MTSU Quantum Takes New Leap with Two NSF Grants Totaling $1M-Plus

Feb 15, 2024 at 03:10 pm by WGNS News

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University’s Quantum Science Initiative is taking more giant leaps with two new grants — totaling more than $1 million — from the National Science Foundation to expand research, education and inclusivity in quantum education.

“I’m extremely excited about MTSU leading the efforts in Tennessee’s quantum research and workforce development” said Hanna Terletska, associate professor of physics and astronomy who heads the initiative.


“These awards create a lot of opportunities for faculty and students, students being the biggest benefactors. Not only do we have strong support from MTSU to make the university a leader in the field in this area, but we are also now the only university in Tennessee with quantum funding from multiple NSF grants, which unlocks these opportunities to train students in these groundbreaking quantum technologies poised to transform diverse sectors worldwide in the near future.”

Greg Van Patten, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, echoed that Terletska’s work is positioning MTSU as a leader in both quantum information research and education.

“Dr. Terletska is advancing human knowledge about how light and matter can be used for quantum computation, and she is also assembling the educational tools to train the quantum workforce of the future,” Van Patten said. “That means bringing awareness to young people interested in science about this emerging area, developing some of the earliest courses and curricula on the subject, collaborating with other quantum experts across the Southeast (through her EQUIS grant) and providing opportunities for students to participate in her world-leading research.” 

More opportunities for underrepresented students - In addition to partnering with the university’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, Terletska worked with her colleagues Ron Henderson, chair of the physics department, Neda Naseri and Greg Rushton and former colleague Ryan Otter, who now works at Grand Valley State University, to land the first NSF grant.

The over $264,000 grant titled Creating and Sustaining a Diverse Community of Expertise in Quantum Information Science, more commonly known as an EQUIS grant, provides experiential learning opportunities, support and more to students from underrepresented backgrounds within the MTSU community and beyond to students in surrounding community colleges.

These opportunities include the team launching quantum computing courses in spring 2023 and launching minors and quantum sciences concentrations in fall 2024 as well as creating current workshops, conferences and outreach events. Terletska and her collaborators also created the College of Basic and Applied Sciences’ AMPLIFY Scholars program, which provides students with scholarship and mentorship opportunities. 

Finally, they launched research projects targeting university and community college students in the region through the grant’s inclusion of four other schools across the Southeast: the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Tennessee Tech University, Fisk University and Auburn University. 

To secure the second NSF award, Terletska collaborated with Herbert Fotso, associate physics professor at the University of Buffalo and landed the $800,000 Building Quantum Information Science and Engineering Research and Education at Middle Tennessee, also known as the ExpandQISE, grant — which also aims to expand quantum education and access, specifically across Middle Tennessee. 

Terletska said MTSU was only one of 15 schools across the U.S. to land the award and the only school in Tennessee to do so. 

Terletska and Fotso have used the funding to collaborate on research in quantum emitters, which are the building blocks of quantum computers. They have also put the funds toward research opportunities for MTSU undergraduate and graduate students to work on quantum optics research as well as launching a quantum computing club and quantum workshops for teachers. Finally, they created a joint quantum course with Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, a private HBCU, this past fall, which Terletska will bring back again this spring — by popular demand. 

“Before Hanna came to MTSU, there was no mention of quantum science outside of two courses taught in physics,” said Ron Henderson about Terletska’s arrival in 2017. “There is significant national interest in quantum computing, but the expertise required to contribute in this area of research is beyond the training of most faculty. Hanna took the initiative to expand her knowledge from quantum mechanics and quantum materials to quantum computing.”

Unlocking students’ quantum potential - “I am a first-generation student, so I can resonate with students from that background and other underrepresented backgrounds,” said Terletska, originally from the Drohobych, Lviv, region of Ukraine, who came to the U.S. in 2003 to complete her graduate degrees. “I feel connected with students here at MTSU and can understand what kind of support my students need.”

Ariel Nicastro, a sophomore physics major from Franklin, Tennessee, said the new quantum opportunities at MTSU are incredibly beneficial for her future education goals of pursuing a doctorate in quantum materials or nanotechnology. 

“Dr. Terletska’s enthusiasm for quantum physics and excitement about the growing opportunities in the field are incredibly contagious, and I couldn't help but be more enthusiastic about the quantum field myself,” Nicastro said. “The NSF-funded AMPLIFY program initiated by Dr. Terletska provided me and many other students interested in the fields of quantum, material science and computation with an opportunity for paid research and biweekly research workshops.Without it and my quantum materials research project, I doubt I would have felt as confident as I do now in pursuing my interests in quantum research.”

Laurel Koenig, a computational science Ph.D. student from Hampton, Tennessee, plans to take what she called her excellent background and array of experiences in quantum from MTSU to a career in an industry lab working on quantum computer research. 

“Dr. Terletska is one of the professors who has gone above and beyond for me,” Koenig said. “For example, this semester she is teaching an independent version of a quantum mechanics class for me that is tailored to the research I’m doing…. I have been lucky enough to be working in the quantum field, and I wouldn’t have had that opportunity without MTSU.”

Monika Fouad, a senior professional physics and biochemistry major, said Terletska has been an invaluable mentor and guide in her quantum education. 

“Her support goes beyond the classroom; she genuinely cares about student engagement and understanding, and she creates a fostering environment that encourages students to be curious,” Fouad said. “Moreover, Dr. Terletska has introduced the AMPLIFY program, which is allowing me to learn about and gain research experience in the field.”

Learn more about the quantum initiative at MTSU at Learn more about the opportunities at the College of Basic and Applied Sciences at and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at

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