Prize backs physicist’s data security quest

Physicist Dr Jacqui Romero will use her share of a $1 million prize to advance the development of revolutionary data privacy systems.

The Westpac Scholars Trust today announced Dr Jacqui Romero as one of two researchers awarded a prestigious Westpac Research Fellowship in 2019.

Dr Romero and health researcher Dr Meru Sheel from Australian National University will share $1 million in combined funding over three years to advance their research.

Dr Romero, an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Queensland and Associate Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, said data privacy is important especially now that we are transmitting unprecedented amounts of information.

“I am seeking a way to use quantum physics to secure future communication systems using a ‘quantum alphabet’ made from different shapes of light,” Dr Romero said.

“The infinite number of possible shapes of particles of light—photons—can be used to encode information at a higher capacity.

“The ultimate goal is to have reliably secure communication, help conserve data privacy, guard against the growing risk of cyberattacks.”

This is Dr Romero’s second award this year; last month she was selected as a L’Oréal-UNESCO International Rising Talent for 2019.

Susan Bannigan, CEO of the Westpac Scholars Trust, said that “Dr Romero and Dr Sheel are true visionaries. They combine innovative research with the ability, drive and passion to actively influence positive change for the future growth and prosperity Australia.”

“Partnering with The Australian National University and The University of Queensland to support these extraordinary women increases their potential to succeed. The networks and development opportunities they will receive in addition to the funding is what separates this fellowship from others.”

The Westpac Research Fellowship is offered at four Australian universities: UQ, ANU, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj ACsaid collaborative partnerships enhanced UQ’s capacity to deliver globally significant solutions.

“The University is proud to partner with the Westpac Scholars Trustto help outstanding early-career researchers such as Dr Romero to realise their full potential,” Professor Høj said.

“We’re excited to see where the Westpac Research Fellowship will take Jacqui and her already-outstanding research.”

Contact: Dr Jacqui Romero,, +61 7 3346 7031,Tara Roberson

Major funding support

Australian Research Council

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present.