Pioneering physicist Michelle Yvonne Simmons is hopeful being named Australian of the Year will help challenge gender expectations and encourage more girls to pursue careers in science.
Professor Simmons was named Australian of the Year for 2018 by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Great Hall of Parliament House on Thursday night.
Professor Simmons leads a team at the University of NSW developing a silicon quantum computer able to solve complex problems in minutes rather than thousands of years.
Their work has the potential to drive seismic shifts in drug design, weather forecasting, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.
Pioneering physicist Michelle Yvonne Simmons (left) was named 2018 Australian of the Year by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (right)
Professor Simmons (pictured) leads a team at the University of NSW developing a silicon quantum computer able to solve complex problems in minutes rather than thousands of years
The global trailblazer (right) hopes by winning the award, it will encourage other young girls to pursue science careers (Mr Turnbull pictured left)
A global trailblazer, she hopes to shatter expectations of what careers women ought pursue and what they can achieve.
‘I think one of the important things – and the message I hope to get out there – is to defy those expectations,’ Professor Simmons said.
‘Don’t live your life according to what other people think. Go out there and do what you really want to do.’
In 2012, Professor Simmons and her team created the world’s first transistor made from a single atom and the world’s thinnest wire.
The breakthrough has placed Australia at the forefront of what she describes as the space race of the computing era.
Mr Turnbull (centre) said the finalists, including Samuel Johnson (left) and Johnathan Thurston (right), all made Australians lives better through years of hard work
‘Whether through science or philanthropy, medicine or mentoring, their lives have made our lives better,’ Mr Turnbull said (pictured shaking hands with Indigenous mentor Mr Thurston)
Mr Thurston was the Queensland Australian of the Year (left) while entrepreneur Dion Devow (right) was awarded the ACT Australian of the Year
West Australian 2018 Australian of the Year Dr Tracy Westerman (pictured) was acknowledged for her work with communities with high rates of suicide
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at the awards night the finalists represented a diverse country across a range of generations.
‘Whether through science or philanthropy, medicine or mentoring, their lives have made our lives better,’ Mr Turnbull said.
‘Tonight they’re rightly celebrated, but this moment of glory has often taken years of hard work and dedication.’
Another seven finalists were also in the running for the country’s most honorable title including an Aboriginal fashion designer and a professor who reconstructs destroyed faces.
Samuel Johnson, Johnathan Thurston, Dr Tracy Westerman, Professor David David, Scott Rankin, Dion Devow and Dr Bo Reményi each represented their states or Territories for the annual award.
Professor David David (pictured) was a finalist from South Australia for his work on reconstructing people’s faces in some of the poorer parts of the globe
Samuel Johnson (left) raised money for cancer research while Scott Rankin (right) is the co-founder of Big hART, a charity which uses the arts for social justic
‘Whether through science or philanthropy, medicine or mentoring, their lives have made our lives better,’ Mr Turnbull said (Dr Bo Reményi is Australia’s first female paediatric cardiologist)