CMSC 858K: Introduction to quantum information processing (Fall 2016)


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 complex numbers and 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, 12:30 am–1:45 pm
Location: CSI 3120


EmailOfficeOffice hours
Andrew Childs AVW 3225 / CSS 3100F Starting Sep 21, Wed 3:30-4:30 pm (CSS 3100F)
Shelby Kimmel CSS 3100E Tues 4:00-5:00 pm (CSS 3100E)
Brad Lackey CSS 3100G Mon 2:00-3:00 pm (CSS 3100G)
TA: Yuan Su CSS 3105 Tuesday 3:30-4:30 pm (AVW 3225)
AVW Office hours (held by the week's lecturer)
AVW 3225, Tuesday 2:00-3:00 pm


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 8% each (40% total)
Project 30%
Final exam 30%


There will be 5 homework assignments during the course. Assignments will be made available here and will be due at the start of class. 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 about the scope of the paper, submission guidelines, and a list of possible project topics are available on the project page.

As part of this project, you will work with a partner to review drafts of your individual papers. The timeline and grading rubric for the project are as follows:

Please respect these deadlines to facilitate the peer review process and to receive full credit. All submissions should be in pdf format, and should be e-mailed to all 3 instructors (,, for all assignments, and should be additionally e-mailed to your peer reviewer for the rough draft and critique.

Final exam

The course will include a take-home final exam. The exam will be made available on the morning of Wednesday, December 14, and will be due by 4 pm on Friday, December 16. 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.


2.1-2.6, 2.8 Review for mathematical background
Aug 30, Sep 1 From classical to quantum information 1.1-7, 3.1-2, 4 1.1,1.3.1 2.2.1-5 First lecture on Aug 30
Classical Models
Axioms of Quantum Mechanics
Sep 6, 8 Quantum information, quantum protocols 3.3, 5.1-2, 2.7 1.3.6-7, 2.2.7-8, 2.3 Axioms of Quantum Mechanics II
Partial Measurements and Communication Protocols
Sep 13, 15 Quantum circuits 4.1-5 4.1-6 A1: Sep 15 Quantum Circuits
Quantum Universality
Sep 20, 22 Introductory quantum algorithms 6.1-6.5 1.4.1-4
Sep 27, 29 Quantum Fourier transform, phase estimation 7.1-7.2 5.1-2 A2: Sep 29
Oct 4, 6 Order finding, Factoring 7.3 5.3
Oct 11, 13 Quantum searching 8.1-4, 9.2-3 6.1, 6.3-4, 6.6 Project proposal: Oct 13
Oct 18, 20 Quantum complexity theory 9.1 3.2 A3: Oct 20 Complexity Part 1
Complexity Part 2
Oct 25, 27 Mixed quantum states, quantum operations 3.5, A.7-8 2.4, 8.1-3 Measurements and quantum probability
Partial trace and state purification
Nov 1, 3 Quantum operations, distance measures 2.2.6, 9.1-2 A4: Nov 3 Quantum channels
Fidelity and other distance metrics
Nov 8, 10 Quantum error correction 10.1-5 10.1-4 Project draft: Nov 10 Quantum codes
CSS codes
Nov 15, 17 Stabilizer codes, fault tolerance 10.6 10.5-6 Project critique: Nov 14 Meet to discuss drafts, Nov 15-22
Stabilizer codes
Fault tolerance
Nov 22 Entropy, compression 11.1-3, 12.2, 12.5 A5: Nov 22 No lecture on Nov 24 (Thanksgiving)
Entropy and compression
Nov 29, Dec 1 Holevo bound, channel capacities 12.1, 12.3-4, 2.6 Channel capacities
Dec 6, 8 Nonlocality, key distribution 12.6 Project: Dec 8 Last lecture on Dec 8
Bit commitment (not covered in lecture)
Quantum key distribution
Final exam out: Dec 14
Final exam due: Dec 16

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

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