— Jacq Romero, quantum physicist
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.”