Teehani Ralph

  • Master's student
  • CDM & EQUS
  • University of Western Australia
  • Road-tripping Alice to Broome (2024)

What do you do?

When we look at really really small things—smaller than you can see with your own eyes!—all kinds of funky things happen.  When things are that small, we call them quantum.  If I were quantum-sized, I could do crazy things like teleport or walk through walls.  But when we want to look at quantum-sized stuff, we often need to get super cold.  Colder than Antarctica.  Now, when you go out on a sunny day, you need only normal clothes.  But if you go out on a cold day you need special clothes like a jumper.  Similarly, for our cold quantum systems, we need to use special equipment.  I’m one of the people working on making that special equipment!

How did you get to where you are today?

It all started with high-school me who hated all things maths-y.  Much to my protest, my parents told me that I could choose between doing the hardest maths course or the physics course and I chose physics as the lesser of two evils.  Sitting through these classes, I very reluctantly began to realise that I loved it.  (And turns out I actually like maths, too.)  So, I went ahead to study physics at university.  One summer I had a bit of spare time on my hands and my friend had been singing praises about the EQUS lab where she was undertaking her honours project.  I reached out to her supervisor to see whether they’d take on a student for a few weeks—and they did!  Having loved my time playing around with millikelvin fridges, I signed up to do my own master’s research project there.

What do you like doing besides physics?

I pretty much collect hobbies—and have no time to do any of them!  Some that I like are watercolour painting, knitting, and standup paddle boarding.  I also volunteer with the state emergency service so can often be found out fixing houses during storms.

I also love peas.  I will eat them frozen in the summer, hot in the winter, snacking on bowls of peas like they’re chips.

Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner?

Marie Curie (a ground-breaking genius), Richard Feynman (a pioneer in particle physics as well as communicating), and Janusz Korczak (a humanitarian and long-time hero of mine).

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