Welcoming a new committee; a review of the Physics Decadal Plan; physics prizes; and more: Physics in March

Professor Andrew PeeleInterim Director, Australian SynchrotronThere is a lot to be excited about in physics and the Australian Institute of Physics in 2017. We have some new members and people in new roles on the AIP executive committee this year and I am delighted to welcome them to the team. We are looking forward to exploring physics in Australia throughout the year and bringing it to this audience. More on the new committee below.

I recently had the pleasure of writing my first president’s column for the Australian Physics magazine and there is nothing like reflecting on what we do as an organisation to bring the inherent strength and value of the AIP into focus.

We are an institute that has a rich tradition of promoting, protecting and practicing physics and Australian Physics is a great example of this. Under the guiding hand of Brian James, this magazine is a fascinating mix of physics from around the country and provides real insight into the varied research and achievements of our colleagues. 

I think it should be a rite of passage for all early and mid-career physicists to have to explain their work to the Australian Physics audience. With a subscription of physics literate readers, an aspiring author might think that writing such an article is an easy introduction to popular science writing. However, the AIP readership are a tough and experienced bunch and a successful article can be an entry not only to tips and ideas on how to write better for a general audience, but also on how to improve that last experiment or refine that final proof.

I challenge our members to flood Brian James’ editorial inbox with new stories—there’s more on how to do this below. And if you don’t get Australian Physics as one of the many benefits of being part of the AIP, then membership is just a short step away at aip.org.au/joining-the-aip.

This month, we have some physics prizes on offer from the AIP and others, an overview of the meeting held by the National Committee of Physics at the APPC-AIP Congress that explored the Physics Decadal Plan, a set of free, expertly-written online texts on hot topics in physics, and more.

Kind regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

AIP news

A new year, a new committee

The AIP has started off the new year with a few new members joining the executive committee.

We welcome Jodie Bradby as Vice-President and Kirrily Rule as our new secretary. They join Judith Pollard (treasurer), Olivia Samardzic (special projects—awards and prizes), Ian McArthur (registrar), Warrick Couch (past president), and myself as president.

We’re looking forward to exploring physics in Australia throughout the year and sharing it with the AIP and general physics community.

If you need to get in touch, you can find our email addresses on the AIP website: aip.org.au/committees

AIP Prizes

The following AIP medals and awards are open for nomination:

For more information, head to aip.org.au/medals-awards-and-prizes or email Olivia Samardzic on olivia.samardzic@dsto.defence.gov.au.

Nominations close 1 June (except for the Bragg Gold medal, which closes 1 July).

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:

  • Essential MATLAB for Engineers and Scientists (6th Edition) by Brian Hahn and Daniel Valentine
  • 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, and we strongly encourage our members to contribute their articles.

If you’re interested in reviewing a book or submitting an article to Australian Physics, contact editor Brian James at b.james@physics.usyd.edu.au.

Physics news & opportunities

Looking back on the Physics Decadal Plan

By Hans Bachor (originally published in Australian Physics)

The National Committee of Physics (NCP) of the Australian Academy of Science held a town-hall style meeting during the AIP congress in Brisbane in December. The meeting was very well attended with about 70 participants from Australia and overseas, and a lively exchange of views took place.

The audience heard from Professor David Jamison about the Physics Decadal Plan, which has been in place since 2011 and has helped to make systematic progress on several fronts: the importance of physics as part of STEM is now more widely recognised. This has led to a strengthening of the education programs, in particular with national programs such as Inspire Australia, Little Scientists for preschool, Primary Connections for primary schools, Science by Doing for secondary schools and accompanying mathematics programs, such as ReSolve: Mathematics by Enquiry. There is more recognition of the opportunities for young people with a science education in a diverse range of professional careers. At the same time, progress is being made in the area of equity and gender balance, in particular through the introduction of the national SAGE initiative that will improve our working conditions.

The Physics Decadal Plan has emphasised the importance of infrastructure and NCRIS, now addressed with consistent funding. More progress is required for funding international collaborations and large-scale science programs in Australia. The discussion turned to the creation of a more efficient and fair funding system: an ARC as the world’s best system, made for Australians. The discussion built on a survey of the physics community through the HoDs, conducted by the NCP in late 2016.

It is clear that researchers value the principle of peer review, but that they see major weaknesses in the present system, in particular the unnecessary complexity of the application process; the low quality of the assessment scheme; and complications that arise when most active researchers have conflicts of interest. A clear conclusion is that we do not attract the best assessors from outside Australia and that this needs to change. There is strong doubt that the ROPE system is achieving what it was set out to do and a better approach is needed to give all applicants-not just those with a long distinguished research record-a chance to get funding for the best physics projects.

The audience was asked where additional funding should be spent. Clear support is for more COEs, DECRAs, LIEF infrastructure and funding for more DP grants, including more complete funding of grants. Future and Laureate Fellowships are a lesser priority and there is some doubt about the effectiveness of the Linkage grants in achieving the desired transition to industrial research.

Regarding the application process, there is a clear voice for a much faster decision cycle, possibly with a frequent application deadline. A two-stage process, as practised in other countries and in the EU, is favoured, with the first stage perhaps double-blind to improve equity. The application form should be a simplified document that avoids contractual content and focusses on the science, and can be accessed easily by assessors. Much of a researcher’s track record is public knowledge and could be stored and pre-filled by the ARC, only needing an update.

This discussion will now be continued, potentially expanded to other parts of science, and will lead to a submission to the ARC. In 2017 the NCP will carry out a review of the progress of the Decadal Plan and ensure that it continues to address the requirements of the physics community in Australia. This review will be led by the new chairperson, Professor Ian McArthur from the University of Western Australia. I would like to thank all my colleagues and will continue my service for the NCP.

I am looking forward to a good future for science.

Hans Bachor, Chair NCP 2013-16

Awards from the Australian Academy of Science

The Australian Academy of Science has opened nominations for the following prizes and opportunities in physics.

  • The Pawsey Medal recognises outstanding research in physics by scientists up to 10 years post-PhD
  • The Frederick White Prize recognises the achievements of scientists (up to 10 years post-PhD) who are engaged in research that has made an actual or potential contribution to community interests, to rural or industrial progress, or to the understanding of natural phenomena. Relevant areas of research are physics, astronomy, chemistry, and the terrestrial and planetary sciences.
  • The Elizabeth and Frederick White research conferences provides $10,000 each year to fund a physical and mathematical sciences conference, held at the Shine Dome, in areas related to the solid Earth, the terrestrial oceans, Earth’s atmosphere, solar-terrestrial science, space sciences and astronomy.

Nominations for the Pawsey Medal and Frederick White Prize will close on 20 April 2017. The research conferences will close on 1 June 2017.

More information is available at www.science.org.au/opportunities.

Prizes for physicists for World Metrology Day

The National Measurement Institute has created two awards in recognition of World Meterology Day.

The Barry Inglis Medal celebrates outstanding achievement in measurement research and/or excellence in practical measurements in the fields of academia, research or industry in Australia.

The NMI Prize celebrates outstanding achievement in measurement research and/or excellence in practical measurements by a young individual working in academia, research or industry in Australia.

Nominations for both prizes are now open and will close on 21 April 2017.

More information is available at: www.measurement.gov.au/measurementsystem/Pages/WorldMetrologyDay.aspx

Free, expertly-written physics texts now available

IOP Publishing has recently launched Physics World Discovery texts—a set of free online texts written by leading scientific experts.

Five texts—on topics including The Dark Universe, Space Weather and Proton Beam Therapy—are currently available, with more to come. They provide a great introduction to important topics in physics, across a range of disciplines.

Check them out online here.

“Wagga 2017” a great success

An overview of the Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting from Glen Stewart, UNSW

This year’s Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting (“Wagga 2017”) was pronounced by attendees to be a wonderful success, thanks to the efforts of the UNSW-based organising committee (John Daniels, Clemens Ulrich, Oleg Sushkov and Claudio Cazorla).

Once again, the meeting provided a relaxed, low cost forum for valuable discussions and forming new links over a wide range of condensed matter and materials research. The oral and poster sessions were well attended—the UNSW organising team had arranged for a strong list of invited speakers, and there was a special youthful vibe that augurs well for the meeting’s future.

Photo credit: Emily Yap
Photo credit: Emily Yap

Don’t forget to put next year’s meeting (“Wagga 2018”) in your diary!

It will be held at the Wagga Wagga campus of the Charles Sturt University from Tuesday 30 January through to Friday 2 February, 2018.

The organising team will be from the Queensland University of Technology and chaired by Jennifer MacLeod (jennifer.macleod@qut.edu.au).

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


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

There are no upcoming events.

New South Wales

A High-fidelity 3D Map of the Galactic Stellar Halo: Hans-Walter Rix colloquium
Thu, 9 Mar 2017, 11am
AAO Meeting Room (Room 7, 1st Floor, Building 2), Australian Astronomical Observatory

Steven Janowiecki: Gas and star formation in galaxies: the role of environment and (almost) dark galaxies
Wed, 15 Mar 2017, 3pm
Australia Telescope National Facility, Marsfield Lecture Theatre

 Challenging Cosmology: Satellite planes in the Local Universe
Wed, 15 Mar 2017, 6pm
Slade Lecture Theatre, School of Physics, University of Sydney

UNSW School of Physics Annual Student Awards Evening
Wed, 5 Apr 2017, 6pm
School Common Room, G64, Main Building, UNSW Sydney

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


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

STEM Teacher Professional Development @ QUT
Tue, 21 Mar 2017, 4pm
QUT Science and Engineering Centre, level 5

Quantum Shorts + Panel Discussion
Fri, 24 Mar 2017, 7pm
GOMA – Cinema B

South Australia

Physics in the Pub – Adelaide
Fri, 24 Mar 2017, 6pm
Rob Roy Hotel, 106 Halifax Street, Adelaide


There are no upcoming events.


Caroline Foster: The true shape of galaxies
Thu, 16 Mar 2017, 10:30am
Swinburne Virtual Reality Theatre, AR Building, Room 104, Swinburne University

Fresnel Diffraction of Slow Neutrons: 2016 W.H. Beatty Medal presentation
Tue, 21 Mar 2017, 12pm
Hercus Theatre, David Caro Building, University of Melbourne

Tyler Bourke: The Square Kilometre Array – Science and Status Update
Fri, 24 Mar 2017, 10:30am
Swinburne Virtual Reality Theatre, AR Building, Room 104, Swinburne University

Western Australia

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


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

New OSA Biophotonics Congress: Optics in the Life Sciences
Sun, 2 Apr 2017, Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, San Diego, California United States

New 44th IOP Plasma Physics Conference
Mon, 3 Apr 2017, Worcester College, Oxford, United Kingdom

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

New QCD Downunder 2017
Mon, 10 Jul 2017, Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort

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.

New The 42nd Annual Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting
Tue, 30 Jan 2018, 2pm, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia

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

Contributions and contact details

Please get in contact if you have any queries about physics in Australia:

(Sent by Science in Public, on behalf of the Australian Institute of Physics, www.aip.org.au)