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PhD Student Achieves Third Place at International Conference in Canada


PhD student at UKZN’s School of Chemistry and Physics, Miss Yaseera Ismail, was placed third in an oral competition at the 8th North American International Optical Society of America (OSA) Networking of Students Conference (IONS) in Montréal, Canada.

The IONS Conference is arranged by students to facilitate networking and learning opportunities for students around the topic of optics and photonics. The Conference comprises presentations from renowned experts in the field, student poster sessions as well as social activities.

UKZN is part of a network of 300 universities around the world which are affiliated to OSA.

Ismail presented a 15 minute talk on the topic: “The Effects a Simulated Turbulent Medium Imposes on the Quantumness of a Polarisation-based Entangled Photon Source”.

In order to be considered for a presentation slot in the oral competition, Ismail had to submit her abstract to a panel who determined which abstracts deserved a space in the programme for either a 15 minute presentation or a poster/flash talk.

Ismail’s presentation was met with a positive response from Conference delegates.

‘The Conference allowed me the opportunity to interact with others in my field and share ideas,’ said Ismail. ‘As a young scientist who is trying to develop a career, networking and building collaborations are vital. Attending this Conference provided me the opportunity to visit a top research facility where researchers are working in the same line as I am, among various other branches of Physics.’

Ismail is currently completing her PhD under the supervision of Professor Fransceso Petruccione in the field of Quantum Information Processing and Communication. Her current research is focused within the branch of quantum communication.

‘Today we know the manipulation of information is bound only by the laws of Physics and thus information can be characterised, quantified and processed as a physical entity using the basic properties of quantum mechanics,’ said Ismail.

‘The principle variation between conventional and quantum encryption is the key distribution process. Quantum key distribution encodes the key information into a quantum data carrier that is then transported from one point to another. Practical quantum key distribution systems, although capable of producing provably secure keys, must in it-self be trusted. Quantum entanglement provides this additional layer of security to the systems.

‘My study deals with constructing and characterising a single photon source and looking at ways to enhance such a system. I also look at the effects of single photons when passed a through simulated turbulent media as this will provide an understanding of the behaviour of the system when performed in the atmosphere. Recently, our research group shifted its focus to a free-space approach to distributing the key within a quantum cryptography system.’

Ismail said she was inspired to pursue this avenue of research because quantum key distribution provided a future-proof technology for secure communications, improving on the conventional key distribution used currently to encrypt information securely, a method which cannot guarantee the future resilience of encrypted information.

‘Quantum key distribution encodes the key information into a quantum data carrier that is then transported from one point to another. This shifts the security basis away from Mathematical complexities and towards fundamental physical boundaries set by the laws of quantum mechanics. This therefore means that the retrieval of the key information by unauthorised parties requires one to defy the laws of quantum mechanics.

‘Quantum key distribution is applicable to situations that require confidential information to remain secure for extended periods of time,’ explained Ismail. “This is what makes quantum cryptography such an interesting field of research for me. It is also a new field of research hence there is sufficient room for growth and progression as a researcher.’

Ismail attributed some of her success in her field to the guidance of her supervisors. ‘A student is only as good as his or her supervisors Having well connected, informed and successful supervisors has led to my progression in Physics. Honestly, I can accredit a portion of my success to the exceptional supervisors and colleagues whom I have had the opportunity to work with over the years.’

She hopes to continue her research as a post doc and thereby extend her knowledge in the field and grow as a scientist.

-Christine Cuénod



« April 2017 »