Quantum physicist Michelle Yvonne Simmons named Australian of the Year, while Sam Kerr named Young Australian

Quantum physicist Michelle Simmons named Australian of the Year, while Sam Kerr named Young Australian

Two advocates for women in their respective fields have been named Australian and Young Australian of the Year at a ceremony in Canberra tonight.

Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons received the highest recognition for her work in quantum computing, while 24-year-old Samantha Kerr was named Young Australian of the year.

Michelle was recognised for her pioneering research that could lead to the world’s first quantum computer, which would transform computing as we know it.

The Australia Day committee said Michelle’s work could revolutionise industries. She’s already known as one of the world’s top scientists, and is said to have transformed the University of NSW Quantum Physics Department to become a global leader in advanced computing systems.

Arriving in Australia from Britain 18 years ago, in 2012 she and her team created to world’s first transistor made from a single atom, along with the world’s thinnest wire.

She’s leading the “space race of the computing era”, and is aiming to create a quantum computer that could solve problems in minutes, rather than taking thousands of years.

The delivery of such technology would change everything. And we’re thrilled to think a woman could lead the team that makes it happen.

Receiving the award, Michelle said she wants to see more girls pursuing science and technology careers. She said it’s important that girls see women in leadership roles and competing in the field internationally: “It gives them the sense that anything is possible.”

“I think one of the important things – and the message I hope to get out there – is to defy those expectations,” she said

“Don’t live your life according to what other people think. Go out there and do what you really want to do.”

Samantha Kerr was named Young Australian of the Year at the ceremony in Canberra. The Matildas striker received the award for her efforts on and off the field, as one of the best players in the world and a true advocate for women in sport.

Kerr’s already claimed a number of awards in recent years, including being named the Asian Women’s Footballer of the Year.

“It’s great to see women’s sports teams doing so well in Australia,” she said receiving the award.

“Women’s AFL is growing, women’s NRL is starting to build. The profile of women’s cricket continues to grow and of course, the recent achievements of the Matildas on the world stage has not only brought fans to international fixtures but has also had a positive affect on the attendance throughout the W-League.

“As a female athlete, this makes me extremely proud to be Australian … We’ve still got work to do and that’s the exciting part.

“It’s great to see women’s sports teams doing so well in Australia,” she said.

Other recipients of the awards on Thursday included Eddie Woo, named Australia’s Local Hero for 2018, and ACT biophysicist Graham Farquhar, named Senior Australian of the Year.

Congrats Michelle and Samantha, Graham and Eddie. We look forward to hearing more from you all in 2018.

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