There is a heated race to make quantum computers deliver practical results. But this race isn't just about making better technology—usually defined in terms of having fewer errors and more qubits, which are the basic building blocks that store quantum information. At least for now, the quantum computing race requires grappling with the complex realities of both quantum technologies and difficult problems. To develop quantum computing applications, researchers need to understand a particular quantum technology and a particular challenging problem and then adapt the strengths of the technology to address the intricacies of the problem. Theoretical nuclear physicist Zohreh Davoudi, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Maryland (UMD) and a member of the Maryland Center for Fundamental Physics, has been working with multiple colleagues at UMD to ensure that the problems that she cares about are among those benefiting from early advances in quantum computing. Davoudi and JQI Fellow Norbert Linke are collaborating to push the frontier of both the theories and technologies of quantum simulation through research that uses current quantum computers. Their research is intended to illuminate a path toward simulations that can cut through the current blockade of fiendishly complex calculations and deliver new theoretical predictions. The team’s current efforts might help nuclear physicists, including Davoudi, to take advantage of the early benefits of quantum computing instead of needing to rush to catch up when quantum computers hit their stride.In a new paper in PRX Quantum, Davoudi, Linke and their colleagues have combined theory and experiment to push the boundaries of quantum simulations—testing the limits of both the ion-based quantum computer in Linke’s lab and proposals for simulating quantum fields.