Fatemeh Mohit

  • PhD student
  • EQUS
  • University of Queensland
  • Road-tripping Brisbane to Port Macquarie

What do you do?

When you toss a coin how many outcomes can you get?  Two, right?  In quantum mechanics, we have coins that can be both heads and tails at the same time and have many more outcomes than a two-sided coin.  Hard to imagine, I know.  These ‘coins’ can be used to store information.  For example, with a normal coin, I can send someone information represented by 1 (heads) and 0 (tails), otherwise represented by “yes” or “no”.  Our quantum coins, on the other hand, can convey a lot more information.

In everyday life, we communicate to each other using language.  However, our computers speak a different kind of language, which uses normal coins, where information can be a combination of 1s and 0s (each number is one coin).  As we discover new things and need to find answers to bigger problems, normal computers can no longer calculate things for us because of how complex the calculations are.  But because of the advantages of quantum coins, we can build new computers known as quantum computers, which can tackle these new problems. 

Light is made up of energy packets, which are both a particle and a wave at the same time.  Picture a little ball being dropped into a pool of water.  A photon is both the ball and the waves rippling on the pool surface (it’s mind-blowing).  One type of quantum coin is a photon.  My work specifically involves making and improving devices that can better communicate and process quantum information using photons.

How did you get to where you are today?

I studied a Bachelor of Science and Arts in my undergraduate degree at UQ and majored in physics, maths and philosophy.  At school, I had a big curiosity for all things fundamental and that’s how I ended up in three very basic disciplines.  I specialised in quantum nanophotonics and machine learning in my honours degree and will now continue this work in my PhD.

What’s the best thing about your work?

The best thing about my work is when I finally run my machine learning code to take data and optimise my system in the lab while I go and have a coffee. 

What advice would you give to someone considering studying physics?

It might seem too difficult at times but stick with it because it’s definitely worth it!  Understanding and being able to apply physics concepts to real-life problems is one of the most valuable skills you could ever achieve. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

When I’m not in the lab or in the office (rarely), I like staying active, having adventures with friends, playing video games, working on personal projects and sleeping.  I love rock climbing, cycling, hiking and camping.

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