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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.

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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
aip_president@aip.org.au

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
aip_president@aip.org.au

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
aip_president@aip.org.au

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

The Fellowship of the AIP; pressing fire on lasers; and physics is everywhere in July

The Australian Institute of Physics is dedicated to promoting the role of physics in research, education, industry and the community.

We do this through advocacy, encouraging investment in physics, organising research meetings and conferences, supporting physics teachers, recognising distinguished contributions to physics, and more.

But, as a member-based organisation, we know our members are the key to our success, and we constantly strive to ensure we are providing the best possible benefits for AIP members.

This month we give you the chance to have your say on the future direction of the AIP and help us to make your membership more worthwhile. Take the survey now or read on for more.

It also gives me great pleasure in this edition to highlight the work of our two most recently elevated Fellows of the AIP.

  • Dr Maria Parappilly, from Flinders University and the current head of our Physics Education Group, has done fantastic work raising awareness about the importance of having women and good role models in physics, and the importance of education.
  • Professor Chris McConville is Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation in the College of Science, Engineering and Health at RMIT University and is a widely respected researcher into novel semiconducting materials.

I am also very proud of two Australian physicists who were honoured with the Queen’s Birthday 2018 Honours list: Professor Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop AO from the University of Queensland and Professor Jai Singh AM from Charles Darwin University. Halina received the honour for her work in laser physics and nano-optics as a researcher, mentor and academic – she was also one of the organisers of the last AIP Congress. Jai received the award for his work in physics education, as an academic and researcher to professional scientific organisations. Congratulations Halina and Jai.

Read on for more about the recipients of these awards, and for events around the country where you can hear from some of our best physicists, as well as those visiting from overseas.

Finally, I’d like to urge all AIP members to submit an abstract for the AIP Congress in December. The line-up for the Congress is looking great, so make sure you get your name on the list of speakers – the deadlines for abstract submissions is 15 July.

Kind regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

Continue reading The Fellowship of the AIP; pressing fire on lasers; and physics is everywhere in July

The Women in Physics lecturer is…; Stargazing world record; and more physics in June

It gives me great pleasure to once again welcome a renowned physicist to Australia for the AIP’s annual Women in Physics lecture tour—and this year we’ve chosen Dr Ceri Brenner from the Central Laser Facility at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK.

Ceri is a high-power laser plasma physicist who works alongside industry, translating her research on the fourth state of matter, into practical real-world applications in medicine, aerospace and more. She’s also a passionate science communicator who I am sure will inspire audiences around the country. More on that below.

Physics also made quite a mark on the media in the past month. Not only was rockstar physicist Brian Cox making the media rounds, but ANU also managed to achieve literally record-breaking numbers of people turning their eyes to the sky for their successful Guinness World Record attempt.

We’ll have another huge physics name down under in September. Kip Thorne has announced a string of tour dates, be sure to support the industry and grab a ticket when they go on sale on 22 June. He’ll be supported by local star of Swinburne astronomy Alan Duffy and comedian Robin Ince.

Some of Australia’s best and brightest physicists were also elected into the Australian Academy of Science Fellowship, one of the highest scientific honours in Australia. Be sure to read all about them, and head to our Facebook page to offer your congratulations. Meanwhile the next generation were representing at FameLab Australia and in the Physics Olympiad. Continue reading The Women in Physics lecturer is…; Stargazing world record; and more physics in June

Going for gold (in physics); have your say; professional development; and more: Physics in May

While some of us spent most of last month cheering on the Aussies, especially Cameron McEvoy, in the pool – there is plenty of good physics going on out of the pool as well.

Some of it will be coming to a pub near you as a part of the  Physics in the Pub event series, and there will be even more at the  AIP Congress in Perth in December. Abstract submissions are open until 15 June.

Australia produces some fantastic physicists, and that’s one of the reasons our organisation is so important. It’s great to have a solid community of physicists and physics fans to share their work and get excited about the work of others.

We recognise excellent Australian physics with our AIP medals. There are awards for physicists in a range of disciplines and at all career stages,  have a look at the list below to see if you might be eligible. Nominations close 1 June.

And we want to hear from you.

I get to write to you each month, so now we’re giving you the opportunity to talk back in our regular monthly surveys. The first one is only two questions long, so  check it out

We’re also considering whether a consolidated approach to managing the operations of the AIP could be an efficient use of members funds. Accordingly, we are seeking detailed expressions of interest to deliver AIP Operations, if you’re interested all the details are online.

Finally, I recently joined a meeting with Presidents, CEOs and other leaders of Australia’s most prominent science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) organisations in Canberra, to discuss the important role that science and technology will play in Australia’s future.

As a result, we issued a statement calling for: a whole-of-government plan for science and technology; strategy to equip the future Australian workforce with STEM skills; strong investment in both basic and applied research; and creating policy informed by the best available evidence. You can read our full statement here.

Kind Regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

Continue reading Going for gold (in physics); have your say; professional development; and more: Physics in May

AIP member benefits; call for Congress abstracts; behind the scenes at Parliament; and more physics in April

Preparations for the 2018 AIP Congress—in Perth, December 9 to

Professor Andrew Peele Interim Director, Australian Synchrotron
Professor Andrew Peele
Interim Director, Australian Synchrotron

13—are now well underway, with most of the plenary speakers announced. And the call for abstracts has just opened. More on both of those below.

This year we are really trying to attract a larger industry presence at the Congress, so please pass on the call for abstracts to those you know who are working in physics outside academia. It would also be great to see a large representation of science teachers at the conference.

Get your abstracts in today to help make this the biggest and best Congress yet.

As you probably know, AIP members receive discounted rates to attend the AIP Congress, but there are many other member benefits too.

This month our Vice President Jodie Bradby shared her thoughts on why all physicists should be members of the AIP. She highlights the great work undertaken by our members, and the events they work tirelessly to make happen.

Also in this bulletin, we hear from an AIP member who represented the AIP at Science meets Parliament earlier this year. Claire Edmunds, a PhD candidate from the University of Sydney and Professor Andre Luiten from the Institute for Photonics & Advanced Sensing (IPAS) were given the chance to network with the most brilliant minds in Australian science and members of parliament—while learning about the value those relationships provide.

I was pleased to hear that the experience was not only beneficial for our representatives and their careers, but was also a whole lot of fun. You can read Claire’s report below and Andre’s in the next edition of Australian Physics.

Finally, a lot of great Australian physics research made its way into the news this month, so be sure to check out some of the great media coverage below.

Continue reading AIP member benefits; call for Congress abstracts; behind the scenes at Parliament; and more physics in April

Stargazing in science week and prizes galore: Physics in March

One of the year’s highlights for me as AIP President is our Annual

Professor Andrew Peele Director, Australian Synchrotron
Professor Andrew Peele
Director, Australian Synchrotron

Council Meeting, which gives us the chance to meet in person, hear about what our interstate colleagues are up to, and share our vision for the coming year for the AIP.

For me it’s exciting to see the volume of activity being managed through the state branches of the AIP. Not just in the traditional talk formats—where we continue to share some of the newest and best research from around the country—but also events such as physics in the pub, careers nights and debates, which encourage interaction and sharing of ideas.

One of the reasons that physics is able to feature at the highest levels of international science, and at the highest levels of public recognition, is because of the quality of grass-roots activities like these. The Council Meeting is a great way to bring to light some of this work, which can otherwise get overlooked, and to recognise its value.

Reflecting on another grass-roots activity—our first Summer Meeting—I think we can be pleased with the outcome for this first-time event. The low-cost event featured many opportunities for our early-career researchers and students, whilst also providing a collaborative and informative space for productive discussions. I want to thank those who put time and effort into bringing this event to fruition, and I am sure there will be more discussions about how we make the most of this event in the future. Meanwhile, it’s an AIP Congress year this year, so save the dates of 9-14 December, and keep your eyes on this bulletin for calls for content.

It was also my absolute pleasure to present an award for Outstanding Service to Physics at our AGM to Brian James. Brian’s most recent contribution to physics has been editing our member-only magazine Australian Physics for the past five years. Brian deserves to be recognised wholeheartedly for the time, effort and passion he has put into the magazine during his tenure. He will be stepping away from the role in coming months. Peter Kappen and David Hoxley will be taking over the reins and I look forward to a full introduction from them in the magazine pages once they do. Read more about Brian’s award below.

And on the topic of awards, included in this bulletin are the details of a number of science prizes. I’d encourage each state branch to consider who you’ve awarded prizes to over the past 12-18 months, and to put those people forward for some of these awards. We on the National Exec will do the same. If you are working on a nomination, please let us know so we don’t double up.

Kind Regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

Continue reading Stargazing in science week and prizes galore: Physics in March