Researcher recognised as one of 15 rising talents worldwide

CQT Principal Investigator Loh Huanqian selected for programme by UNESCO and L’Oreal Foundation supporting women in science
12 February 2020

CQT Principal Investigator Loh Huanqian Image: L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science

Quantum physicist Loh Huanqian was named among “15 Rising Talents” worldwide on 11 February by the UNESCO and L’Oreal Foundation’s For Women in Science programme. Huanqian is a Principal Investigator at the Centre for Quantum Technologies and President’s Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at the National University of Singapore.

The L’Oréal-UNESCO International Rising Talents awards are given to “the 15 most promising researchers” among almost 260 scientists previously selected for regional For Women in Science fellowships. Huanqian received the 2018 L’Oréal Singapore For Women In Science National Fellowship for the physical and engineering sciences for her research on quantum simulation.

Since joining CQT as a Principal Investigator in 2017, Huanqian has established an experimental group to create ultracold molecules which can be used like quantum building blocks to simulate and explore material properties. Interviewed for the award, she said: “As a quantum physicist, my dream is to use quantum simulators to guide the search for new materials that could help manage the world’s rising energy needs.”

The International Rising Talents awards have been presented annually since 2000. In announcing this year’s group, the L’Oreal-UNESCO team said “These young women are the very future of science and recognising their excellence will help ensure that they reach their full potential.” Recipients receive financial support and leadership training, as well as opportunities to network.

Huanqian will be honoured in a ceremony on 10 March at the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. She will participate in these events remotely, including speaking at a roundtable at UNESCO on the importance of multidisciplinary research via video conference.

She told the L’Oreal-UNESCO team that her biggest challenge has been juggling motherhood and being an assistant professor. “Raising two ‘families’ – one at home and one in the laboratory – wasn’t easy,” she said. “It was only possible with the support of my family, colleagues and students, and access to outstanding childcare options.”

She wouldn’t want women to think they have to choose between being a parent and being a researcher. She said, “We must harness all the world’s brains in using science to tackle humanity’s greatest challenges. I hope I can serve as a role model to inspire the next generation of girls to pursue science as a career.”

The awards were announced on 11 February because it is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.