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Lia Yeh, a DPhil student in the Department of Computer Science, is one of 67 doctoral students around the world, and the only one in the UK, to be awarded a 2023 Google PhD Fellowship.

Lia Yeh next to a framed diagram with the title 'Quantum teleportation'
Lia Yeh pictured with artwork depicting the quantum teleportation protocol as one mathematically formal diagram, created by fellow PhD student Hamza Waseem, in collaboration with the artist Nicola Green. A full description can be found at: https://www.nicolagreen.com/muhammad-hamza-waseem

A statement from Google, on this year's awards, reads: ‘Google is pleased to confirm the recipients of the North American and European Google PhD Fellowships for 2023. These awards have been presented to exemplary PhD students in computer science and related fields.  

'We have given these students unique fellowships to acknowledge their contributions to their areas of specialty and provide funding for their education and research. We look forward to working closely with them as they continue to become leaders in their respective fields.’  

Hailing from the USA, Lia is a Clarendon and Basil Reeve Scholar at Oriel College, working on quantum computation. Her research aims to bring together different aspects of quantum computing, make it more accessible, and harness its potential for public good. 

She is particularly interested in quantum computer architecture and compilers: in developing and applying quantum graphical calculi so that highly mathematical algorithms can be expressed through quantum programming languages and therefore translated into instructions that a quantum device can process. 

Commenting on her Fellowship for Quantum Computing, Lia Yeh said: I am thankful for the award and am determined to put it towards writing a good thesis and doing good. I believe that any technology can be used for good purposes and for bad purposes, and each scientist has a role to play in this regard: on one hand, the risk of decrypting passwords with quantum computing is necessitating our present-day encryption to change; on another, quantum computing has the potential to tackle problems from environmental science to supply distribution to health care, and likely many more areas we have yet to realize.  

I'd like to thank Google for the opportunity; UC Santa Barbara especially the faculty, staff, and peers at the College of Creative Studies for getting me started as a researcher; IBM Quantum and Quantinuum for the incredible research teams and community I got to be a part of; and the Quantum Group at the University of Oxford, especially my PhD supervisors Aleks Kissinger (University of Oxford) and John van de Wetering (University of Amsterdam), for their support enabling me to overcome starting my PhD journey during the pandemic.’ 

In 2019, Lia co-founded WomxnHacks with a fellow student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, an annual 36-hour ‘hackathon’ to encourage women and non-gender binary students from all backgrounds and academic fields to explore coding within a supportive environment. She moved to Oxford in 2020, after completing her BS in Physics and a BS in Computing from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California. At Oxford, she continues to be involved in student organisations that support women and students identifying as female, in STEM. 

Lia added: ‘I know I would be nowhere near doing computer science and physics if not for certain moments I had while learning and teaching, that changed what I thought was possible and what was important. I think that, just like how computers have become a technology that most of the world can use without needing to know how it works, this is also a possibility for quantum computers if enough people are determined to make this a reality – through open-sourcing software, creating educational opportunities, and challenging the perceptions of who can be scientists.  

‘I am fortunate to have the chance to combine both these perspectives by being part of a large, multi-institutional team led by the University of Oxford, researching a pictorial approach for learning advanced quantum computation concepts at the high school level.

Google PhD Fellowships were established in 2009. They are awarded across Europe, Africa, Australasia, East Asia, South-East Asia, India, and North America. Recipients are supported with full fees and living expenses for their doctoral studies, and benefit from access to a Google Research Mentor. 

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