A cutting-edge quantum physicist from Sydney’s eastern suburbs is the 2018 Australian of the Year.
Director at the UNSW Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology (CQC2T), Michelle Simmons, received the top honour at the Australian of the Year awards ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Simmons moved to Australia in 1999 as a founding member of CQC2T.
Since then she has led her team in the ‘computing space race’ – working toward the development of the world’s first fully functioning quantum computer.
And they’re getting close.
In 2012 Simmons’ team created the first working quantum bit based on a single atom in silicon – a major step towards a quantum computer.
Since then, the CQC2T team has partnered with government, as it continues to lead the field of quantum computing.
Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, commended Simmons on her achievement.
“Professor Simmons has long been highly regarded in the scientific community and now her pioneering achievements will be celebrated by all Australians,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Simmons closed out what was a STEM-dominated awards ceremony.
Head mathematics teacher at Cherrybrook Technology High School and the man behind ‘Wootube’, Eddie Woo, received the Australia’s Local Hero Award, in recognition of community service.
Mr Woo started his YouTube maths tutorial channel as a way to teach a student with cancer who was unable to attend class.
It has now gone viral, with more than 180,000 subscribers.
“Mr Woo’s infectious enthusiasm for the subject and a passion for helping others has given thousands of people an opportunity to further their education,” said Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton.
“He has enriched many lives both in Australia and around the world and is a very deserving recipient of Australia’s Local Hero Award”.
Taking out the Senior Australian of the Year award was biophysicist, Dr Graham Farquhar.
Farquhar received recognition for his work in developing sustainable farming practices, most notably the creation of wheat that can be grown with less water.
Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Michaelia Cash, said the awards show the importance of science for Australia.
“Science and education are vital to Australia’s future prosperity and it’s wonderful to see these fields leading the way in this year’s Awards,” she said.
“Through the years our science, research, and innovation community has been very well represented.”