10.6 No lecture on Nov 26 (Thanksgiving)
Dec 1, 3 Quantum cryptography: key distribution, bit commitment 12.6
Dec 8, 10 Quantum nonlocality, selected topics 2.6 Project: Dec 10 Last lecture on Dec 10
Final exam out: Dec 14
Final exam due: Dec 17

Columns labeled KLM and NC indicate recommended readings from Kaye-Laflamme-Mosca and optional readings from Nielsen-Chuang, respectively.

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