Professor in quantum physics
2018 Australian of the Year | New South Wales
One of the world’s top scientists, Professor Michelle Simmons has pioneered research that could lead to a quantum leap in computing. Michelle’s discoveries have the potential to revolutionise drug design, weather forecasting, self-driving vehicles and artificial intelligence. An advocate for Australian scientific research, she is a role model to young scientists everywhere.
Michelle's House of Staunton chess set and certificate
Michelle Simmons relishes a challenge, which is fortunate given that she works with cutting-edge technology in the field of quantum physics.
As a child, Michelle played competitive chess. A challenging, strategic, all-consuming game, it was an unusual activity for a girl, as evidenced by the certificate on display. This chess set and certificate remind Michelle to stay focused and push boundaries.
Proving people wrong
For years I was a silent observer to my father’s and brother’s games of chess. When I finally asked to play, my father reluctantly agreed. I was 8 at the time. He played me whilst chatting with my mother, not paying much attention — I was fully focused. To his horror, I won. When people don’t expect things of you, that makes you want to prove them wrong.
Mastering the difficult
Quantum physics is hard but that’s what makes it worth it. I strongly believe that the things most worth doing in life are nearly always hard to do. Every day I wake up excited to go and do, and look forward to that euphoric feeling of figuring out something incredibly difficult.
Australia offers a culture of academic freedom, openness to ideas, and an amazing willingness to pursue goals that are ambitious. And the results speak for themselves — we have achieved tremendous success in our endeavour, largely because we gave things a go that the rest of the world didn’t dare to try.