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Professor David Reilly wins AFR Emerging Leader award

30 August 2017
Physicist recognised for role in the race for a quantum computer.

The director of Station Q Sydney successfully led a bid for federal funding to help build the $150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub building.

Professor David Reilly (right) with some of the Station Q Sydney team inside the university's $150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub. Credit Jayne Ion.

Professor David Reilly (right) with some of the Station Q Sydney team inside the university's $150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub. Credit: Jayne Ion

Quantum physicist Professor David Reilly has been recognised as the best emerging leader in Australia’s university sector at the AFR Higher Education awards on Tuesday night.

His leadership has placed the University of Sydney at the global forefront in the race to build a quantum computer.

The award comes a month after Professor Reilly and the university signed a globally significant partnership with Microsoft, establishing a Station Q centre for quantum computing at Sydney, just one of eight such centres worldwide.

Professor Reilly is the founding director of Station Q Sydney.

“It’s a great honour to have been recognised at the AFR Higher Education awards,” Professor Reilly said. “However, the sort of work we are doing in quantum at Sydney and at Station Q is impossible without a dedicated team of great scientists working towards a common goal.

“So I’d like to thank my colleagues and I look forward to encouraging the next generation of scientific leaders that we are nurturing at the University of Sydney.”

Professor Reilly successfully led a bid for federal government funding for the then Australian Institute for Nanoscience (now called the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology). The $40 million seed funding enabled the construction of the $150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub (with co-funding from the University of Sydney).

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence, said: “Professor Reilly is an outstanding academic leader. Without him we could not have delivered the Microsoft partnership, which is supporting the university’s world-changing research.

“The sort of leadership epitomised by Professor Reilly means our university will continue to attract the most creative minds in Australia and from overseas.”

Professor Reilly’s efforts have cemented Sydney at the centre of blue-sky efforts in quantum engineering.

Professor Reilly plays a crucial role in Microsoft’s investment in building a scalable, fault-tolerant universal quantum computer. Such computers could have an impact on an array of areas, from drug design to cyber-security.

The research group led by Professor Reilly focuses on bridging the gap between theoretical quantum physics and engineering, a stepping stone considered essential to building quantum machines. 

The winning University of Sydney Student Relationship Engagement System team receive their prize from Associate Professor Michael Sankey (far left), Vice President of ACODE, and David Barnett (far right), Managing Director of Pearson. The team are (l-r): Ruth Weeks, Professor Adam Bridgeman and Dr Danny Liu.

The winning University of Sydney Student Relationship Engagement System team receive their prize from Associate Professor Michael Sankey (far left), Vice President of ACODE, and David Barnett (far right), Managing Director of Pearson. The team are (l-r): Ruth Weeks, Professor Adam Bridgeman and Dr Danny Liu.

Student engagement award

The Australian Financial Review Higher Awards dinner also paid tribute to a group of University of Sydney staff led by the Education Portfolio for creating and successfully rolling out the technology, called Student Relationship Engagement System (SRES), which allows teaching staff to collect, analyse, and act on data to better engage and communicate with students at scale as individuals.

In recognition for this work, the team won the $20,000 Pearson and ACODE Award for Innovation in Technology Enhanced Learning, presented on 29 August at AFR awards dinner.

The core staff who developed and led the SRES technology are: Dr Danny LiuProfessor Adam BridgemanRuth Weeks (pictured above receiving the award), as well as Kevin Samnick and Dr Melanie Keep.

“We developed our Student Relationship Engagement System to overcome the difficulties in connecting with students in large cohorts, so that teaching staff can communicate with students more effectively,” said Professor Adam Bridgeman, director of Educational Innovation, in the Education Portfolio.