IBM-SPIE HBCU Faculty Accelerator Award in Quantum Optics and Photonics

The $100,000 annual award, presented jointly by the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center and SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, supports and promotes research and education in quantum optics and photonics within IBM-HBCU Quantum Center member institutions.

Leveraging diversity to move quantum technologies forward

Acknowledging the inequities in previous technology nodes and supporting workforce developments, SPIE and IBM are working together to ensure the technologies of the future leverage the qualities and experiences of a diverse community. Quantum photonics and its related technologies will be at the forefront of technology advancements and the economies of the future. SPIE and IBM believe the impact of these technologies will be stronger with the inclusion of the ideas and work of the diverse student-bodies found at America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Together, IBM and SPIE are working to help create an open, diverse, and inclusive quantum future.

The IBM-HBCU Quantum Center and SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, are soliciting proposals for the IBM-SPIE HBCU Faculty Accelerator Award in Quantum Optics and Photonics. This $100,000 award shall be used to promote research and education in quantum optics and photonics within IBM-HBCU Quantum Center member institutions, and may support students or postdoc researcher stipends, travel, conference registration, equipment, materials and supplies, and faculty summer salary.

Proposal due date and award notification

  • Proposals are due 29 September 2023 at 5:00 PM PT.
  • Completed proposals should be submitted as a PDF file to
  • Award announcement will be made in early November. The recipient will be invited to receive recognition at the Quantum West Plenary at SPIE Photonics West, 27 January – 1 February 2024.

Award specifics

  • Up to $100,000 in research funding
  • Presentation at SPIE conference
  • Publication of research in SPIE publication
  • Opportunities for collaboration and development with SPIE

Application requirements

  • Cover letter (should include impact of the award, commitment to the work and requirements of the award, and outline how students could engage with the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center)
  • Written research proposal (2-3 pages, single-spaced, font greater than 10pt in appropriate margins)
  • Supplemental budget and budget justification (overhead costs are not included as part of the award)
  • CVs of all members of the proposing team
  • Research team affiliated with IBM-HBCU Quantum Center member institution

    Research proposals should lead to presentation at an SPIE conference and publication, commit to engagement with the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center, and contribute to the overall mission of the Quantum Center and SPIE.

    Selection criteria

    All proposals will be reviewed by SPIE and IBM Quantum based on the following criteria with an emphasis on the scientific and community impact of the proposal:

    Advancement of quantum optics and photonics research or education

    • Specific optics and photonics research or educational opportunities proposed
    • Rationale and plan for proposed activities
    • Assessment criteria for success of proposal
    • Engagement of students in proposal activities and research

    Intellectual merit and broader impact of project on Black community and the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center

    • Outline of impact potential for the proposed activity to advance knowledge and understanding within the quantum optics and photonics field
    • Anticipated community outcomes
    • Benefit(s) to Quantum Center
    • If applicable, impact on Qiskit SDK and/or IBM Quantum programming tools and hardware

    Qualifications/Publication Record of PI and proposing team, based on supplemental material

    • Team members' qualifications
    • Collaboration with other institutions (multi-institutional)

    Agreements and questions

    All applicants accept both IBM and SPIE privacy policies.

    Questions can be directed to

    2022 recipient

    Congratulations to Wesley Sims, an assistant professor of physics at Morehouse College and director of the college’s Micro/Nano Optics Research & Engineering Laboratory, for being selected as the 2022 recipient of the IBM-SPIE HBCU Faculty Accelerator Award in Quantum Optics and Photonics. Sims plans to apply the $100,000 award to “study integrated photon-photon correlation architectures that can provide ultrafast sensitivity and thus examine both coherent and incoherent excitation mechanisms in a plethora of quantum materials, from solid-state to soft condensed matter systems.” In addition, he will provide additional mentorship and training, as well as hands-on summer research opportunities, for Morehouse physics undergraduates through an established collaboration between Morehouse, the University of California, Los Angeles, and Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.