About two decades ago, as a 2nd year middle school student, physics and mathematics were my favourite subjects. Like many children growing up in that part of the world in that era (perhaps universally?), we were asked who we would like to be when we grow up. I wanted to be another Marie Curie, inspired by a small book written about her and fueled by my fascination of physics.
Very typically for me, I always had lots of questions as a young person. One day I asked my physics teacher a question during the break. I could not recall the question nor the exact words of her answer to my question. Nevertheless, her answer changed me completely back then. They were words to the effect: “go away, there is no point in explaining this to you, girls will not understand physics anyway”. My confidence and desire to be a physicist dived and eventually vanished in anguish, probably after a couple more instances. She succeeded in achieving what she might or might not have intended.
I harbor no resentment. Another door was open for me: maths and later computer science. I always wonder what might have been for me, if her answers to my questions were more neutral or encouraging. I wish I had known not to let others define who I am or what I am craving to learn. But then I probably would not have the strength to do anything meaningful about it as an impoverished boarding school kid.
Years have passed. I am presented the opportunity to work with world-renowned quantum physicists in quantum computing. Now I am ready to give physics another go, but this time combined with what I already know about computer science, mathematics and others. This time I will not let small voices define who I am. I will do that myself. Thankfully there are so many generously supportive people around me this time around.
My dream is no longer to be another Marie Curie, but to develop quantum technology to advance many fields, to transform my efforts into meaningful impact, and to benefit mankind through the contribution I make, with the hope that I look back this time with great pride in another two decades time.