— Jacq Romero, quan­tum physi­cist

Cosmos - - Contents - — AMY MIDDLETON

QUAN­TUM PHYSI­CIST Jacq Romero was among five re­cip­i­ents of the 2017 L’oreal Women in Science awards, bring­ing a wel­come fund­ing boost to her re­search. And she is de­ter­mined to demon­strate to young women that it is pos­si­ble to bal­ance fam­ily life with a ca­reer.

“I see the fel­low­ship as an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to bring out the story that moth­ers can suc­ceed in science,” she says. “It’s im­por­tant for young girls to see there are women who can suc­ceed in the face of car­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties – be­cause men have been do­ing it for all of time.”

Romero has been hooked on quan­tum physics since the age of 16, when she en­coun­tered it at high school in the Philip­pines.

“I was a geek from a very young age – I learned al­ge­bra when I was eight years old,” she says. “We were bom­barded with science cour­ses and I loved them all, but physics was my favourite.

“I love quan­tum physics be­cause, when you think about all its philo­soph­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions, it re­ally is crazy. You have heard of Schrödinger’s cat, who is both dead and alive, or an elec­tron that is both here and there; these things are against what we per­ceive of our world. It’s so counter-in­tu­itive!”

Romero re­searches the quan­tum in­for­ma­tion en­coded in the dif­fer­ent shapes light can take.

“If you think of a laser beam, it’s usu­ally a bright spot in the mid­dle, but then you can also have dif­fer­ent shapes of light,” she ex­plains. “Once you shape the light, you in­tro­duce higher di­men­sions. It’s like hav­ing an al­pha­bet where you can have as many let­ters as you want.”

In the quan­tum world, ef­fect doesn’t al­ways fol­low cause. “My project right now is show­ing that you can have two events, A and B, and an ex­per­i­ment where the state­ments ‘A be­fore B’ and ‘B be­fore A’ are both true,” she ex­plains. “It’s like hav­ing two ques­tions, and an ex­per­i­ment where you can ask both ques­tions at the same time.”

IM­AGE Scott Need­ham

POR­TRAIT

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