Benjamin Mummery

Benjamin Mummery

Quantum Software Engineer

Benjamin’s initial brush with serious coding came while creating simulations of Galactic Bars while studying for a masters in Astrophysics. That having sparked a lifelong passion for computing, he abandoned plans to go into science journalism in favour of a PhD in Computational Cosmology at the Astrophysics Research Institute, where he also picked up a penchant for projects named with unconvincing backronyms. After leaving academia, he pursued the life of a Software Engineer, working as an RSE at the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation before a brief stint in defence with Leonardo SpA. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with his partner (also an astrophysicist turned software engineer), several carnivorous plants, and an equally carnivorous cat.

Question & Answer

Why have you chosen a career in quantum?

Quantum opens up vast avenues in terms of expanding computing power and reach, and is absolutely a cornerstone of our technological future. The world of quantum mechanics is incredibly alien to our lived experience, but undeniably true, and realising that cannot help but fill you with a sense of infinite possibility. Also the underlying mathematics is captivating!

What is a problem you dream of solving (with quantum)?

Quantum is uniquely powerful when applied to problems that require trying multiple combinations of parameters. This makes it incredibly exciting for fields of academic research that try to use simulations to determine real-world parameters. The altruistic answer is, of course, drug research and development, which could be made orders of magnitude faster and cheaper by the applications of quantum computing; however, I would personally love to see the potential of quantum applied to cosmological research!

What’s your superpower?

I’d say breaking down large complex problems into small, addressable chunks, but that sort of approach is actually very common among programmers. Really it’s probably retaining obscure snippets of knowledge that can often be trotted out to solve some of those chunks!

If you could meet anyone, who would it be and why?

Ada Lovelace. What a brilliant mind it must have taken to write the first computer program while “computer” meant either “a cumbersome assemblage of brass cogs and gears” or, more commonly, “a person who owns an abacus”! Her speculations on what mechanical computers could mean for society shows an astonishing breadth of insight and foresight. And, not content to merely be a polymath genius she was also, by all accounts, a captivating personality who counted among her friends such notables as Babbage, Faraday, and Dickens. That has to be a good dinner guest!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“The human brain is several pounds of fatty meat evolved to find the ripest berries while avoiding ending up inside a smilodon. It is an imperfect mechanism for dictating the behaviour of a rock that has been flattened and filled with lightning in order to trick it into thinking for us. Mistakes are an inevitable fact of life, so be kind to yourself and others during code reviews!”

What are people often surprised to know about you?

I am occasionally recognised by people who were taught geography by my father, as for much of my childhood I was frequently asked to go and and climb up an interesting rock formation so that the photographs he was taking for his class would have something in them to indicate scale. I’m sure the growth spurt in my mid teens caused some small confusion about the size of basaltic columns!