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Michelle Simmons: Quantum computing scientist/Aussie STEM Stars

By Nova Weetman

Illustrated by Mirjana Segan

Reviewed by Helen Gearing

In exceptional timing, this book was published in the same month that Michelle Simmons AO won the 2023 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. 
Michelle Simmons: Quantum computing science is written by the award-winning Nova Weetman, whose other recent fiction titles include The Edge of Thirteen, Elsewhere Girls (with Emily Gale) and The Jammer. It is part of the Aussie Stem Stars collection – a series of biographies for readers 9 years and older who are interested in true stories of Australians changing the world using science, technology, engineering, and maths.
‘If her dad didn’t think she’d be any good at chess, what else would other people think she wouldn’t be good at? It was a thought that intrigued her…’
The story begins in London in the early 1970s, where six-years old Michelle has started hearing that some activities aren’t really for girls – like football, chess, or building your brother’s computer. At the same time, she instinctively realises this could be an advantage  – other people are going to underestimate her. And Michelle is right – whether it’s being the first girl to win the London under 12’s chess championship, facing down a high school bully, or being overlooked in competitive research politics at Cambridge, Michelle defies expectations and forges new paths.
Along the way, however, she yearns to discover which of her many interests she wants to wholeheartedly pursue. She knows it isn’t chess or basketball (despite enjoying and excelling at both) and eventually falls in love with atoms – the tiniest building blocks of the universe. Chasing atoms, Michelle accepts a research fellowship in Sydney with the University of New South Wales and sets up a new centre of excellence for quantum computer technology.
Reading a biography of a quantum physicist may seem like a daunting task, but Weetman makes it highly accessible for young readers by recounting relatable interactions between Michelle and her brother – a strong sibling relationship that continues to the present day. And Mirjana Segan’s excellent illustrations help demystify some of the technicalities which might be unfamiliar to the reader. 
Michelle Simmons: Quantum computing scientist is a solid addition to the excellent Aussie STEM series, which includes scientists who are already household names alongside those who are lesser known, but who should also be celebrated for their incredible contributions to science.
Teacher’s notes coming soon.
Wild Dingo Press 2023
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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