Alan Walsh Medal

The Alan Walsh Medal for Service to Industry

Information for Applicants

Background to the Award

This award, an initiative of the NSW Branch of the AIP, recognises significant contributions by a practicing physicist to industry in Australia. It commemorates the late Sir Alan Walsh, Kt, FAA, FTS, FRS, one of Australia’s most eminent and distinguished scientists, who was the originator and developer of Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry (AAS) and pioneered its application as a tool in chemical analysis.

Born in Lancashire in 1916 and educated at Darwen Grammar School, Sir Alan studied physics at Manchester University. After a few years in industry in the UK, he was recruited in 1946 to join the newly created Chemical Physics Section of the CSIR Division of Industrial Chemistry in Melbourne. In 1952 he had the idea of using atomic absorption spectra, rather than atomic emission and molecular absorption spectra, in spectrochemical analysis. The subsequent development of AAS as a simple, rapid and inexpensive method for the analysis of minute traces of metals (and some non metals) is a tribute to Sir Alan’s extraordinary creativity, his business acumen and his infectious enthusiasm. He promoted the establishment of an Australian manufacturer of the atomic absorption spectrophotometer, the original company Techtron Pty Ltd eventually growing into Varian Australia, now one of the world’s leading spectroscopic instrument companies.

Conditions of the Award

The Award consists of a medal and is open to competition every second year among persons resident in Australia for at least five of the seven years preceding the closing date for applications. The Award will be given for physics research and/or development that has led to patents, processes or inventions which, in the opinion of the judging panel, have led to significant industrial and/or commercial outcomes, such as devices that are being manufactured or have influenced a major industrial process.

  • Candidates need not have had industrial experience and could come from universities or government research organisations as well as from industry.
  • The applications will be judged on evidence in the form of papers and/or patents published during the four years immediately preceding the date on which entries for the award close and/or descriptions of a device or devices that are being manufactured or have influenced a major industrial process. Unpublished materials and other evidence produced during the four year period may also be submitted.
  • If a candidate considers that knowledge of work carried out prior to the four year period is necessary for the correct evaluation of the application, reference may be given to such work where published. Unpublished accounts of such previous work or evidence concerning devices produced prior to the four year period that can be demonstrated to be significant in relation to later developments may also be submitted.
  • The medal shall not be awarded more than once to the same person.
  • Supporting information: Candidates for the award should provide the following:
    1. A brief curriculum vitae covering personal details, academic and professional qualifications, outline career history, honours and distinguished awards. A full CV is not necessary.
    2. A short account of the achievements of the candidate (or candidates for a joint submission) in research and development setting out the achievements on which the application rests and drawing attention to those articles or reports which are most important.
    3. A list of relevant publications, patents and reports by descriptive title and references related to the achievements on which the application is based. Where heavy reliance is placed on material not reasonably available, a copy of this material may also be submitted.
  • Referees: Candidates are invited to provide the names of up to three internationally known referees, one of whom should have had industrial experience, who have the appropriate expertise to offer a critical appraisal of the candidate’s achievements.
  • Presentation of the award: The Alan Walsh medal will be presented at the biennial AIP Congress, following which the medallist will present a lecture on the subject of the award.
  • Press Statement: The successful candidate will be required to provide, prior to the presentation of the medal, a statement of approximately 500 words which outlines the nature and significance of the work for which the award was made, in language suitable for the lay press.
  • The medallist will be required to provide a copy of their lecture in a form suitable for submission for publication in Australian Physics.


A call for nominations will be made in Australian Physics each year. The next call for nominations will close on 1 June 2016. Further information about this award can be obtained from the AIP Special Projects Officer

Applications and nominations should be sent by email to the AIP Special Projects Officer:

Previous winners have been:

  • 2014 Professor Ping Koy Lam, Australian National University, Professor Timothy Ralph,
    University of Queensland, and Dr Thomas Symul, Australian National University
  • 2012 Professor Michael Tobar and Professor Eugene Ivanov, University of Western Australia
  • 2010 A/Prof Robert Scholten, University of Melbourne
  • 2008 Dr Tony Farmer, Dr Tony Murphy and Dr Trevor McAllister, CSIRO
  • 2006 Prof. Andrew Blakers and Dr. Klaus Weber, Australian National University
  • 2004 Dr. Brian Sowerby and Dr. James Tickner, CSIRO
  • 2002 Dr. Ian Bassett and Dr. John Haywood, Sydney University