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Studio portrait photograph of Michelle Yvonne Simmons.

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.

A certificate and a chess set including a wooden board and 32 wooden chess pieces.

Chess set and certificate from Michelle Simmons

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 eight 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.

Be daring

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.

In conversation with Michelle Simmons, Australian of the Year

Quantum physicist and science advocate Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons reflects on her time as Australian of the Year.
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Presenters: Dan Bourchier, Michelle Simmons
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