Scientist of the year hopes to inspire young women

Dr Rose Ahlefeldt. Photo: ANU

ANU’s Rose Ahlefeldt has been named the 2018 ACT Scientist of the Year and says she wants to use this platform to inspire young people, particularly women, to consider a career in STEM.

Dr Ahlefeldt’s research is trying to find the right materials to build the quantum memories needed for quantum computers. These computers could solve some of the world’s “impossible” problems.

She says secure networks, artificial intelligence and new drugs of the future could all find their origins in a crystal.

“The problem is we fundamentally don’t have the materials at the moment that can reach the sort of data storage densities we need for quantum computers, so my work is to study new materials to find out how we’re going to get there,” Dr Ahlefeldt says.

“My work is using crystals containing rare earth ions to store quantum information, which starts off as pulses of light. We transfer the information from the light to the atoms in the crystal, creating a quantum memory.

“I am trying to understand how the atoms in the crystals interact with the light, so I can choose the right materials to make better quantum memories.”

“One day we’re going to build quantum computers that can solve problems that are impossible for our current computers. Researchers have already identified many uses for these computers, including enhancing artificial intelligence establishing secure communications and eventually building a quantum internet.”

ANU vice-chancellor Prof Brian Schmidt congratulated Rose on being named ACT Scientist of the Year.

“It’s fantastic to see her fundamental and very important work recognised in this way,” he said.

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