Australian quantum physicist Dr Jacqui Romero from EQUS and the University of Queensland has been selected as a L’Oréal International Rising Talent.
The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program International Rising Talents are presented to fifteen promising young women, from each world region (Africa and the Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America).
The International Rising Talents are already making significant contributions in their disciplines and are highlighted as future game changers in science.
Dr Romero will receive €15,000 in prize money for her outstanding contributions to advances in science. The award will be presented at a ceremony on March 14 at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.
Dr Jacq Romero is a physicist working in the field of quantum physics, which explains the nature and behaviour of matter and energy at the atomic and subatomic level. In particular, she is exploring how an infinite number of possible shapes of photons—particles of light-— can be used to encode information at a higher capacity. Ultimately, this could lead to reliably secure communication, help conserve data privacy and guard against the growing risk of cyberattacks, and deliver more powerful computation.
Her journey to push the boundaries of quantum information began in the Philippines, where she was encouraged by her school teachers to pursue science, even participating in national physics competitions. “It was just beautiful to me, how the rules of physics can describe the natural world so powerfully,” she recalls. “I enjoy the creative and problem solving process. The fun I have is really the reward!” At university, Dr Jacq Romero joined an established optics research group, before identifying an opportunity to pursue an experimental quantum physics PhD at the University of Glasgow.
As part of a minority of women in quantum science, she believes improving the representation of women in science requires a fundamental cultural change, starting at school, where girls’ and boys’ sense of wonder and curiosity should be equally nurtured.
In addition to mentorship, strong female role models at every stage of the scientific career path would send positive signals to aspiring women scientists, she suggests. Importantly, inclusivity and gender diversity should be framed in the context of productivity, with leaders creating the supportive environment that would help women scientists return to peak professional performance after having a child.
“Winning a L’Oréal-UNESCO FWIS fellowship has given me a national platform to show that women, particularly mothers, can succeed in science,” she concludes. “People are inspired by stories and I think my journey is a story that could do so much to inspire young girls and young women scientists.”
If science could achieve anything, Dr Jacq Romero would like to see scientific research help solve the major social inequalities that exist in our world.