CMSC/PHYS 457 Introduction to Quantum Computing, Spring 2018

Course Description

Quantum computers have the potential to efficiently solve certain problems that are intractable for ordinary, classical computers. This course will explore the concept of a quantum computer, including algorithms that outperform classical computation and methods for performing quantum computation reliably in the presence of noise. As this is a multidisciplinary subject, the course will cover basic concepts in theoretical computer science and physics in addition to introducing core quantum computing topics. No previous background in quantum mechanics is required.

Tentative topics include: quantum mechanics of qubits; quantum entanglement and non-locality; quantum protocols; basics of computational complexity; quantum circuits and universality; simple quantum algorithms; quantum Fourier transform; Shor factoring algorithm; Grover search algorithm and its optimality; quantum error correction and fault tolerance; selected additional topics (e.g., quantum programming languages) as time permits.

Quantum Computers Animated!


  • Prerequisite: 1 course with a minimum grade of C- from (MATH240, PHYS274); and 1 course with a minimum grade of C- from (CMSC351, PHYS373).

  • Lectures: CMSC/PHYS 457, Tu Th 9:30am – 10:45am, CSI 1122

  • Instructor: Prof. Xiaodi Wu
    Office AVW 3257, Email: xwu (at)

  • Teaching Assistant: Shouvanik Chakrabarti, Email:

  • Syllabus: check here

  • Office hours:

    • Wu: Tu Th 11:00am – 12:00pm or by appointments, at AVW 3257.

    • Chakrabarti: M W F 3:00pm – 4:00 pm, at AVW 4101.

  • Evaluation: class participation (3%), assignments (35%), exam I (20%), exam II (22%), and project (20%). Details in the policy page.

How to Navigate through the Course

  • Quantum information and computation is an exciting emerging field. It is simply impossible to cover the all relevant topics, especially in an introductory course. Thus, the main goals of this course are

    • (1) understand and comprehend the theoretical foundation of quantum information and computation. It might not be the case you can understand all research papers after this course. However, it is expected that you can understand the basic language, and can find relevant references for the parts that you don't understand. Thus, one should be able to read research papers and learn more materials in the future.

    • (2) cover a selective collection of fundamental topics in quantum algorithms, quantum complexity, and quantum error correcting codes. It is expected that you will know certain important concepts in these fields and can reason about them in both the high level and in sufficient details.

    • (3) learn about the research frontier of one specific topic via the course project. It is expected to be a valuable experience of reading research papers and making use of the knowledge from (1), (2).

  • The study of this course consists of a large amount of reading materials. Given the difficulty of the materials, a significant amount of effort is expected.

  • Please treat the course project as a training of your ability to navigate and collect information from literature and to efficiently understand the main points of research papers. It would be wonderful if something original comes out in the project. However, it is perfectly fine if it doesn't. The main purpose of the course project is to facilitate your research in the future.

  • I would expect questions after lectures and reading, as well as thinking about projects. Please make good use of the office hours and interactions through emails to resolve your questions.

  • Finally, if you feel fascinated by the topic and want to pursue research in this field, please make good use of the course projects. And of course, we should talk more then!


Homework assignments must be submitted electronically to ELMS. (Anyone having trouble with electronic submissions should contact the instructor as soon as possible.) I highly recommend the use of mbox{LaTeX} for the typesetting. Here is a good reference about the use of mbox{LaTeX}. Here is a latex template for writing solutions. Check the homework page.

Textbooks & Lectures

Our (required) textbook is

  • Paul Kaye, Raymond Laflamme, and Michele Mosca, An Introduction to Quantum Computing, Oxford University Press (2007),

which will be supplemented with lecture notes giving further details or covering additional topics. We also maintain a collection of additional resources at the resource page.

Social Media

  • We use Piazza as the discussion forum. Piazza is FERPA-compliant in that it protects the privacy of students, keeps the information private, and is not searchable by search engines. In order to participate, all students are expected to register with an email address of their choice.

  • We use ELMS for submissions of assignments and projects and distributions of corresponding grades.

  • This website serves as the collection of information about the course, syllabus, handouts, and references. Please check frequently!