A quantum physics professor has been named 2018 Australian of the Year in recognition of her work in the "space race of the computing era."
Prof Michelle Yvonne Simmons, 50, was presented with the award at a ceremony in Canberra on Thursday.
The London-born, British-educated physicist, who arrived in Australia in 1999 and became a citizen eight years later, was praised for her world-leading research that could result in the first working quantum computer – a machine powerful enough to quickly solve problems which might otherwise take thousands of years.
Such a discovery could revolutionise weather forecasts, facial recognition, self-driving cars, traffic flows, stock markets and drug development.
Simmons was also commended for being a role model to young scientists -- particularly women.
"Throughout my career I have found people often underestimate women scientists, and in some ways that is great because it has meant that I've flown under the radar and I've been able to get on with things," she said after accepting her award from PM Malcolm Turnbull.
"But I am also conscious that whenever someone starts to believe in what others think of them, that belief can become a self-fulfilling prophecy — and that's one reason I feel it is important not to be defined by other people's expectations of who you are or what you might be."
She added: "I do believe women think differently, and diversity of thought is invaluable to technological and research development."
Simmons took out the top honour ahead of Queensland rugby league great Johnathan Thurston and Victorian actor Samuel Johnson.
Also on Thursday, Matildas striker Sam Kerr was named Young Australian of the Year, biophysicist Dr Graham Farquhar the Senior Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero was awarded to Sydney mathematics teacher Eddie Woo.
"Michelle, Eddie, Graham and Samantha are inspirational Australians whose contributions are making our wonderful nation a better place and making a real difference to the lives of others," National Australia Day Council Chair Danielle Roche OAM said.
"They are breaking down barriers, forging new futures, looking at old problems in different ways and creating new pathways."
Ms Roche added this year's "extraordinary" winners were a reminder to the public that "we all have something to contribute."