Nelly (far right) is pictured next to CQT Principal Investigator Stephanie Wehner and the rest of Stephanie's group in 2011, when Nelly was completing a summer internship at CQT.
It's an impressive start to a research career: Nelly Ng Huei Ying (pictured right) graduated on 25 July from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with two prizes, and she already has two papers under review from her research at CQT.
Nelly has just completed a BSc in Physics at NTU. She was named a Koh Boon Hwee Scholar and won the Shell Eastern Petroleum Gold Medal cum Cash Award, which is given to the physics student who achieves the highest cumulative grade point average. Koh Boon Hwee Scholars are students who "achieved excellent academic performance, displayed strong leadership ability and demonstrated potential for contributing to society".
Nelly first began research in quantum information in summer 2011, after she approached CQT Principal Investigator Stephanie Wehner about an internship. She was encouraged by friends who had completed projects at the Centre, and she was intrigued to learn more about a field that combined elements of mathematics and computer science with physics. After the internship, Nelly was supported by her NTU supervisor Professor Chew Lock Yue to continue her research under Stephanie for her final-year undergraduate project.
"Stephanie is a really good supervisor. She's taught me a lot," says Nelly. But Nelly also taught herself, says Stephanie: "It really shows a student is very good when they can go out by themselves and learn what they need to."
The project Nelly joined was a collaboration with experimentalists to demonstrate a quantum protocol for a kind of secure information exchange called bit commitment. Nelly not only got an A+ for her report, she is also first author on the paper that's been written about the work. The paper is now under review for publication. A preprint is available: "Experimental implementation of bit commitment in the noisy-storage model", arXiv:1203.3331. Nelly is also first author on a second paper under review: "A min-entropy uncertainty relation for finite size cryptography", arXiv:1205.0842.
NTU Koh Boon Hwee Scholars are asked to nominate an NTU mentor and high school teacher to share the award with them. Here Nelly (centre) is pictured with her nominees.
There were quite a few ups and downs in the project, and it's true in research in general that if you proceed into the unknown, there will be points of frustration and times when you are lost" says Stephanie. "My tip for anyone starting in research is to realise that it's very normal to feel overwhelmed and unsure about the tools. The most interesting problems are the ones we don't understand. What is important for good research is that you have the courage to continue."
Nelly has now joined CQT as a Research Assistant in Stephanie's group.
Students wishing to do internships or undergraduate research at CQT should contact Principal Investigators in their area of interest to ask about the availability of projects. Projects may also sometimes be advertised through the NUS UROPS portal. CQT projects may be listed under physics and under computer science.