Laureate Fellow and Director
Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology, School of Physics, University of New South Wales
Professor Michelle Simmons is Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow & Director of the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology. She has pioneered unique technologies internationally to build electronic devices in silicon at the atomic scale, including the world's smallest transistor, the narrowest conducting wires and the first transistor where a single atom controls its operation. This work opens up the prospect of developing a silicon-based quantum computer: a powerful new form of computing with the potential to transform information processing.
She obtained a double degree in physics and chemistry and has a PhD in Physics from Durham University, and was a post-doctoral Research Fellow in quantum electronics at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, UK. Michelle was awarded a QEII Fellowship and came to Australia where she was a founding member of the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology. Since then she has established a large research group dedicated to the fabrication of atomic-scale devices in silicon and germanium using the atomic precision of a scanning tunnelling microscope. Her group is the only global group able to make atomically precise devices in silicon: they have developed the world’s first single atom transistor and the thinnest conducting doped wires in silicon.
Professor Simmons is one of a handful of researchers in Australia to have twice received a Federation Fellowship and now a Laureate Fellowship, the Australian Research Council’s most prestigious award of this kind. She has won both the Pawsey Medal (2006) and Lyle Medal (2015) from the Australian Academy of Science for outstanding research in physics and was, upon her appointment, one of the youngest fellows of this Academy. She was named Scientist of the Year by the New South Wales Government in 2012 and in 2014 became one of only a few Australians inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In 2015 she was awarded the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science and in 2016 the Foresight Institute Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology for her work in ‘the new field of atomic-electronics, which she created’. She is Editor-in-Chief of Nature Quantum Information and was recently named the 2017 L’ORÉAL-UNESCO Asia-Pacific Laureate in the Physical Sciences. Michelle was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Queens Birthday Honours in 2019 for distinguished service to science education as a leader in quantum and atomic electronics, and as a role model.
She is a role model to younger scientists, being one of the first women to be made a professor of physics in Australia. She is also an advocate for physics and the translation of research in Australia having recently established an Australian Government/Industry consortium in quantum computing attracting significant investment towards the construction of a silicon based processor.