September 14, 2022
Tianle Liu was born and raised in Beijing, China, and first came to UChicago as a physics and mathematics double major in The College. This will be her fifth year on campus! She is currently pursuing a master’s in computer science. As part of the EPiQC education team, she works with Professor Diana Franklin to create engaging and accessible quantum computing education materials. We spoke to her about her experiences below.
Why did you choose the University of Chicago?
I chose to attend college here because of UChicago’s emphasis on intellectual discourse and the core curriculum. Although I knew I wanted to study physics, I also wanted to expose myself to diverse topics outside of my major and be able to engage in rigorous discussions in areas such as philosophy and political science. The college experience gave me just that.
After graduation, I wanted to pursue a path where I could merge my interest in quantum, computing, and education. This is why I chose to continue my education as a master’s student in Diana’s lab, which is the only CS lab that studies quantum computing education.
Also, Chicago is just such a great city to live in! Its vibrant art scene is especially attractive to me, and I never get bored exploring the city.
What is something you are proud of accomplishing at UChicago?
I’m really proud of the educational quantum computing game I designed and developed in the past year. It’s called Qupcakery and it teaches core quantum computing concepts such as superposition and entanglement to middle school students without requiring any technical background. From brainstorming game premises, planning the game flow, drawing characters, and designing incremental levels, to actually piloting the game and delivering it to public, it was the first project I felt I had full ownership of and I have grown a lot both as a developer and a researcher. I was super happy to see that when we tested the game with kids, they really liked it and wanted to learn more about quantum computing!
What’s something you love to do outside of the classroom and lab?
Hanging out with friends and playing board games! Recently I became addicted to Wingspan and have been playing it every Saturday. I also love music and really enjoy playing in the University Chamber Orchestra as a violinist.
What are your plans post-UChicago?
This fall I will be applying for PhD programs and looking for tech job opportunities in industry as well.
What support have you received at UChicago that was particularly valuable to you?
I’ve had amazing mentorship from my research advisors: Professor Ed Blucher, Professor Alex High, Professor Ken Nakagaki, and Professor Diana Franklin. They are all very approachable and have provided me with great academic and professional guidance. Their support has been invaluable to me as a growing scientist.
Also, shout out to my friends who kept me accountable both in study and in life, and supported me through really stressful times.
If you were speaking to someone who wants to learn about UChicago, what would you tell them?
Take advantage of the school’s resources!! To name a few—attend some weekly talks to learn about mind-blowing studies, visit the libraries where you can basically get any book you want, and sign up for PSD social events. Check out the student organizations like the Outdoor Adventure Club—they are really cool! You can also seek professional help from the career center and utilize the school’s mental health resources as you need.
Academics here will be very demanding, but don’t get stuck in Hyde Park. Go explore the city and check out all the good food and fun events it has to offer!
How has your background or experience prepared you to contribute to an environment where diversity and inclusion are valued?
This might sound a bit cliché, but as a female student in STEM, I care a lot about how to share my love for physics and computer science with young girls and encourage them to explore the sciences more. This is why I participated in the Neighborhood Schools Program as an undergrad and mentored local high school students in physics and math. This is also the major reason why I joined Diana’s team to pursue quantum computing education (currently mainly taught to advanced physics and computer science students, a group which is heavily male-dominated) and create materials that are accessible and appealing to girls and other minority groups in STEM.