Employee Spotlight: Marta Mauri

Zapata Employee Spotlight: Marta Mauri
Marta Mauri

Machine learning is expected to be one of the most valuable applications of quantum computing, helping to break through the bottlenecks emerging in classical machine learning. Naturally, Zapata’s Quantum AI team is working hard to make this future a reality, and a key member of that team is Marta Mauri.  

Marta Mauri is the team’s Research Manager, where she is responsible for coordinating the team’s research together with Research Director Alejandro Perdomo-Ortiz and making sure their strategy aligns with company objectives. She also leads critical team management functions including hiring, onboarding, and documentation. When she’s not managing the team, Marta also contributes directly to the research, supervises interns, reviews papers, and presents the research at conferences.

Before taking on the Research Manager role, Marta was a Quantum Software Engineer, where she devoted half her time to research and the other half to building the forthcoming QML (Quantum Machine Learning) Suite, which will be available to customers this summer.  

Marta joined Zapata in December 2019 after wrapping up her Master thesis in quantum physics at the University of Milan. “As part of my Master thesis, I came to Toronto to work with a professor, Juan Carrasquilla, for four months at the Vector Institute (for those interested, they have a great internship program). I was trying to figure out what to do with my life after I finished, and I really liked the people and environment in Toronto. I asked my professor if he had any recommendations for jobs in the area, and he put me in touch with Alejandro. My thesis was on applying machine learning for quantum physics, so it seemed like a good overlap with my interests.” 

I wasn’t an expert in quantum computing, but I went through the interview process and really enjoyed it; it had a big impact on my decision to join Zapata. I had an in-person visit with the team for a few days and it was such a free environment. The team had a great culture and I really felt like I could be myself.

Marta Mauri, Quantum AI Research Manager

Three years later, the people are still one of Marta’s favorite parts about working at Zapata. “Whatever your opinion is, there is a space for it. If you disagree with how a project is being handled, you can say that, and we can all improve the management together. On the other hand, we also make space for gratitude for the work our team puts in. That’s super important to me, it’s like one big family.” 

Marta also appreciates the intellectual honesty of her team. “We’re not just trying to hype up the technology — we’re really trying to understand why it works, how it works, what are the strengths but also the limitations. When we were at the American Physical Society conference in March, the talks the Zapata team gave were very honest about the limitations of their algorithms and what more needs to be done. It’s a really good sign that we’re not afraid to admit that publicly, and it makes it easier to trust the work that we’re doing.” 

One of Marta’s greatest contributions since joining Zapata was her work on a recently published paper, Evaluating Generalization in Classical and Quantum Generative Models — her first time being the primary author of a paper (see her other research credits here). The groundbreaking research created a novel metric for evaluating generalization, or how well generative machine learning models can create new data, rather than simply replicating the training data. “It’s exciting to see that interns today are using the metric we created in that paper in their projects to evaluate other machine learning models.”

The research also showed that by the team’s metric, Zapata’s quantum-inspired models significantly outperform traditional classical GANs when evaluated for their generalization capabilities. Perhaps most excitingly, this work formulates a framework to unambiguously define and demonstrate practical quantum advantage in the domain of generative modeling — a major area of interest within the QML community. 

However, when asked about her proudest accomplishment at Zapata, Marta had a more humble answer. “When I started at Zapata, I had to switch from the textbook-style approach you learn in school to a more improvisational, applied way of problem solving. I’m really proud of this on a personal level because I had to step out of my comfort zone and grow as a person and a scientist. But I’ve had so much help in this that the pride goes to the whole company.” 

Today, Marta lives and works in Toronto. But for most of her life Marta lived in the Brianza region, outside Milan, where she spent much of her time hiking via ferrata around Lake Como in the Italian Alps — or in her favorite mountains: the Dolomites. Although there aren’t many mountains around Toronto, she’s looking forward to a trip to Jasper and Banff National Parks in the Canadian Rockies later this summer.  

Whether she’s at work or in the mountains, Marta lets experience be her guide, reflecting her favorite quote from C.S. Lewis: “What I like about experience is that it is such an honest thing. You may take any number of wrong turnings; but keep your eyes open and you will not be allowed to go very far before the warning signs appear. You may have deceived yourself, but experience is not trying to deceive you. The universe rings true wherever you fairly test it.”