Announcing the Winner of the 2021 Wittek Quantum Prize for Open Source Software

Mark Fingerhuth
QOSF
Published in
5 min readJan 20, 2022

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Victory Omole is the 2021 Winner of the Wittek Quantum Prize for Open Source Software for his outstanding contributions to Google’s Cirq library and other open source projects. The three runners-up (in no particular order) are Kesha Hietala who led the design of the SQIR quantum programming language, Paul Nation who co-created QuTiP and Robert Smith who started the Quil ecosystem and open-sourced large parts of the Rigetti software stack.

The prize has been awarded by the Quantum Open Source Foundation (QOSF) and Unitary Fund, reviewing over 35 candidates from a worldwide community.

For the second time, QOSF partnered with the Unitary Fund to award the Wittek Quantum Prize for Open Source Software which highlights key players in the ecosystem. Last year, we awarded the first Wittek Quantum Prize to Roger Luo for his work on Yao.jl and for his commitment to create and foster a quantum software ecosystem in Julia. For the second edition, we received 38 impressive nominations from all over the world highlighting the global nature of the quantum open source community. Throughout three subsequent elimination rounds, the committee, formed of Unitary Fund’s Advisory Board, narrowed down the nominations to a shortlist of 7 strong candidates, from which the final winner was selected by ranked-choice voting:

The 2021 Wittek Quantum Prize for Open Source Software is awarded to Victory Omole, software engineer at Super.tech, for his outstanding contributions to Cirq and other open source projects.

Victory deserves this prize due to his continuous and enthusiastic support of open quantum software mainly, but not only, through his outstanding involvement with Cirq. The jury recognized his outstanding efforts when it came to improving the Cirq library, building the community and actively participating in the weekly developer meetings. His open source work truly demonstrates his strong dedication to the quantum ecosystem.

Cirq is Google’s software library for near-term quantum computers which is widely used by quantum computing researchers in industry & academia and which was famously used to program the Sycamore processor for Google’s demonstration of quantum advantage in 2019. When Google decided to open source Cirq in January 2018, Victory quickly became one of the first non-Google contributors of the project. Around that time, Victory and a few friends had just founded QCHackers — a group of software engineers who created libraries such as jquil, a Java library for quantum programming using Rigetti’s Quil language. Since 2018, Victory has been actively involved with Cirq contributing more than 120 pull requests to Cirq in his free time. In case you’re not familiar with open source development: this is an incredible feat and not easy to achieve by any means. It shows dedication, self-discipline, consistency and relentless devotion to the ideas & philosophies of open source software. This is the largest number of contributions to Cirq by a non-Googler and it has earned Victory the trust of the Cirq maintainers. As a result, he became the only non-Google developer who is trusted to lead the popular Cirq sync — a weekly developer meeting open to everyone in the community.

Next to his continuous efforts with Cirq, Victory is also working on open source software as part of his job at Super.tech where he develops SuperstaQ — an API for optimizing quantum programs for various hardware backends to make them capable of execution on existing noisy intermediate scale (NISQ) hardware. Beyond his open source work on Github, Victory is sharing his insights about quantum software and quantum computing by being an active member of the popular Quantum Computing StackExchange. There, he can be found in the top 16% of all users and has reached over 42.000 people with his questions and answers.

Watch the full interview with Victory below:

We recently sat down with Victory to talk about how he got into quantum computing, his contributions to Cirq and his work at Super.tech.

Victory will give a more detailed talk about Cirq, Super.tech and his other open source contributions as part of the Unitary Fund’s Twitch channel on Feb 10th at 9AM PST/12PM EST. Make sure to tune in!

Every year it is a challenging task to select a single winner for the Wittek Quantum Prize since the quality of nominations is very high. For this reason, we would also like to highlight the three very impressive runners-up of this year’s Wittek Quantum Prize in no particular order:

Paul Nation

Together with Robert Johansson, Paul Nation started QuTiP (Quantum Toolbox in Python) — an open-source software for simulating the dynamics of closed and open quantum systems. QuTiP has had a huge impact in the quantum open software community. QuTiP is used at nearly every university around the globe which teaches quantum computing, at many government-funded research labs, and is relied upon by most companies focused on developing a quantum computer. QuTiP has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times since its initial release (over 50.000 times in 2018 only) and the original QuTiP paper has been cited more than 1,700 times. Paul has maintained QuTiP for several years, built its community and answered hundreds of questions in the QuTiP developer forum.

Kesha Hietala

Kesha led the design of the SQIR quantum programming language and the VOQC verified optimizer, both available through this Github repo. SQIR is a robust, open-source framework for writing and verifying quantum programs. It has been used to write and verify a broad variety of algorithms, including Grover’s and Shor’s algorithms. SQIR’s language is interconvertible with the OpenQASM standard for quantum circuits but is also highly amenable to formal verification, allowing quantum programmers to prove properties of a wide range of quantum programs. In developing SQIR, Hietala has also contributed substantially to the QWIRE quantum computing library, which now underlies a variety of quantum computing projects. VOQC is the first fully verified quantum optimizer, meaning that its optimizations are mathematically proven to preserve the semantics of the input program. In addition to constituting a breakthrough result in formal verification, VOQC serves as the de-facto open-source implementation of the Nam optimizer, which is the closely held property of IonQ.

Robert Smith

Robert Smith, in his role as Rigetti’s Chief Software Architect, pushed for open-sourcing as much of Rigetti’s software as possible. This includes pyQuil, a Python framework for building quantum computers, and grove, a library of quantum algorithms built on top of pyQuil, and many more. There are more than thirty other open-source repositories available via Rigetti’s Github page. Furthermore, he played a key role in the development of quil-lang — a practical quantum instruction set architecture. Robert wrote the initial specification for the language, laid the foundation for the Quil compiler, and created the Quantum Virtual Machine (QVM), a high-performance Quil simulator. While still used and developed by Rigetti, the language is run under an open governance model. Even after leaving Rigetti, Robert shows his dedication to the project by continuing to guide and contribute constantly to quil-lang.

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the process of selecting the winner of the 2021 Wittek Quantum Prize for Open Source Software — either through nominations, by promoting the prize on the social media, mailing lists and in their academic labs, and last but not least, the members of the jury for their hard work during the evaluation process.

If your nominee was not selected to be awarded the prize, please consider re-submitting them for the 2022 edition.

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