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Scientist Michelle Simmons named Australian of the year

By
Susan McFarland
Australian of the Year 2018 Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons poses for photographs at the Australian of the Year Awards at Parliament House in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, on Thursday. Photo by Mick Tsikas/EPA-EFE
Australian of the Year 2018 Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons poses for photographs at the Australian of the Year Awards at Parliament House in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, on Thursday. Photo by Mick Tsikas/EPA-EFE

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- A quantum physicist professor was named the 2018 Australian of the year for her pioneering work in the field of quantum computing.

During an awards ceremony on Thursday, University of New South Wales professor Michelle Simmons was praised for her research, work that could result in the first working quantum computer -- a machine that is able to show all possible outcomes at once, solving problems in minutes that would take classic computers thousands of years.

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Building such a computer has been compared to the space race of the 1950s and 1960s, with many countries vying for the finish. Such a computer has the potential to revolutionize all industries, altering approaches to everything from weather forecasts and stock markets to traffic flows and drug development.

Simmons, who became an Australian citizen in 2007, is a passionate advocate for girls to build careers in science and technology.

"As a physicist, I'm a woman in a man's world," she told attendees at the ceremony. "I am a fan of ensuring that all young people, both male and female, pursue what they love."

In 2012, Simmons and her team created the world's first transistor made from a single atom and the world's thinnest conductive wire, which is 10,000 times thinner than a human hair but can carry copper.

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Simmons, 50, beat out high-profile nominees such as National Rugby League legend Johnathan Thurston, actor and cancer research fundraiser Samuel Johnson, psychologist Tracy Westerman and professor and craniofacial surgeon David David.

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