Women in Quantum Series: Dr. Anindita Banerjee, Research Head & VP of Quantum Security at QNu Labs Pvt. Ltd.


Computer security has become a bigger concern in the past year, due to sensational hack stories like the gasoline pipeline hack that occurred in May. Many have turned to quantum technology, specifically quantum encryption, to market a new level of security. One of these quantum encryption companies is QNu Labs, based in India. QNu Labs builds a variety of quantum security products and platforms, ensuring total security to their clients.

On staff at QNu Labs is Dr. Anindita Banerjee, the Quantum Security Specialist. She explains that her primary duty, “was consulting quantum protocols and enabling their realization, which was followed by theoretical analysis of the protocols. However, I have played a key role in optical path realization, data analysis, performance evaluation, and consulting for improvisation for Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) products.” Banerjee started with QNu Labs in 2017, a year after it was founded. She has helped QNu Labs to successfully develop different solutions around QKD and QRNG to help create quantum-safe encryption products.

QKD, for those who aren’t familiar, is a popular form of quantum cryptography, where two QKD machines are connected via optical fiber, and distribute keys between the two machines for decoding the quantum-encoded messages. The QKD keys use entangled photons, having interdependent quantum states, which makes them extremely sensitive to hacking, even stopping the entire process if a hack has been detected.

QRNG, in contrast, produces a series of random numbers, which can be used as their own keys. QRNG can also be part of the QKD process. QRNG produces unpredictable combinations of random numbers, making it hard to hack. Using QKD and QRNG has been a long, but rewarding process for Banerjee. “Developing a new technology calls for a lot of patience, persistence, and hard work. It was motivating to see the knowledge vs. assumption ratio improve substantially… This is the first in India where an indigenous deep tech product in quantum technology received recognition. This has been an incredible journey with tremendous learnings.”

Banerjee has also found a rewarding process in mentoring others within her company “Recently, I was promoted to lead the Research Wing of QNu Labs, and from that, I have a team of brilliant, diligent, sincere, young engineers and researchers.” Banerjee has used her leadership and mentoring skills to support women specifically, within quantum technology. Women tend to be underrepresented in this industry, as such, a community lead by a kind and compassionate leader like Banerjee is welcome. Banerjee said that she found the women she mentored as: “hardworking, sincere, and eager to accept new challenges. Some of the women engineers were experiencing motherhood for the first time. Despite fighting all frictions, culturally, emotionally, and physically, they have been very brave and constantly supported the team round the clock.” Banerjee is proud to have such dedicated individuals working for QNu Labs.

Using her position as Research Wing Leader, Banerjee also hopes to inspire more women to pursue a career within quantum technology. “Coming specifically to QT, I would like to mention that women can play an important role in communications, whether it be discussing the technology, explaining the product, or giving a demo, etc. I think they play an important and better role.” Banerjee has used her own life experiences to help relate to the women around her and to support them. “While balancing the work expectations and family obligations, women tend to neglect their health,” she explained. “I myself have been away from my family for four years. I visit them every month, and my husband takes care of my child, who is now 14. Since I have gone through these stages, it helps me connect with the women team members: understand them emotionally, talk to them, and help/support them to improve their work performance.” Banerjee hopes that other companies will encourage and support women researchers and engineers as much as she has. Her work sets an example for the rest of the industry to encourage sustainable diversity and a supportive community for underrepresented groups.

References:

Castleberry, Kenna. “Is Our Data Actually Safe? Quantum Technology May Be Able to Answer This Question.” The Quantum Daily, August 16, 2021.

Foreman Jr., Tom, Jeff Martin, and Ben Finley. “Pipeline Hack Fuels Gas Crunch; US Suspects Russian Origins.” ABC News, May 13, 2021.

“QRNG.” Quantum Technology Flagship. 2021.

“Quantum Cryptography Company.” QNu Labs.

Image courtesy of QNu Labs.




Kenna Castleberry
Kenna Castleberry
Science Communicator at JILA

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