EPFL honours British quantum engineer

EPFL honours British quantum engineer

Feature articles |
By Nick Flaherty

Quantum physicist and entrepreneur Michelle Simmons has received a major European award for her work

The Erna Hamburger Prize is awarded by Swiss research lab EPFL through the EPFL-WISH Foundation, and previous recipients include Julia Elizabeth King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge who is the chari of the Henry Royce Institute in the UK and Michal Lipson (born 1970) is an American physicist known for her work on silicon photonics. 

Simmons is a graduate of Durham University and worked as a Research Fellow in quantum electronics at the Cavendish Laboratory in the UK, studying the metallic states in very pure transistors, discovering an anomalous feature in the conductance of a one-dimensional quantum wire, now known as the ‘0.7 structure’.

She received a Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship and moved to Australia, where she was a founding member of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology, heading up the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T).

She also founded Silicon Quantum Computing in 2017 in Australia to create an atomic-scale integrated circuit, the development of a 100 Qubit Quantum Processor in silicon.

“Michelle Simmons has been chosen not only for her work and research, but also for her dedication to mentoring, diversity, and STEM promotion,” said Aleksandra Radenovic, president of the foundation. “She has been recognized by multiple organizationsand has received awards such as the Order of Australia and the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science award. She is also a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM, regularly speaking out about the importance of providing opportunities and support for women and underrepresented minorities in the field.”

Simmons is to give a lecture at the ceremony about “Atomic Electronics – building qubits in silicon with atomic precision,” at the reception for the award.

“This year’s laureate is in the field of quantum computing which is particularly significant as we are currently in the midst of the second quantum revolution, and this field is widely recognized for its transformative potential,” said Radenovic.

“With this year’s prize, we wish to highlight how quantum physics has the potential to revolutionize various aspects of our world, including communication, quantum computing, sensors, and new materials. The ceremony is the opportunity to discuss Switzerland’s role as one of the leaders in this field, in the context of EPFL’s Quantum Center. Trh event will emphasize the challenges in this area, with a particular focus on how Professor Simmons and her work aim to bridge the gap between research and practical applications, ultimately industrializing research results in the field of quantum computing.”

The EPFL-WISH Foundation is an independent foundation created through the initiative of EPFL women professors with the aim of promoting women’s careers and advancement in scientific, technical, and humanistic fields.

Since 2006, the foundation has been awarding the Erna Hamburger Prize to distinguish influential, leading women scientists who are transforming their field and executing change. The prize is named after Dr. Erna Hamburger, who was the first woman promoted to the rank of full professor at EPFL, and who continues to inspire students and researchers today.


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