Our new president; commercialising physics; the infinite shapes of particles of light; and more physics news in March

It is with great enthusiasm and delight that I step into the role of the new President of the AIP. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you over the coming years at AIP events. I would like to take this opportunity to first warmly thank Andrew Peele for his hard work and dedication to the role of President over the past two years. Big shoes to fill.

It has been a busy start to the year. The AIP was recently involved in the review of the Australian decadal plan for Australian Physics and in mid-February the AIP had our Council Meeting and AGM. Given that the AIP has seven state branches, eighttopical groups and nine Cognate Societies council meetings are always a very full two days. The scope of activities undertaken over the past 12 months was very impressive, as are many of the exciting events currently being planned for this coming year.

The council meeting was also a chance to welcome our new Vice-President Sven Rogge from UNSW to the AIP national executive. Sven will take over as AIP President for two years from 2021—so the future is looking bright. We also fondly farewelled Warrick Couch as he stepped down from the national executive as Immediate Past President. You can read more on the Exec team below.

The review of the Physics Decadal Plan at the Shine Dome also was a full two days. You can see my recap below. We’re aiming to publish the final review report by October and will need the support of the Australian Physics community to review and then ultimately implement this plan—so watch this space!

Last month the independent review into the Defence Trade Controls Act was praised by Universities Australia, the Group of Eight, the Australian Academy of Science and others. The AIP hopes that Australia adopts the recommendations of the review of the Defence Trade Controls Act—a sensible and workable approach that enables researchers to interact smoothly with our colleagues overseas and in industry without compromising Australia’s national security.

And if you’ve been thinking about commercialising your physics research but need some tips, the very successful entrepreneur Andre Luiten offers some suggestions as head of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) at the University of Adelaide and co-founder of Cryoclock Pty Ltd. More below.

It’s my pleasure to congratulate quantum physicist and AIP member Jacq Romero who has been selected as a L’Oréal International Rising Talent. Congratulations on this wonderful achievement—hot on the heels of her AIP Ruby Payne-Scott Award! This year we’ll be featuring science prizes, job opportunities and conferences, especially for our early-career and student members. Please spread the word and encourage others to get involved with the AIP.

Follow the AIP at @ausphysics on Twitter and Facebook for updates on physics news, events, prizes and job opportunities around the country.

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au Continue reading Our new president; commercialising physics; the infinite shapes of particles of light; and more physics news in March

Hear Elisabetta Barberio speak about Higgs boson at the AGM in Melbourne; AIP Congress highlights; and the world’s thinnest hologram

The AGM is a great opportunity for members to give feedback on the future direction of the AIP. It will be held at The University of Melbourne on February 11th and 12th 2019. Everyone is welcome to attend and particle physicist Elisabetta Barberio will give a public lecture about the Higgs boson and the search for physics beyond the standard model.

On Australia Day four physicists were appointed to the Australian Honour Roll. Congratulations to Elaine Sadler, Ron Ekers, David Malin and Albert Pittock. Saturday also marked the end to quantum physicist Michelle Simmons’ tenure as 2018 Australian of the Year. Congratulations Michelle on a wonderful year.

Congratulations to the remarkable Tanya Monro on her new appointment as Chief Scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Group. It’s 20 years since Tanya won the Bragg Gold Medal for the best physics PhD thesis. We wish you all the best in the new role.

We had a fantastic conclusion to 2018 with 789 attendees at our Congress in Perth, including a dozen excellent plenary speakers from around the world. Read more below about the plenary talks about gravitational wave detection, metamaterials that can act as invisibility cloaks, and holographic optical tweezers. Our next Congress will be in 2020 in Adelaide—thank you to Andre Luiten and his team for hosting.

Congratulations to the six 2018 AIP medallists: including particle physicist Elisabetta Barberio, optical and quantum physicist Jacqui Romero, Michael Johnston for his significant contributions to applied science, Andre Luiten for his leadership in commercialising breakthrough research to support industry needs, Yevgeny Stadnik for their thesis on dark matter and fundamental constants, and Maria Parappilly for significant contributions to physics education in Australia. More on those awards below and a story about how Maria is making physics more accessible to students.

There’s another chance to have your say on the future of physics following the meeting about the Physics Decadal Plan at the 2018 AIP Congress. The National Committee for Physics will be meeting in Canberra in the coming weeks to conduct the mid-term plan review, so please have your say in the survey online.

RMIT’s Min Gu has been recognised by the International Society of Optics and Photonics for his work designing the world’s thinnest hologram. More below.

We’re also helping circulate the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies’ bulletin to raise their profile. You can subscribe to their bi-monthly bulletin online, which aims to promote the research developments and activities in the field of physics in the Asia Pacific region.

This is my last bulletin as President of the AIP. Next month you will be hearing from Jodie Bradby, who will be taking over the reins.
It has been a busy and enjoyable two years where I think we have continued the good work of previous committees in communicating the vital importance of physics for all Australians. My profound thanks and respect goes to my fellow executive committee members, to our branch and other committees around the country, and to you—our active and innovative physics community!

Kind regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this introduction stated that it was 11 years ago since Tanya Monro won the Bragg Gold Medal. This online newsletter has been corrected to say 20 years ago.

Continue reading Hear Elisabetta Barberio speak about Higgs boson at the AGM in Melbourne; AIP Congress highlights; and the world’s thinnest hologram

Big finish to 2018; AIP Congress; how new stars are formed in galaxies

As the 2018 Congress approaches and the year draws to a close, I’d like to reflect on the last 12 months as we gather our energy for 2019.

It’s been a stellar year for Australian physicists, with several of our own recognised with prestigious awards throughout the year.


Top billing of course goes to Michelle Simmons, Australian of the Year 2018. Michelle has been a wonderful advocate of our discipline, bringing public awareness of quantum physics to the fore. Her team recently overcame yet another hurdle on the path to silicon quantum computing with the demonstration of a compact sensor for qubit readout (see Aussie Physics in the News).

Other notable mentions include:

  • Geophysicist Kurt Lambeck, recipient of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his research on understanding the changing shape of planet Earth;
  • The award of four Eureka prizes to physicists – the optical physics in neuroscience team at UQ, Mohsen Rahmani at ANU, the sapphire clock team at the University of Adelaide and Cryoclock Pty Ltd, and Alan Duffy from Swinburne University and the Royal Institute of Australia;
  • Early career researcher Liam Hall from the University of Melbourne, who was awarded a 2018 Veski Innovation Fellowship for his work on applying quantum sensing to chemical reaction systems;
  • Professor Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop AO (UQ) and Professor Jai Singh AM (Charles Darwin University), who were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday 2018 Honours list
  • The six physicists appointed to the Australian Honour roll.

This year the 2018 AIP Women in Physics Lecturer, plasma physicist Ceri Brenner, has done a tremendous job in advocating for physics and female physicists. She spoke at 30 events across Australia during National Science Week and was featured on ABC’s The World for her work in developing powerful lasers. Nominations for the 2019 Women in Physics Lecturer close on December 14, so if you know an Australian female physicist who has made significant contributions to the field, nominate today. More below.

In 2019 we must continue striving to ensure that the Australian public and government are well-informed of the benefits of physics research.

I hope to see you at the AIP Congress next week. And an announcement yesterday spread internationally about physicists who detected a gravitational wave signal that was produced by the biggest black hole collision seen so far. A huge congratulations to all involved and particularly to Susan Scott from the Australian National University, who will be presenting new results from the first two observing runs of Advanced LIGO and Virgo at the Congress.

The highlight-packed program can be read on the AIP Congress website.

Continue reading Big finish to 2018; AIP Congress; how new stars are formed in galaxies

Register for AIP Congress; Physics plan review; Grants and nominations

Oxford active-matter expert Julia Yeomans, China’s quantum guru Jianwei Pan and gravitational wave Nobel laureate Rainer Weiss. Among the usual dazzling array of presentations at the upcoming AIP Congress in Perth, these are three I’m particularly excited about. Not to mention a special announcement from OzGrav on the final day.

The Congress begins on the 9th of December and registrations are still open. Please join us.

The time has come for a mid-term review of the Physics Decadal Plan. If you have suggestions about new opportunities for physics in Australia, now is the time to make them. We’ll be discussing the Plan in a Town Hall session at Congress.

For schoolteachers and other physics educations, the Physics Education Group will also be running a lively program at Congress including workshops and networking sessions. Special registration rates for schoolteachers are available.

The past month has seen a strong crop of prizewinners in the physics world. Congratulations to all.

Geophysicist Kurt Lambeck received the 2018 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, for revealing how our planet changes shape—every second, every day, and over millennia. His original work in the 1960s enabled accurate planning of space missions. It led him to use the deformation of continents during the ice ages to study changes deep in the mantle of the planet. It also led to a better understanding of the impact of sea level changes on human civilization in the past, present and future.

Laser physics was the star of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. The prize was awarded half to Arthur Ashkin for inventing optical tweezers and half to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland for creating extremely short and intense laser pulses.

Mathematician Alison Harcourt was named 2019 Victorian Senior Australian of the Year in recognition of her pioneering work – still in use today – on statistical measures of poverty and the best way to arrange names on a ballot paper.

Liam Hall of the University of Melbourne was awarded a 2018 Veski Innovation Fellowship for taking quantum sensing into the realm of chemistry.

Also, I was honoured to be elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering alongside 24 other leaders in research, industry and government. I very much see this as a recognition and reflection of the important role that physics and physicists play in the generation and translation of innovation for the benefit of society. I congratulate my fellow new Fellows, many of whom have backgrounds in the physical sciences.

Continue reading Register for AIP Congress; Physics plan review; Grants and nominations

Nominate for an AIP Executive role; Quantum pancakes; Physics in the Pub; awards and nominations

I’m pleased to announce the nominated ticket for the Executive for the AIP for 2019. Read on for more information and the process for election.

The NSW AIP Branch is calling for nominations for its annual NSW Community Outreach to Physics Award, worth $500. The Award recognises an individual who is a role model to the physics community, promotes student interest in physics, and is an effective physics educator. Nominations close Friday 12 October.

If you know an outstanding physics teacher in Queensland, nominate them for the very first Outstanding Physics Teacher Award. The AIP Queensland Branch is inviting you to nominate high school physics teachers that have made a significant impact to physics education.

This month brings a lot of exciting news. There will be more on the Nobel Prize for physics―just awarded to Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland for work in laser physics. Donna Strickland is the first woman in 55 years to be honoured for the Nobel Prize for physics. Stay tuned to our Twitter account for updates. The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science will also be announced later in October. This year mathematics and technology teachers are eligible for nomination in the Science Teaching Prize for the first time.

If you’re in Brisbane on Thursday 11 October, head to Phil Dooley’s Physics in the Pub event. It’s a great opportunity to support local physicists in a friendly, informal environment. Contact Phil directly if you’d like to get involved, or register on EventBrite.

Nominations for the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) Clunies Ross Awards are closing this month on Friday 26 October. Even if you applied last year and were unsuccessful, try again, or encourage others to apply. More information below.

Last month we learned of changes to the HSC physics syllabus in NSW. The new syllabus focusses on physics and its modern uses, rather than its history and development, but the changes have also meant that women and contributions to physics by women have been entirely removed.

As Kathryn Ross and Tom Gordon pointed out in an article in The Conversation, the new syllabus mentions 25 scientists by name and all are men. The danger here is ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’: students will find no female role models in the syllabus, and may come away with the idea that physics is not a field for women. The AIP is committed to gender equity through initiatives like the Women in Physics lecture tour, and we will continue to strive for gender balance in Australian physics. I have written a letter to the NSW Minister for Education expressing these concerns.

Kind regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading Nominate for an AIP Executive role; Quantum pancakes; Physics in the Pub; awards and nominations

Physics cleaning up at the Eurekas; physicist named CSIRO Chief Scientist; awards and opportunities; and more

It’s been a busy month for physics with hundreds of events taking place around the country as part of National Science Week. About 30 of those were presented by UK plasma physicist Ceri Brenner, AIP’s 2018 Women in Physics lecturer. Ceri spoke about Igniting stars with super intense lasers, and shared her passion for physics with hundreds of people around Australia at school lectures, public lectures and meetings. Ceri was also featured in a segment on ABC’s The World talking about developing the world’s most powerful lasers. More below on Ceri’s tour.

I was personally delighted to hear that Past AIP President Cathy Foley is CSIRO’s new Chief Scientist. Cathy has played an integral part in the direction of the Australian Institute of Physics—she was the 2007-2008 AIP President and is currently on the Women in Physics Committee. She will step into the new role at the end of September to help champion science, and its impact on, and contribution to, the world. We wish Cathy all the best in her new role.

Four of this year’s Eureka prizes were won by physicists. Congratulations to the following individuals and teams:

  • The Optical Physics in Neuroscience team from the University of Queensland for the 2018 UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
  • Mohsen Rahmani from Australian National University for the 2018 Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
  • The Sapphire Clock Team from The Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, University of Adelaide and Cryoclock Pty Ltd for the 2018 Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
  • Alan Duffy from Swinburne University and The Royal Institute of Australia for the 2018 Celestino Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science.

Congratulations to quantum computing scientist Rose Ahlefeldt who is the 2018 ACT Scientist of the Year—an award that celebrates Canberra’s emerging scientists. Rose will spend the next 12 months inspiring young people to pursue careers in STEM, while promoting the ACT as a centre of excellence for science and research.

Also in this bulletin, the Asian Physics Olympiad want you to submit your toughest physics questions and Phil Dooley is looking for presenters for Physics in the Pub in Brisbane. Nominations are now open for NSW AIP’s Annual Postgraduate Awards Day.

Our last two bulletins have included surveys about AIP activities and your preferred time of the year for Congress. We haven’t got enough responses yet to share the results, so would love you to complete the surveys before the end of September. Your feedback will help to shape the future direction of the AIP.

Kind regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading Physics cleaning up at the Eurekas; physicist named CSIRO Chief Scientist; awards and opportunities; and more

Igniting stars & light tweezers for Science Week; Physics at the Eurekas

National Science Week is happening from 11 – 19 August and physics is again well represented. There are over 2,000 events around the country. I encourage you to take part in the Week—whether you’re running an event or attending, you may inspire a next generation physicist or even come up with an event idea for next year. Read more about the physics events below.

Congratulations to the Australian Research Council’s 2018 Laureate Fellows—announced last week. This year’s Fellows include many involved with physics including Professor Tamara Davis, Professor Stephen Foley, Professor Julian Gale, Professor Karl Glazebrook, Professor Hanns-Christoph Nägerl and Distinguished Professor Kourash Kalantar-zadeh. Well done to the 15 Australian Research Council Physical Scientists who were awarded ARC Future Fellowships. Read about their projects here.

We also welcome Dr Ceri Brenner to Australia as she has already embarked on her month-long AIP Women in Physics Lecture Tour, delivering public lectures around the country. Be sure to go and see one of her lectures—Igniting stars with super intense lasers—around the country.

The 2018 Eureka Prize nominations were announced at the end of last month—featuring physicists around the country. Congratulations to the Optical Physics in Neuroscience Team from the University of Queensland on their novel interdisciplinary research, Associate Professor Alan Duffy for engaging the public in science communication, and Dr Mohsen Rahmani for developing a new class of nanoscale surface.

In our quick survey this month we are posing a question that should affect about 1,000 of you (the approximate number of delegates to Congress). We are interested in finding out your preferences for when Congress is held: December or July. It would be great to get a large number of responses, so follow this link to take the survey.

Australian Science Innovations is also inviting the Australian physics community to submit their toughest physics questions for the Asian Physics Olympiad, which is to be hosted in Australia for the first time. Two hundred of the world’s brightest teenagers will head to Adelaide from 5 – 13 May 2019.

Kind regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading Igniting stars & light tweezers for Science Week; Physics at the Eurekas

MAGIC – Mentoring and Guidance in Careers for Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Applications are now open for the second “Mentoring and Guidance in Careers” (MAGIC) workshop for women and gender diverse early career researchers with a PhD in mathematical or physical sciences, awarded within the past 7 years. The workshop will be held from 29 October – 2 November 2018, at University House, ANU, Canberra.

Please see http://wp.maths.usyd.edu.au/MAGIC/ for further information and for the application form.

Up to 35 successful applicants will receive financial support for airfare and accommodation costs to attend the workshop.

The 2017 workshop received an enthusiastic welcome and was oversubscribed, with many interested people turned away due to restricted capacity.

The closing date for applications is 6 August 2018.

Look out for Science Week events near you!

Find your science this August with hundreds of amazing science-themed events and activities across the country. National Science Week will be running from 11th to 19th August 2018, with a range science events held throughout August.

With festivals, quiz nights, workshops, performances, shows, a tea party and science cafes discussing everything under (and close to!) the sun, there’s sure to be something for everyone!

For more events and information, visit the National Science Week website at scienceweek.net.au.