Skip to main content

Opposites Attract

The Best Kind of Unexpected Connection

Sir Isaac Newton taught that opposites attract in science, but Honors students Reece and Hadley Robertson are living proof that this theory is true in love as well. Reece is an Applied and Computational Mathematics Emphasis (ACME) major and Hadley studies Experience Design and Management. Their love and life stories are all about connecting the dots, whether it is connecting events in hindsight, connecting their disciplines, or even reconnecting with each other.

Reece and Hadley met on their first day at Provo High School as fourteen-year-olds and had many mutual friends. They both admired each other over freshman and sophomore year, and then went to homecoming junior year. During that date they realized just how amazing the other person was, and started dating more seriously later that year. After high school,
Hadley chose to attend BYU Hawaii while Reece stayed in Provo and attended BYU here. Then they both served missions, Hadley in the Washington, Everett mission and Reece in the Ghana Accra West mission. After her mission, Hadley transferred to BYU, dated a bit, and realized that Reece was who she wanted to be with. Seven weeks after Reece returned home from his mission, Hadley and Reece were married in a beautiful wedding straight from Hadley’s very organized Pinterest board.

Their love story is not the only interesting thing about Reece and Hadley. They also happen to be wickedly talented people. Hadley has always been interested in government; she interned for the Provo city council while still in high school, and then in college she interned for the Utah state legislature, Senator Mike Lee, and then the State Department. Working for Senator Lee was a great opportunity and Hadley quickly became everyone’s’ right-hand woman. From organizing the helplessly disorganized attic to giving tours and answering phone calls, Hadley was in her element. It was during this internship that Reece visited and proposed to her in the Capitol Hill rotunda. He likes to joke that while other people got the tours, he got the tour guide!

While Hadley was busy influencing public policy, Reece focused on revolutionizing the field of quantum computing. However, first, he had to learn what that even meant. As an avid programmer and math nerd in high school, Reece knew that he wanted to join ACME even before arriving at BYU. He took a job as a Web Developer with the McKay School of Education and joined Dr. Scott Glasgow’s research lab. In the lab, he was given a textbook about quantum mechanics and told to try to understand it so that he could apply his mathematics skills to the project. Instead of shirking away, Reece rose to the challenge, boosted by an Unexpected Connections class he took. In the class, taught by Dr. Colton and Dr. Ward, Reece learned about uncertainty in quantum physics and history, especially the use of uncertainty in creating positive outcomes. Guided by “positivity despite uncertainty,” Reece completed his research with Dr. Glasgow, took a summer internship at KBR on their quantum computing team, and is now completing a thesis about quantum emulators.

On the flip side, Hadley’s thesis was inspired by a BYU Forum given by Brian Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy. Listening to him speak about the unique challenges of people of color made Hadley realize that she wanted to be a part of the solution. The death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 confirmed the pressing need for her. She continued to mull over how she was going to make a change until she learned about deliberative dialogues in a class taught by Dr. Sarah Agate, Assistant Professor in the Marriott School of Business. Deliberate dialogue, an initiative created by the National Issues Forum Institute in Washington DC, is a theory-based process helping individuals find the best way to create conversations about controversial topics. Having a set format helped Hadley realize that we could and should discuss racial inequality with younger children more effectively. Her thesis focuses on creating a deliberate dialogue with high school students with an issue guide to help guide the conversation. The issue guide gives three possible solutions to different problems and the students learn to express their opinions in a productive manner. By creating this deliberate dialogue, Hadley hopes to create a common ground where compromises and action can grow.

Though Reece’s thesis is based in Computer Science, he too is looking at making life a little more efficient – albeit in a different way. Reece’s first love is clearly Hadley, but quantum computers also hold a special place in his heart. His thesis is looking to create a quantum emulator, or in other words, creating software to run quantum data on a normal computer. Reece’s analogy about quantum data is focused on a keyring and a lock. You have a keyring with a near infinite number of keys and locks. There is no possible way to try all the keys, so you are stuck. Quantum computing changes that one lock into an infinite number of locks and as long as you have an algorithm to say which ones fit together, you can now unlock so many doors. In simplest terms, to run algorithms, we need computers with more computing power beyond what a normal computer can do. Quantum computers can work beyond the static binary system on normal computers. However, these fancy computers can only hold their superposition state for short periods of time and simulators get complicated really fast. To combat the problem, Reece is creating software that allows a regular computer to emulate what quantum computers will do. This means less time to crunch numbers and less memory used.

Truly, Reece and Hadley are an interdisciplinary power couple – the best kind of Unexpected Connection! They help each other connect the dots of their lives, whether it’s Hadley editing Reece’s papers or Reece helping Hadley think like a STEM student for her classes. Both have had moments in their lives where their life plans seemed derailed but in looking back, they realized that these moments they once thought were black dots on their records are actually connecting to draw a beautiful picture. Reece choosing to research in a lab where he felt highly underqualified gave him a skill set that makes him an essential part of numerous teams. Hadley’s time in Hawaii gave her an understanding of different cultures as well as experiences to draw upon in her major. The dots of their lives will surely continue to connect and as the two move on to better and greater things after graduation.

Hadley is from Provo, Utah and she is applying to law school next year and aims to become a civil service lawyer. In her limited free time, she loves organizing things, party planning, and overall, just being a complete joy to be around! Reece is an Applied and Computational Mathematics Emphasis (ACME) student who was also raised in Provo, Utah. He will be applying for PhD programs in Computer Science with an emphasis in Quantum Computing. When he isn’t solving problems in quantum mechanics, he likes to write more code, read, and run. Together, they enjoy watching Netflix (Brooklyn 99, Marvel movies, and Madame Secretary) and visiting their families in Provo.