UQ physicist announced as L’Oréal-UNESCO International Rising Talent

University of Queensland quantum physicist Dr Jacqui Romero has been selected as a L’Oréal-UNESCO International Rising Talent for 2019.

The award was presented to 15 promising young women internationally, who are already making significant contributions in their disciplines and are highlighted as future game changers in science.

Dr Romero’s journey to push the boundaries of quantum information began in the Philippines, where she was encouraged by her school teachers to pursue science, even participating in national physics competitions.

“It was just beautiful to me, how the rules of physics can describe the natural world so powerfully,” she said.

“I enjoy the creative and problem solving process – the fun I have is really the reward!”

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Bronwyn Harch congratulated Dr Romero for her ongoing contributions to science and UQ.

“This is a well-deserved achievement from one of UQ’s up-and-coming physics superstars,” Professor Harch said.

“The university is proud to be home to such a talented scientist, who inspires the next generation of young women to enter STEM careers.”

Dr Romero specifically works in the field of quantum physics, which explains the nature and behaviour of matter and energy at the atomic and subatomic level.

In particular, she is exploring how an infinite number of possible shapes of photons — particles of light — can be used to encode information at a higher capacity.

Ultimately, this could lead to reliably secure communication, help conserve data privacy and guard against the growing risk of cyberattacks, and deliver more powerful computation.

As part of a minority of women in quantum science, Dr Romero believes improving the representation of women in science requires a fundamental cultural change, starting at school, where girls’ and boys’ sense of wonder and curiosity should be equally nurtured.

Dr Romero said that leaders must also help create a supportive environment that would help women scientists succeed in their profession after having a child.

“Since originally securing L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship in 2017, I’ve been given a national platform to show that women, particularly mothers, can succeed in science,” she said.

“People are inspired by stories and I think my journey is a story that could do so much to inspire young girls and young women scientists.”

Jacqui will receive nearly $24,000 in prize money for her outstanding contributions to advances in science.

The award will be presented at a ceremony on 14 March at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.

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