AU: Prize backs UQ physicist’s data security quest

A University of Queensland physicist 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 2019 Westpac Research Fellows.

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.

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

“The University is proud to partner with the Westpac Scholars Trust to 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.”

Dr Romero, an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow at the UQ School of Mathematics and Physics and Associate Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, said data privacy was important given that modern society was now 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.”

Westpac Scholars Trust chief executive Susan Bannigan said Dr Romero and Dr Sheel were “true visionaries”.

“Their research has the potential to have a significant impact on the future of Australia,” she said.

“Partnering with ANU and UQ 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.

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

Source: University of Queensland

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