Australian researcher announced as a L'Oréal International Rising Talent

International Rising Talents Program

Australian quantum physicist, Dr Jacq Romero from the University of Queensland has been selected as an International Rising Talent from 275 of the best National and Regional Fellows.

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 Jacq Romero will receive €15,000 in prize money for her outstanding contribution to advances in science. The award will be presented at a ceremony on March 14th at the UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris. 

2019 International Rising Talent - Dr Jacq Romero

Dr Jacq Romero is a quantum physicist, focuses on how information is encoded, specifically looking at higher dimensional quantum information.  Jacq’s research 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.

Jacq will provide the first experimental evidence to an existing theory to verify the fundamental differences in the way information works for larger quantum alphabets, compared to the classical encoding system we use today.

Jacq creates large quantum alphabets (which are encoding systems) using a less well known property of light, known as the orbital angular momentum (or OAM). The OAM is the rotation of a light beam as it travels in a straight line, and there are infinite different possible OAMs for a beam of light, which means the alphabet Jacq creates have the ability to encode information at a much larger capacity (theoretically infinite).

Jacq’s findings will provide critical knowledge as we start to access more of the benefits of the quantum world. The exploration of quantum information opens up many exciting possibilities as we are able to view and manipulate information differently. 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.