Topics on the Monday Action Line: Quantum Computing, Political Races and Teaching

Apr 17, 2023 at 09:00 am by WGNS News

L to R: Dr. Hanna Terletska, Kent Syler and Dr. Katie Schrodt

GUEST: Dr. Hanna Terletska, an associate professor in the MTSU Department of Physics and Astronomy
TOPIC: New “Quantum Computing for Everyone” course at MTSU that is enabling access to quantum education in Tennessee 

Quantum technologies, including quantum computing, energy storage and transformation, and sensing, are based on quantum physics and materials and have transformative potential in various fields.

The United States government has identified quantum research and education as key tenets of science and technology, as outlined in the National Quantum Initiative Act, passed in 2018, and major U.S. federal science and research agencies are supporting this area of research.

"MTSU has a unique opportunity to positions itself as a hub for quantum science and education in the Middle Tennessee region, with the potential to attract top talent to MTSU," Terletska says. “The Quantum Science Initiative aligns perfectly with MTSU's ongoing efforts to maintain its R2 research status by growing and expanding in this strategically important research focus.”

Terletska says “building quantum-ready workforce is one of the critical challenges in U.S."

"Enabling access to quantum education is absolutely critical for U.S. quantum ready workforce development. There are more jobs available in quantum than ready to work experts in the field. Recognizing these needs in workforce and training opportunities, here at MTSU Physics and Astronomy Department, we have piloted the first in Tennessee interdisciplinary faculty-taught undergraduate “Quantum Computing for Everyone” course.

"This course is an entry level to the field of quantum computing, with low barriers to enter this new and exciting area for science. No previous knowledge of physics or advance mathematics is needed.  Students learn basic quantum information concepts, like qubits, quantum gates, and then practice programming on IBM quantum computer. We also have invited speakers, actual quantum computer scientist and engineers giving talks to our students.”

MTSU faculty find that new course is an excellent way to increase interest in STEM and broaden participation. 

Terletska says there are currently 17 students from Physics, Computer Science, Biology and Chemistry majors at different years of their college program: freshmen, juniors, seniors, graduate students, and a postdoctoral fellow.

Two faculty members, Ron Henderson and Neda Naseri, are also getting trained in this course.

Terletska believes that this new MTSU course is also an excellent way to bring women in quantum — 35% of the students are female, and practically all of them got into the class after “Quantum for All” workshop that Terletska and Naseri ran at one of the fall 2022 semester WISTEM (Women In STEM) group meeting.


GUEST: Kent Syler, political science professor and political analyst
TOPIC: Tennessee politics in the international spotlight following lawmaker expulsions

From MSNBC to Fox News and from The Tennessean to The Washington Post, Tennessee politics have been in the international spotlight following the expulsion of two young Black Democratic lawmakers from the General Assembly by the GOP supermajority and threat to expel a white female lawmaker who barely survived an expulsion vote following their disruptive protest about gun violence and liberal gun laws on the House floor following the tragic murders at the Covenant School in Nashville.

Syler’s perspective has been sought out by media from all over the country, from The Washington Post to a Los Angeles radio station, as the Metro Nashville Council quickly moved recently to unanimously temporarily reinstate Rep. Justin Jones and the Shelby County Commission did the same on April 12 to Rep. Justin Pearson within a week of their ousters.

Both new young lawmakers captivated the nation by standing in the well of the House and firing back at GOP lawmakers during their expulsions with poise and wisdom beyond their years. They were joined by Rep. Gloria Johnson from Knoxville who believed in their cause and has stood with them throughout in solidarity, even saying that she believes she was spared because she’s white and her two colleagues are Black.

And in a twist, MTSU economics professor and House Rep. Charlie Baum was the only GOP lawmaker who voted against expulsion of all three Democratic lawmakers.

Tennessee also sits in the spotlight politically for other controversial legislation.

NBC News reported that a federal judge in Tennessee recently temporarily halted the state’s new law that criminalizes some drag performances, hours before it was set to take effect. Judge Thomas Parker cited constitutional protections of freedom of speech in issuing a temporary restraining order.

“If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution,” Parker wrote.

“The Court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark,” he wrote.

GOP Gov. Bill Lee signed the novel bill into law March 2.


GUEST: Dr. Katie Schrodt, associate professor of literacy in the Department of Elementary and Special Education in the MTSU College of Education
TOPIC: MTSU education students, faculty put on periodic literacy, math events for local families 

For literacy professor Katie Schrodt, promoting literacy extends beyond her classroom of future educators at MTSU’s College of Education

“As literacy educators working in a teacher education program, one of our jobs is to promote literacy in our community by hosting family and community literacy events,” Schrodt said. “Along with our teacher education students, we help children gain access to books and reading resources that they may not have outside of the classroom.” 

The college partners with local school districts Rutherford County Schools, Murfreesboro City Schools and Maury County Schools to host around 15 literacy, math and combined literacy and math events a year. Education faculty and students fundraise and work with the nonprofit Read to Succeed to provide attending families with reading and math games and activities, snacks or dinner, take-home educational materials and free books.   

At the most recent event at John Pittard Elementary in Murfreesboro, over 100 families, around 275 children and their parents, showed up to take part. 

“The benefits of participating in family literacy programs and events are numerous, including improving comprehension, increasing vocabulary and improving foundational reading and writing skills,” Schrodt said. “Our event surveys indicate children were very excited about their books and opportunities to read and play with their parents, and parents said the events encouraged them to connect with their children through books.” 

Other education faculty involved in organizing these events include Natalie Griffin, Bonnie Barksdale, Stacy Fields, Joan Boulware and Jeremy Winters. Faculty even landed a publication about their outreach work in a journal chartered by the International Literacy Association at  

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