According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) Data, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. In Australia, only 16% of women are working in STEM roles with an even smaller percentage working in quantum computing.
In order to increase the number of women working in STEM we must encourage a new generation of scientists, keeping them engaged throughout their education journey, from inspiring students at an early age, to keeping students engaged in science during high school and promoting a career in research at university.
At CQC²T, we recognise that seeing is believing and by bringing students, both male and female, into the Centre and its impressive facilities, we can open their eyes to Australian leadership in quantum computing research and explore what’s possible. We are focused on increasing the number of girls and women in STEM, engaging with them from the primary level, through secondary and all the way through to our research leaders.
To help grow the pool of budding female quantum computing scientists and engineers, CQC²T has a range of outreach programs to support equity in STEM. In 2019 CQC²T hosted 34 programs designed to educate and inspire females in STEM, reaching thousands of female students across the country.
Some of the programs from 2019 are highlighted below:
Griffith University welcomed 36 female high school students from South-East Queensland schools, for the Growing Tall Poppies physics program, designed to encourage and empower female students to consider studying within the physical sciences. Students explored physical phenomena as an experimentalist in a laboratory and learnt to write programs like a theoretical physicist. These hands-on activities highlighted the role of physics in solving real-world issues and provided an opportunity to understand what it is like to have a career as a researcher. The students visited the CQC²T laboratories at Griffith University, for a tour of the facilities led by Chief Investigators Prof Geoff Pryde and Prof Mirko Lobino. PhD students Daniel Peace, Kok-Wei Bong and Alex Pepper conducted small quantum optics experiments demonstrating quantum properties. This included an interactive experiment on quantum random number generation (QRNG) where students constructed an optical circuit with associated electronics, then collected and processed data in order to generate a sample of random numbers.
The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) is a not-for-profit organisation that runs a number of residential programs to encourage young people in their passion for science.
In January each year, The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) runs a program for selected students to engage them in the fields of science, technology and engineering.
CQC²T are actively involved in the program, which in 2019 included a keynote lecture by Dr Rose Ahlefeldt, tours of the CQC²T labs at ANU with A. Prof Matthew Sellars, Dr Rose Ahlefeldt and Dr Kate Ferguson and quantum computing demonstrations by PhD student Ruvi Lecamwasam.
The Girls in Physics is program is hosted by the University of Melbourne with over 200 high school students attending the event in July 2019.
CQC²T Chief Investigator Prof. David Jamieson from the University of Melbourne was a guest lecturer presenting ‘The double planet: the physics of the earth-moon system.’
PhD student Danielle Holmes led tours of the CQC²T labs for the students, showcasing the technology being used to build a quantum computer and sharing insights into her role as a quantum physics researcher.
In September 2019, Prof Michelle Simmons welcomed over 150 primary and high school students to join her and the CQC²T team, to experience ‘a-day-in-the-life of a quantum computing scientist’ at the CQC²T Open Day, UNSW Sydney.
The event included presentations from Prof Michelle Simmons, tours of the quantum computing laboratories, and interactive experiments to demonstrate some of the principles of quantum computing. This included a custom designed virtual reality game where students were challenged to entangle two qubits. The high school session concluded with an interactive Q&A session with a panel of PhD students and post doc researchers providing insights on their career path and advice for students wanting to pursue a career in STEM.