Australian of the Year is pioneer physicist Michelle Simmons

Prof Michelle Simmons Image copyright AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR AWARDS
Image caption Quantum physicist Prof Michelle Simmons, from the University of New South Wales

A London-born scientist who has pioneered research into advanced computing has been named Australian of the Year.

Prof Michelle Simmons, 50, has helped put Australia at the centre of "the space race of the computing era", the National Australia Day Council said.

Australia's most prestigious civic honour is awarded each year to a person considered a national role model.

PM Malcolm Turnbull presented the award at a ceremony in Canberra on Thursday.

Prof Simmons, a quantum physics professor, led a team that in 2012 created the world's first transistor made from only a single atom.

The University of New South Wales scientist aims to build a quantum computer to "solve problems in minutes which would otherwise take thousands of years", the committee said.

"Such a discovery has the potential to revolutionise drug design, weather forecasting, self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence and much more," it said in a statement.

She was also celebrated for being a role model to young scientists, particularly women.

Prof Simmons is a graduate of Durham University and moved to Australia in 1999 before becoming a citizen eight years later.

She succeeds another research pioneer, Prof Alan Mackay-Sim, as Australian of the Year.

Other 2018 awards

Young Australian of the Year was awarded to football star Samantha Kerr, 24, a finalist for Fifa female player of the year.

Kerr first represented the Matildas, Australia's national team, when she was 15, and has become a prolific goal scorer.

The committee described her as arguably best women's football player in the world and an "inspirational" champion of equality.

Senior Australian of the Year was given to Dr Graham Farquhar, a prize-winning biophysicist.

"One of Australia's most eminent scientists, Dr Graham Farquhar is helping reshape our understanding of photosynthesis - the very basis of life on Earth," the committee said.

"His work focuses on food security and how the world will feed growing populations into the future."

Australia's Local Hero was awarded to Eddie Woo, a maths teacher celebrated for his fun and informative lessons on YouTube.

"Eddie Woo is arguably Australia's most famous mathematics teacher, making maths fun and attracting young people to engage with maths by making it relatable and interesting," the committee said.

Mr Woo first posted videos online in 2012 for a student who was sick with cancer and missing school. He now has more than 100,000 subscribers.

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