As someone who enjoys pondering the mysteries of the universe, it's no surprise that Dr Eromanga Adermann choose CSIRO's Data61 to solve them.
A quantum physics enthusiast, Dr Adermann is developing next-generation tech to enable quantum computing.
Here, she shares her latest work, quantum computing predictions, advice for young women interested in STEM career, and how tech workplaces can rectify their gender imbalance.
Welcome! Tell us about your role at CSIRO’s Data61 and what attracted you to the position.
I'm a postdoctoral research fellow in quantum algorithms and applications for quantum computing. I develop efficient and effective algorithms for the upcoming era of quantum computing.
Currently I'm developing algorithms to encode classical data into quantum states. This will allow scientists to perform useful computations on 'noisy' quantum devices without needing to wait for fault-tolerant quantum devices with large numbers of qubits to become available.
My long-standing interest in quantum physics initially attracted me to this role.
As the interface between academia and industry, CSIRO is a great place to be if you want to transform and better society through fundamental research.
What’s your professional background and the areas that you specialise in?
Despite working in quantum computing, I started in a completely different research field!
After graduating with an astrophysics PhD, I explored the world beyond academia and landed a role at a technology consulting company. I worked on data strategies and process analytics projects with commercial and government clients during my four-year tenure.
This included an award-winning document classification project with Services Australia.
An industry role helped me develop my machine learning and data science skills, which are proving to be very useful as I delve into quantum machine learning.
What made you want to pursue a career in tech (STEM)?
Science and tech are such exciting fields full of innovation and opportunities that could solve some of the world's biggest challenges! I’ve always loved learning how and why things work and pondering the mysteries of the Universe. I really enjoy the exploration and experimenting that being a scientist affords.
Fundamental scientific research also leads to important innovations. While working as a tech consultant, I saw just how impactful technology can be. Whether it's artificial intelligence (AI) developing new drugs, or apps connecting school children to food providers, the positive impact of science and technology will always be a big motivator for me.
Is there a current project you're excited about and why?
I'm currently exploring and developing efficient data encoding methods. A big challenge in quantum computing is that quantum bits (the building blocks of quantum computers) are highly susceptible to environmental noise (disturbances) that cause errors in the information being processed.
Data encoding methods and quantum algorithms tend to require large numbers of logic operations, where each logic operation introduces some error into the data.
This means they can't be implemented on current quantum computers (so called 'noisy' devices), even with existing error correction methods.
If we can design encoding methods with fewer logic operations, we could implement these algorithms on quantum computers sooner than expected.
The goal is to get the most out of current and future quantum computers, despite limitations in size and robustness.
What's the most important thing people should know about quantum computing and why?
Quantum computing will drive significant advances in society
The big step-up that quantum computing offers is the capacity to perform certain types of calculations that are too complex for classical computers.
When we can use quantum computing to solve these complex challenges, revolutionary advances will occur in numerous fields. This could include national security, materials science, energy research and medicine.
Quantum computers aren’t expected to replace the classical computers we know and love (e.g. PCs, smartphones).
In your opinion, what’s the single biggest change that needs to happen to encourage more women to pursue careers in tech?
Numerous challenges prevent girls from pursuing careers in tech, and there are multiple hurdles that push women out of the tech industry.
Unfortunately, there are many unhelpful, false beliefs pervasive in our society that keep girls from seeing STEM as a real possibility for them. It’s important to combat these beliefs by raising girls’ confidence in their own capabilities, providing support, and nurturing any interest they have in the field.
Women in tech need to be supported and empowered by employers. As women often take on more child-rearing than men, they must be afforded workplace flexibility and responsible work-life balance. Culture is just as critical. Replace 'techbro' environments with diverse, inclusive, and welcoming teams.
Set up workplaces for our success, too, not just the success of our male colleagues.
What advice would you give to women and girls wanting to pursue a career in tech?
A helpful thing to have as a woman in a male-dominated field is a network who see your potential and want you to succeed. It’s so much harder to deal with challenges when you're alone with no support.
I've found belonging to a group of other women (and male allies) who are in the same or similar field to be very comforting and encouraging. They understand your experiences without you having to justify or explain anything. It can be very validating and helpful to talk to other women who are experiencing or have experienced similar things.
How can colleagues, organisations and industries within tech better support and enable women?
Organisations need to ensure they're creating a truly inclusive environment for women without us having to experience additional gendered issues. They should be asking themselves:
- If the workplace is dominated by men, why is that?
- Are employee differences truly celebrated and welcomed? How?
- How does your workplace support and empower women? How are you setting them up for success?
Talk and listen to women in the workplace and enact their recommendations. When workplaces drive change to become truly inclusive of more than select groups of people, the culture and experience improves for everyone regardless of gender.