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2019 Quantum Matters Science Communication Competition

Congratulations to the 2019 National Quantum Matters Science Communication Competition Award Winners!
Sue Shi: 1st Place + Audience Choice Award

Calvin Leung: 2nd Place + Audience Choice Award

Gideon Bass: Finalist 

Aditya Jain: Finalist

Their charge was to create a fabulous, jaw-dropping, 3-minute talk explaining a concept related to their area of research in quantum science or technology and how it might matter to us in the future. They nailed it.

The four finalists wowed the judges and the crowds at the Museum’s 2019 NanoDays with a Quantum Leap Event. They used everything from computer games to suitcases as models to explain how scientists are learning to harness the special quantum behaviors of atoms, photons, and electrons in pursuit of powerful new quantum materials and technologies. An enthusiastic audience texted in votes and the result was a tie! Both Calvin Leung, a graduate student at MIT, and Sue Shi, a senior at Mount Holyoke College, received the Audience Choice Award. The judges deliberated as long as they could before awarding First Place to Sue Shi, and Second Place to Calvin Leung. Sue used several creative analogies to explain how nanocrystals called quantum dots could be used to produce next generation solar panels. Calvin used a clever casino game to explain how to prove the spooky phenomenon of quantum entanglement is real, and how we can use entanglement to create unhackable information security systems.

Finalist Gideon Bass, a lead research scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton, did a remarkable job using a quantum version of the 1970’s computer game Pong to explain quantum uncertainty and its role in quantum computing. University of Waterloo graduate student Aditya Jain used the humorous analogy of an uncertain friendship to demonstrate the most important aspects of quantum computing.

All four finalists put considerable effort into making their 3-minute presentations eye-catching and captivating. They each participated individual coaching sessions with the Museum of Science QMC team during the weeks leading up to the event. They were offered cash awards and certificates, and will receive professional photos and video productions of their presentations; and, of course, bragging rights for making it to the Finals of the National Quantum Matters™ Science Communication Competition. 

Many thanks to the distinguished judging panel:

  • Dr. Joe Checkelsky, Professor of Physics, MIT
  • Dr. Diana Prado Lopes Aude Craik, Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University
  • Evan Hadingham, Senior Science Editor, NOVA, PBS Television
  • Dr. Brindha Muniappan, Director of Education and Public Programs, MIT Museum

Stay tuned to see the videos...

More about the Finalists

First Place & Audience Choice Award: Sue Shi

Sue Shi is a senior majoring in physics at Mount Holyoke College. She’s combined her interest in physics and environmental sustainability in her undergraduate research. She grew up in China, then went to high school in Canada before coming to the US for college. This fall, she’ll be starting graduate school at Brown University. Sue used a series of creative analogies, including a “quantum suitcase” and a nod to the ever-popular Harry Potter movies, to explain how she and her colleagues are investigating the use of nanocrystals called quantum dots to create next generation solar panels.

Second Place and Audience Choice Award: Calvin Leung

Calvin Leung is a first-year graduate student in physics at MIT. Before that, he spent a year in Austria with a team researching quantum entanglement. Calvin designed a special casino game that demonstrates how a mysterious quantum phenomenon called entanglement can be used to create an ultra-secure communication network.

Finalist: Gideon Bass

Gideon Bass is a scientist working on quantum computing at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, DC. Before that, he got his PhD in physics from George Mason University concentrating in computer science and astronomy. Gideon paired his love of computer games and experience in quantum computing research to create “q-pong!,” a computer game that not only demonstrates the phenomenon of quantum uncertainty, but can also be run on a type of quantum computing system called a quantum annealer.

Finalist: Aditya Jain

Aditya Jain grew up in Kolkata, India and early on discovered a love for mathematics, physics, and computer science. These interests led him to pursue research in the field of quantum information. He’s now a graduate student at the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo. Aditya explained the basics of quantum computing thought the story of Alice and Bob, two friends who are not quite sure if they are friends until one of them makes a measurement.

QM Talk Competition Rules & Eligibility

Create a fabulous, jaw-dropping, three minute talk for a family audience explaining a key concept related to your research in quantum science or technology and how it might matter to us in the future.

QM Talk Competition Entry Form

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Currently involved in research in quantum science and technology as an undergraduate, graduate, post-doc, faculty, or associate, in a college, university, government, or industry lab.
  • 18 or older.
  • Available to perform at the Museum of Science on April 6, 2019, and to attend rehearsals on April 5, 2019. (Reasonable U.S. domestic travel costs will be purchased or reimbursed by the Museum of Science as well as lodging and per diem for non-local Finalists.)
  • Available for 1 or 2 private coaching session(s) between March 19 and April 3, in person for local competitors or via video chat for those at a distance.
  • Individuals may enter both the Talk and Hands-on Competition Tracks, however, they will only be selected as a Finalist for one of the two tracks, unless a team member is able to facilitate the Hands-on Activity on April 6th.
  • Ineligible: Employees of the Museum of Science, Boston; employees of the National Science Foundation; minors (younger than 18).


  • Length: 2 – 3 minutes
  • Competitors may — but are not required to — use slides, props, and/or demonstrations.
  • All material must be original, or used with permission, with rights cleared for worldwide internet posting. (See Fair Use guidelines in the Talk Tips pdf.)
  • All material must be suitable for family audiences.
  • Competitors will allow the Museum of Science to make use of their talk and associated materials for educational purposes, with appropriate credit.
  • The Museum will reimburse Finalists for up to $50 in documented expenses for materials used in their talk.
  • Competitors who are invited on March 9 to enter the Finals competition must confirm their intention to participate by March 11 at midnight Pacific Time.
  • Reasonable U.S. domestic travel costs will be purchased or reimbursed by the Museum of Science as well as lodging and per diem for non-local Finalists.
  • Reasonable accommodation will be made for Finalists with disabilities. Deaf and hard-of-hearing entrants may request an ASL interpreter.
  • Finalists invited to present at the Museum will sign a photo/video release which allows the Museum full distribution rights.
  • See Talk Tips for more guidance on creating a winning talk.

Judging Criteria and Process:

Judging Criteria

  • How well the speaker explains to a family audience one or more key concept(s) related to their research in quantum science or technology, and how it might matter to us in the future.
  • Quality of audience engagement.
  • Originality.

Judging Process

  • All entries will be checked for eligibility and rules compliance by the Museum of Science Quantum Matters Team.
  • In consultation with outside experts, the Quantum Matters Team will select four Finalists.
  • The four Finalists will be notified by March 9, and their intention to participate must be confirmed by March 11 at midnight Pacific Time. If they do not confirm, a replacement Finalist may be invited from among the other entries by March 14.
  • Finalists will schedule science communication coaching sessions with the Quantum Matters Team to occur between March 19 and April 3, in person or via video chat, and will receive a $200 stipend to work on polishing their entries.
  • Finalists will participate in a Warm-up and a Finals round before a live audience at the Museum of Science on Saturday, April 6.
  • The distinguished judging panel for the Finals Round will include quantum science researchers and science communication experts. An audience choice prize will also be awarded.


  • Quantum Matters Science Communication Competition Award certificates.
  • Professional photos.
  • Professionally-edited videos of the presentations; postings on YouTube; distribution through the Museum of Science, the National Science Foundation, and social media.
  • Science news coverage through the Museum of Science, the National Science Foundation, and other professional publications and websites.
  • Cash Cards:
    • 1st prize: $300 VISA gift card
    • 2nd prize: $200 VISA gift card
    • 3rd & 4th Finalist awards: $100 VISA gift cards
    • Audience Choice Award: $100 VISA gift card (in addition to prize awarded by judges)
  • Fun! Fame! Fortune! And the satisfaction of knowing you have contributed to improving the quality of public engagement in quantum science and technology.


  • March 1, midnight, Pacific Time: All entries and videos due.
  • March 9, midnight, Pacific Time: Finalists will be notified.
  • March 11, midnight, Pacific Time: Finalists confirm their participation.
  • March 14, midnight, Pacific Time: Runners-up invited if a Finalist declines the invitation to compete in the Finals.
  • March 19 - April 3: Individually scheduled coaching sessions, either at the Museum of Science or by video chat conference. Travel plans finalized for non-local participants.
  • April 5: Finalists gather at the Museum of Science, Boston; final rehearsal/coaching, judging of Hands-on Activities, pre-competition reception.
  • April 6: QM Science Communication Finals Competition: morning warm-up round and afternoon judging; audience choice awards, prize ceremony.

How to Enter:

  • Complete the online QM Talk Competition Entry Form.
  • Upload a video of your Talk to YouTube or Vimeo and include the link on your Entry Form. (The video does not need to be of professional quality.)
  • Submit your Entry Form by midnight Pacific Time on March 1, 2019.

Fine Print:

  • Transportation to and from Boston, overnight accommodation and per diem for non-local finalists will be paid for in advance by the Museum or reimbursed in accordance with federal guidelines. Transportation from outside the United States will not be provided.
  • Finalists living and working in the U.S. on certain types of visas may be subject to restrictions regarding the cash card portion of the prizes.
  • The Museum of Science reserves the right to modify or cancel the competition at any time for any reason, including but not limited to an insufficient number of qualified entries received.
  • The Museum of Science has the final say on any point not clearly outlined in the entry rules.
  • The decisions of the judges are final.
  • We are really excited to see what great talks and hands-on activities come our way!

Further inquiries:

The 2019 Quantum Matters Science Communication Competition is sponsored by the Museum of Science with support from the National Science Foundation (# 1231319)