Quantum Technology Researcher Champions STEM Careers
A young Postdoctoral Research Fellow in UKZN’s Centre for Quantum Technology, Dr Yaseera Ismail, has made headlines for her promotion of careers in the Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) fields, being featured in an issue of the Science Stars magazine, a publication of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
Ismail, who attended UKZN from undergraduate studies through to her honours degree in Physics and went on to do a masters and PhD in Quantum Technology at the Institution, speaks highly of the University’s role in propelling her into Nanotechnology.
She has been exposed to international research as during her masters’ studies she spent time at the Photon Science Institute at Manchester University in England and during her PhD studies she visited the Physics of Structured Light and Matter Group at the University of Napoli in Italy.
UKZN is home to the largest dedicated quantum research group in the country, making it the institution of choice for those interested in seriously pursuing careers and research in quantum technology and related fields.
Ismail describes her field of study as the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Advances in Nanotechnology contribute to translating properties of quantum mechanics into practical applications in Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
The advancements being made in this field require bright minds to engage with the science, however, many young people feel discouraged in this arena as they find Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects very difficult.
Ismail, who has worked extensively with UKZN’s Science, Technology and Engineering Centre (STEC), counters this bleak view of STEM subjects by describing how inspiring a career in this field is. Through STEC, Ismail has been part of initiatives which see scholars from disadvantaged schools visit the University, take part in practical demonstrations and hear more about what students and professionals do in this field.
In Ismail’s case, her career has led her to her current work on quantum communication, looking at the security of information through various methods of encryption. She has presented her work at 25 conferences, won six awards for these presentations and had the opportunity to attend the International Year of Light opening ceremony in Paris in 2015 on the invitation of the DST-NRF and UNESCO.
She also worked for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) at their Pretoria-based National Laser Centre, while completing her master’s degree through the Quantum Research Group on the topic of the development of novel laser beams for the application of optical trapping.
Ismail spoke of her passion for science, and for seeing young people exposed to mentors in STEM fields. Ismail, who increases her engagement with young scientists through being a judge at the annual Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, urged fellow scientists to engage with one another and with up-and-coming science students about their work to demystify the field and encourage increased participation and learning.
‘For a scientist the ultimate goal is improving the knowledge base of the scientific community, making a difference to civilisation and attaining international recognition,’ said Ismail.