Michelle Simmons deserves Australian of the Year
Am delighted Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons has been named Australian of the Year for many reasons including my fascination with quantum computing. As one of the world’s top scientists, Professor Simmons has spearheaded research that could lead to a quantum leap in computing, with her work helping to develop world-leading technology. Being one of those who believe quantum computers have the potential to solve problems in minutes that would take existing conventional computers centuries, there is no doubt her win is a vote of confidence in her work and the industry. Professor Simmons research has shown that rather than performing sequential calculations one after the other like conventional computers, futuristic machines will carry out calculations in parallel. Two years ago, a friend of your blogger who had a chance to work with Professor Simmons, shared how the British born scientist had transformed the University of New South Wales quantum physics department into a world class level in advanced computer systems. In fact that friend was part of Professor Simmons team six years ago that created the world’s first transistor made from a single atom, along with the world’s thinnest wire.There is no doubt the technology she has helped create will transform the world from business to banks undertaking financial analysis, transport companies planning optimal logistic routes, improvements in medical drug design among many others.As Professor of Physics and Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology,Professor Simmons leads a team of more than 200 researchers at eight Australian universities who are developing a suite of technologies for quantum computing, information storage and communications.
Her research group is the only one of its kind in the world that can manipulate individual atoms to make atomically precise electronic devices, leading the global race to develop a quantum computer in silicon with an approach to focus on making qubits out of single atoms of phosphorus or quantum dots in silicon, the material that forms the basis of today’s computer chips. Silicon has several advantages including that it is amongst the most stable and manufacturable environments in which to host qubits.Professor Simmons’ team has a detailed plan to build a 10-qubit integrated circuit device within the next few years, aiming for a 100-qubit system within the decade beyond that.Should it go to plan, quantum computers will excel at searching colossal datasets, solving complex optimisation problems, and modelling things like financial markets or simulating biological molecules. In addition, quantum technologies will provide important new modelling abilities that will improve the quality and speed of drug development. Quantum computers are also expected to help transport and delivery companies reduce fuel consumption and improve the pattern-recognition software in self-driving cars, making them safer and faster. For everyday people, benefits could range from real-time analysis of traffic and weather, to a new era of personalized medicine. Thats a task her team and recently established Australia’s first quantum computing company, bringing together representatives of governments, industry and universities in a unique consortium based at University of New South Wales to develop and commercialise world-leading research will definitely work hard to achieve. Professor Simmons’ scientific vision, has seen her establish Australia as an international leader in quantum computing and has worked tirelessly to ensure the country will benefit economically and socially from the commercialisation of her team’s great Australian research and therefore I’ve no complain her being named Australian of the Year. Other winners who were equally impressive were New South Wales mathematics teacher Eddie Woo named Australia’s Local Hero, Soccer star Samantha Kerr named Young Australian of the Year and biophysicist Dr Graham Farquhar named Senior Australian of the Year.