A new President; ARC Centre jobs; prizes; and other opportunities in 2017 – Physics in February

Warrick Couch imageThis month, I’d like to welcome the new President—not Donald Trump, but our new AIP President Professor Andrew Peele.

Andrew has been the Director of the Australian Synchrotron since 2013 and is also a Professor of Physics at La Trobe University. With his leading role in science and experience in research facility management, as well as his past life as a lawyer, I know that the AIP will be in great hands and I look forward to working with Andrew in my role as Immediate Past President. You can read more about Andrew below.

For my part, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as President, helping to modernise the AIP, attract more members, and raise the profile of Australian physics in the national science policy domain and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. For the latter, one of the highlights has been holding the very first joint AIP Congress and Asia-Pacific Physics Conference in Brisbane in December. This brought together 850 attendees including ~250 from the Asia-Pacific region—the highlights of which were covered in our special January Bulletin.

This month, there is a whole range of opportunities for physicists and physics teachers, and a call for you to share your stories and events with us. If you have an event you would like included in the bulletin, post it to the calendar. Or if you have some news you would like to share, let us know by emailing physics@sciencienpublic.com.au.

Finally, it was very pleasing to see numerous scientists recognised in the Australia Day Honours this year, including two (astro) physicists: the late Dr Bruce Slee for his significant service to the field of radio astronomy, and Prof Malcolm Walter for his significant service to the field of astrobiology.

Best wishes for a productive and rewarding year to come!

Warrick Couch
President, Australian Institute of Physics

AIP News

Introducing our new President, Andrew Peele

Professor Andrew Peele was appointed Director of the Australian Synchrotron in November 2013. He is Professor of Physics at La Trobe University and was seconded to the Australian Synchrotron as Head of Science in 2011.

Andrew’s previous appointments include leading the X-ray Science group in La Trobe University’s Department of Physics, a Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellowship held at The University of Melbourne and La Trobe University, and post-doctoral research at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Prior to undertaking his PhD studies at The University of Melbourne, Andrew was a qualified lawyer and practiced as a solicitor.

Andrew’s research improves the versatility and quality of X-ray imaging, including new methods in phase imaging and coherent diffractive imaging, with applications such as tomographic imaging of cells and materials. He was a node leader in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence (ARC CoE) for Coherent X-ray Science and is now a Principal Investigator in the ARC CoE for Advanced Molecular Imaging. He has published over 100 refereed articles and has served as Victorian Branch Chair of the AIP and Co-Chair of the AIP National Congress in 2010.

Incoming AIP President Andrew Peele (credit: Australian Synchrotron)
Incoming AIP President Andrew Peele
(credit: Australian Synchrotron)

APPC-AIP Congress—What did the Women in Physics group get up to?

The Women in Physics (WIP) group doesn’t currently have its own meeting, so the biennial AIP Congress is the main opportunity they have to get together and discuss the state of women in physics in Australia. At the most recent congress, they also elected Pegah Maasoumi as the new Chair. Pegah takes over the role from Helen Maynard-Casely.

As this year’s congress was held jointly with the Asia Pacific Physics Conference, it gave them a fantastic opportunity to connect and network with colleagues from the Asia Pacific region. The WIP group held a number of activities during the conference, which all occurred on the 6th of December.

This action-packed day was kicked off by the WIP breakfast event with Professor Nalini Joshi as the guest speaker, followed by a Plenary by Professor Youngah Park. In the afternoon, they hosted two conference sessions with invited contributions by Professor Evvy Kartini and Professor Kate Jolliffe.

Read more on the blog.

Speakers from the Women in Physics sessions at the recent APPC-AIP Congress in Brisbane.
Speakers from the Women in Physics sessions at the recent APPC-AIP Congress in Brisbane.

2016 Boas Medal winner

As an international leader in the field of galactic archaeology, Professor Geraint F. Lewis’ work as part of the Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey (PAndAS) is challenging our understanding of the fundamental nature of the Universe.

Credit: Canada France Hawaii Telescope
Credit: Canada France Hawaii Telescope

The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope has revealed the Andromeda Galaxy, in extraordinary depth and detail, and provided an unparalleled panoramic snapshot of galaxy evolution in action.

Focusing upon the dwarf galaxies that swarm around the more massive Andromeda, Prof Lewis developed new techniques to accurately and robustly determine their distances, for the first time revealing their three-dimensional distribution and orbital properties.

The results were startling, showing that these dwarfs do not simply buzz around on random trajectories. Instead, Prof Lewis found that at least half of the entire population are orbiting together, confined to an extraordinarily thin plane. The existence of such a thin orbiting plane of dwarf galaxies is completely unexpected within our cosmological models, confronting our underlying ideas of galaxy formation and evolution. But some see the presence of satellite planes as being more problematic, challenging our fundamental understanding of the Universe, in particular the nature of dark matter, or even gravity itself.

With his collaborators, Prof Lewis has pushed the question of the existence of satellite planes harder, calling on the world’s most extensive and accurate spectroscopic survey of galaxies, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), to find that satellite planes are potentially ubiquitous in the local Universe. While further evidence will require the next generations of deep sky surveys, the small-scale of the Universe continues to confront cosmology, growing as a major international research endeavour. The existence of satellite planes, and what they are telling us about the nature of the cosmos, remains at the forefront of our questioning.

Professor Geraint Lewis, Professor of Astrophysics at The University of Sydney, has been awarded the 2016 Boas Medal for his discovery of an unexpected plane of dwarf galaxies orbiting larger galaxies in the local Universe. With this work, Lewis brings a new challenge to understanding of the fundamental nature of the cosmos.

Around the states

The state branches are getting warmed up for the year ahead, many of them with newly elected committees. We look forward to news and events from them in the coming months.

Book reviewers and articles wanted for Australian Physics

Reviewers are sought for the following books. If interested, contact Australian Physics editor Brian James.

  • Modern Atomic Physics by Vasant Natarajan
  • Why String Theory? by Joseph Conlon
  • Quantum Optomechanics by W P Bowen & G J Milburn
  • Materials Aspect of Thermoelectricity edited by Ctirad Uher

Australian Physics also accepts articles for the bi-monthly magazine, as below from editor Brian James.

“As Australian Physics is not a peer-reviewed publication, submission of new work is not appropriate. However, surveys of areas of physics by an author or authors working in that area are very suitable for our physics-literate readership. I also encourage articles on physics education topics and physics careers. In relation to the latter, articles that convey progress from a physics training to a non-conventional career are of particular interest.”

Physics news and opportunities

Jobs and postdocs available at new ARC Centres

Last year, several new physics-themed ARC Centres of Excellence were funded (or re-funded). These Centres are opening in 2017 and are in the process of looking for professional staff, postdocs, and more to work with them.

There is more information on their websites, and via University job ad boards.

The physics-themed Centres are:

And there will also be some wonderful physics research at the new Centre for Exciton Science (University of Melbourne, Paul Mulvaney) and the Centre for Climate Extremes (UNSW, Andrew Pitman).

2016 David Syme Research Prize—nominate a physicist

This annual prize rewards the best original research in biology, physics, chemistry or geology, produced in Australia during the preceding two years. Preference will be given to original research of value in the industrial and commercial interests of Australia. The David Syme Research Prize was first awarded in 1906.

Senior members of the academic or research community such as co-authors or co-researchers, heads of department or deputy vice-chancellors (research) are invited to nominate eligible colleagues who they believe would make worthy recipients of the award.

The award is made on the basis of the research quality within the discipline and its likely impact and value in the industrial and commercial interests of Australia. From 2017, the David Syme Research Prize will be awarded by nomination only by 28 April 2017.

More at: science.unimelb.edu.au/students/scholarships/open/scholarship?id=11110

FameLab seeking for early-career researchers with a flair for science communication

Albert Einstein once said, “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”… And that’s exactly the premise of the British Council’s international science communication competition, FameLab.

FameLab asks researchers to explain their work to a non-scientific audience in just three minutes, with no PowerPoint and no jargon. In return, it offers expert communication training, access to a global network of peers, and a chance to win a trip to the UK to compete against competitors from around the world in the FameLab International finals.

If you’re passionate about science and want to communicate your work with the world, enter now at www.famelab.org.au. Applications close 24 February.

Opportunities for physics teachers

2017 Physics Teachers’ Conference. 16 February, La Trobe University

The program includes:

  • day and late afternoon sessions—participants can attend either or both day and late afternoon sessions
  • address on ‘The why and how of Practical Investigations’ by Brian McKittrick, respected physics teacher and author
  • address on ‘Uncertain principles: Is the Heisenberg principle really about uncertainty?’ by Dr Russell Anderson, Monash University
  • report by Andrew Hansen, the Chief Assessor, on the 2016 November exam
  • VCAA update and Unit 4 poster presentation and assessment by Maria James, Science Curriculum Manager, VCAA
  • over 50 workshops across four sessions, some on VCE topics, some on general topics across Years 7 to 12 and others specifically for Years 7 to 10.

Registrations will be received up to five business days prior to the conference. However, some workshops with very small numbers may be cancelled prior to that date, so please register early to ensure you have the full range to choose from.

The program and registration form are available on the STAV website.

Astronomy from the Ground Up! teacher workshop

Registrations are now open for the 2017 Astronomy from the Ground Up! teacher workshop at the CSIRO Parkes Observatory, Friday 28 to Sunday 30 April.

This is your opportunity to develop your knowledge of how to teach astronomy in an exciting and engaging manner. Over three days in the shadow of an icon of Australian science, the Parkes radio telescope, you will have the chance to enhance your confidence and skills in the astronomical concepts required to teach junior high school or primary science. No background or training in astronomy is required for participation in this workshop.

Details and registration at: www.atnf.csiro.au/outreach/education/teachers/workshops/afgu.html

Vacant slot for an observing session at Parkes


A vacant slot is available for an observing session in the CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science Marsfield headquarters in Sydney on Thursday 23 March. To find out more about this free program, please visit: pulseatparkes.atnf.csiro.au

If you are interested in applying for this slot, please email Robert Hollow at Robert.Hollow@csiro.au. Preference will be given to schools that have not taken part previously. The slot is suitable for students in years 10 to 12. Numbers will be limited to about 24 students. If you have a smaller group, please indicate if you are willing to share with another school.

Slots for the April to September telescope semester will be announced on February. If you are interested, please let Robert know so you receive notification once applications open.


Reach a bigger audience. The Australian physics events calendar is the definitive source for physics events around the country. If your physics event isn’t listed here, ask us about adding it, having it included in these regular bulletins, and tweeted from the AusPhysics account.

Australian Capital Territory

Dawn of the new space age – gravitational waves and spacetime
Tue, 7 Feb 2017, 5:30pm
Shine Dome, Australian Academy of Science

Does science support the claims of religion?
Wed, 15 Feb 2017, 6:30pm
Manning Clark Lecture Theatre 1, Australian National University, Canberra

New South Wales

Astronomy from the Ground Up Teacher Workshop
Fri, 28 Apr 2017, 9am
CSIRO Parkes Observatory, NSW

Primary science teacher professional development day
Fri, 5 May 2017, 9:30am
ANSTO Discovery Centre


Secondary science teacher professional development day
Mon, 20 Mar 2017, 9am
Queensland Museum

South Australia

Secondary science teacher professional development day (pre-service)
Thu, 8 Jun 2017, 9am
The Science Exchange

Secondary science teacher professional development day (in-service)
Fri, 9 Jun 2017, 9am
The Science Exchange


There are no upcoming events.


Mount Burnett Observatory members night
Fridays, 8pm
Mount Burnett, VIC

Journeying to the centres of the planets; and when art and science collide: X-ray fluorescence elemental mapping of nineteenth century paintings from the National Gallery of Victoria
Mon, 6 Feb 2017, 5:30pm
Pullman Melbourne Albert Park

2017 VCE Physics Teachers’ Conference
Thu, 16 Feb 2017, 7:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora Victoria

Western Australia

Secondary science teacher professional development day
Fri, 31 Mar 2017, 9am
Scitech, City West Centre


Wagga 2017–The 41st Annual Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting
31 January to 3 February, Wagga Wagga Campus Charles Stuart University, NSW

Fifth Annual Meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Mathematical Physics
1–3 Feb 2017, Kiama, NSW

Australian X-ray Analytical Association (AXAA) 2017 Conference and Exhibition
5–9 February 2017, Pullman Albert Park, Melbourne, Vic

New 2017 VCE Physics Teachers’ Conference
Thu, 16 Feb 2017, 7:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora Victoria

Eigth International Conference on Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology
12–16 February 2017, Queenstown, NZ

Cosmic Stars Astronomy and Space Science Education Workshop
4 Mar 2017, Giralang Primary School, ACT

Realising Ska-­Low: New Technologies & Techniques for Imaging and Calibration of Low Frequency Arrays
29–31 Mar 2017, Perth, WA

Innovation in Radiation Applications 2017
20–22 Apr 2017, University of Wollongong, NSW

Quantum Africa 4
30 Apr 2017, Tunis, Tunisia

Surveying the Cosmos: The Science from Massively Multiplexed Surveys
5–9 Jun 2017, Sydney, NSW

International Conference on Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions (ICPEAC XXX)
26 July to 1 August 2017, Cairns, Qld
Note the AIP student travel scheme for AIP student members will be available for this conference.

International Particle Accelerator Conference (IPAC 2019)
25–29 May 2019, Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, Vic