Michelle Simmons


Michelle Simmons

Michele Simmons Royal Society.jpg
Michelle Simmons at the Royal Society admissions day in London, July 2018
Michelle Yvonne Simmons

(1967-07-14) 14 July 1967 (age 54)
Alma materDurham University (PhD)
Spouse(s)Thomas Barlow[1]
Children1 (f); 2 (m)
Scientific career
Quantum physics
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
University of New South Wales
Sydney Grammar School
ThesisThe characterisation of CdTe-based epitaxial solar cell structures fabricated by MOVPE (1992)
Doctoral advisorAndrew W. Brinkman[2]

Michelle Yvonne Simmons, AO FRS FAA FRSN FTSE (born 14 July 1967) is a Scientia Professor of Quantum Physics in the Faculty of Science at the University of New South Wales and has twice been an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow. She is the Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology[3] and is recognised internationally as a pioneer in atomic electronics.[4] She is also editor-in-chief of npj Quantum Information, an academic journal publishing articles in the emerging field of quantum information science.[5] On 25 January 2018, Simmons was named as the 2018 Australian of the Year for her work and dedication to quantum information science.[6] On 10 June 2019, Simmons was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 2019 Queen's Birthday Honours in recognition of her "distinguished service to science education as a leader in quantum and atomic electronics and as a role model."[7][8]


Simmons went to Durham University (Trevelyan College), where she studied Physics and Chemistry of Materials (1985–1988).[9] As a postgraduate at St Aidan's College she was awarded a PhD on "The characterisation of CdTe-based epitaxial solar cell structures fabricated by MOVPE" in 1992 for research supervised by Andrew W. Brinkman.[9][2]

Career and research

In the 1990s Simmons worked as a Research Fellow in quantum electronics alongside Michael Pepper at the Cavendish Laboratory in the UK where she gained an international reputation for her work in the discovery of the 0.7 feature and the development of 'hole' transistors.[10] In 1999, she was awarded a QEII Fellowship and went to Australia, where she was a founding member of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology.[11] She made the Australia Day address for NSW in 2017[12][13] and spoke about the importance of setting high expectations for students. She made it clear that Australians need to set the bar high and tell their students they expect them to jump over it. She said, "It is better to do the things that have the greatest reward; things that are hard, not easy." Simmons also criticised the lowering of standards in physics education in the HSC (Higher School Certificate) curriculum, in which an effort has been made to make physics more appealing to girls by substituting mathematical problem-solving with qualitative responses, remarking that the curriculum had a "feminised nature".[14]

When Simmons was made Australian of the Year in 2018, she spoke about the importance of not being defined by other people's expectations of you. She said, "Don't live your life according to what other people think. Go out there and do what you really want to do." She is passionate about encouraging girls to pursue a career in science and technology. “Seeing women in leadership roles and competing internationally is important. It gives them the sense that anything is possible,” she said.[15]

External video
video icon TEDxSydney talk about Quantum Computation


Simmons is well-known for creating the field of atomic electronics. Since 2000 she has established a large research group dedicated to the fabrication of atomic scale devices in silicon and germanium using the atomic precision of scanning tunnelling microscopy. Her research group is the only group worldwide that can create atomically precise devices in silicon—they were also the first team in the world to develop a working "perfect" single-atom transistor[16] and the narrowest conducting doped wires in silicon.[17]

Simmons has published over 400 peer-reviewed journal papers amassing over 9,000 citations, written five book chapters and published a book on nanotechnology.[18] She has also filed seven patents[19] and delivered over 200 invited and plenary presentations at international conferences.

Honours and awards

Simmons is an elected trustee of Sydney Grammar School.[20]

In 1999, she was awarded a QEII Fellowship and came to Australia.

In 2005, Simmons was awarded the Australian Academy of Science's Pawsey Medal[21]

In 2006, she became one of the youngest researchers to be elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA).[22]

In 2011, she was named NSW Scientist of the Year by the NSW Government Office of the Chief Scientist & Engineer.[23]

In 2014, she was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[24]

In 2015, Simmons was awarded the Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal, and was the winner of the Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science. She was also elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE).[25]

She was named the L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science Asia-Pacific Laureate in 2017[26] and was subsequently profiled in a short documentary on France24 TV.[27]

In 2018, Simmons was named Australian of the Year in 2018 for her work in quantum physics,[28] and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).[29][30]

In 2019, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) as part of the 2019 Queen's Birthday Honours recognition.[8]

She was New South Wales Scientist of the Year in 2011 [23] and awarded the Royal Society of New South Wales Walter Burfitt Prize in 2013.[31][32] The Australian Research Council made her a Laureate Fellow in 2013.[31][8]

Simmons was awarded the Royal Society's 2022 Bakerian Medal and Lecture.[33]

In 2021, Simmons was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society.[34]

Personal life

Simmons has resided in Australia since 1999, taking citizenship in 2007.[35] She is married to Thomas Barlow, a novelist and business analyst. They have three children.[1]


  1. ^ a b Guillat, Richard (15–16 April 2017). "Star of the sub-atomic". The Weekend Australian Magazine. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b Simmons, Michelle Yvonne (1992). The characterisation of CdTe-based epitaxial solar cell structures fabricated by MOVPE. Etheses.dur.ac.uk (PhD thesis). Durham University. OCLC 53532609. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.314733. icon of an open green padlock
  3. ^ "Quantum Computing - Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology". Cqc2t.org. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  4. ^ (28 February 2012). ABC Science: Meet a Scientist. ABC Science. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved on 16 August 2014.
  5. ^ Ross, John (5 November 2014). "Christopher Pyne launches Nature partner in quantum computing". The Australian. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  6. ^ Pianegonda, Elise; staff (25 January 2018). "Australian of the Year awards: Quantum physicist Michelle Yvonne Simmons receives 2018 honour". ABC News. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  7. ^ Bungard, Matt (9 June 2019). "'Extraordinary' Australians honoured in annual Queen's Birthday ceremonies". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Professor Michelle Yvonne SIMMONS". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Class Notes". Dunelm (5): 33. 2019.
  10. ^ Thomas, K. J.; Nicholls, J. T.; Simmons, M. Y.; Pepper, M.; Mace, D. R.; Ritchie, D. A. (1 July 1996). "Possible Spin Polarization in a One-Dimensional Electron Gas". Physical Review Letters. American Physical Society (APS). 77 (1): 135–138. arXiv:cond-mat/9606004. Bibcode:1996PhRvL..77..135T. doi:10.1103/physrevlett.77.135. ISSN 0031-9007. PMID 10061790. S2CID 8903637.
  11. ^ "Quantum Computing - Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology". Cqc2t.org. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  12. ^ "2017 speaker: Professor Michelle Y. Simmons". Australiaday.com.au. NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Your stories: 2018 Australian of the Year, Professor Michelle Simmons (interview)". UniSuper. March 2018. Archived from the original on 8 March 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  14. ^ Storm, Mark (24 January 2017). "Australia Day Address orator Michelle Simmons horrified at 'feminised' physics curriculum". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 14 December 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  15. ^ "Australian of the Year revealed". NewsComAu. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  16. ^ Fuechsle, Martin; Miwa, Jill A.; Mahapatra, Suddhasatta; Ryu, Hoon; Lee, Sunhee; Warschkow, Oliver; Hollenberg, Lloyd C. L.; Klimeck, Gerhard; Simmons, Michelle Y. (19 February 2012). "A single-atom transistor". Nature Nanotechnology. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. 7 (4): 242–246. Bibcode:2012NatNa...7..242F. doi:10.1038/nnano.2012.21. ISSN 1748-3387. PMID 22343383. S2CID 14952278.
  17. ^ (5 January 2012). Narrowest conducting wires in silicon ever made show the same current capability as copper. phys.org. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  18. ^ Select Publications. University of New South Wales.
  19. ^ Select Publications: Patents. University of New South Wales.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 November 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ Pawsey medal Archived 14 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Australian Academy of Science. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  22. ^ Professor Michelle Simmons Archived 15 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Australian Academy of Science. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  23. ^ a b "Honour Roll - NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer". Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  24. ^ "Academy Home - American Academy of Arts & Sciences". Amacad.org. Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  25. ^ 2015 Fellows: Women again prominent among new ATSE Fellows, Media Release, 14 October 2015, www.atse.org.au
  26. ^ "Announcement of Laureates of 2017 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards : United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization". Unesco.org. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  27. ^ British physicist Michelle Simmons, the 'quantum queen' (Television production). Paris: France24 TV. 8 May 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  28. ^ Announced 2018 Australian of the year. 2018 Australian of the Year Awards. 25 January 2018.
  29. ^ "Distinguished scientists elected as Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society". The Royal Society. 9 May 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  30. ^ "Michelle Simmons". Royal Society. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  31. ^ a b "Scientia Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons". UNSW Research. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  32. ^ "Walter Burfitt Prize - The Royal Society of NSW". The Royal Society of NSW. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  33. ^ "The Royal Society awards Michelle Simmons the prestigious Bakerian Medal". UNSW Newsroom. 24 August 2021. Retrieved 8 September 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ "APS Fellow Archive". www.aps.org. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  35. ^ "Quantum physicist Michelle Simmons named 2018 Australian of the Year". The Sydney Morning Herald. 25 January 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2019.

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