2019 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded; Eleven physicists among 2019 Future Fellowships; and more physics in November

We’re heading into an exciting time for AIP. There are some great events set to run in NSW and WA this month. And in Melbourne, the second biennial AIP Summer Meeting will be held at RMIT on Friday, December 6. Hurry, though – registration closes on November 16!  

Last month we issued a statement in support of AIP member and Murdoch University physicist Dr Gerd Schröder-Turk. We stand by our statement of support and urge the university to drop their legal action. Read the full statement here.

I spent a great day with participants at a Women’s writing workshop supported in part by the AIP. (See pic)

The Vicphysics Teachers’ Network invites women in physics or engineering to be a keynote speaker at one of its Girls in Physics Breakfasts. The events give students in Years 10 to 12 the opportunity to network and meet women in the early stages of STEM careers. Nominations close Friday, 29th November. More below.  

Congratulations to the new ARC Centre of Excellence of Transformative Meta-Optical Systems and the eleven physicists awarded ARC Future Fellowships in October! Read more about them below.

We are excited to host the IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics, to be held in Melbourne July 2020. Read more below.

Hopefully you’ve been enjoying the diversity of careers highlighted in our Hidden Physicist column. This month we meet Virginia Drumm, a radiation oncology medical physicist who looks after a linear accelerator used to deliver radiotherapy at millimetre accuracies to treat cancer patients. More below.

(And don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to nominate someone for the column!)

And at the WA Branch AIP AGM on Thursday, November 14, hear from David Blair about what the OzGrav Centre of Excellence and the LIGO-Virgo teams have discovered. Enquiries and tickets here.

Also in this month’s bulletin: the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics, Dirac medal nominations open, and find an opportunity in our Jobs Corner.

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics

AIP News

AIP Industry Day 2019 – Solving Global Challenges

The AIP Industry Day at CSIRO Lindfield in NSW on November 7 is for people looking to engage with experts and each other in an exhilarating and informative day. The event includes site tours of the complex over lunch, the National Measurement Institute, and the Lindfield Collaboration Hub, a “deep tech” start-up co-location.

The event is free, runs from 9am to 3.30pm, and takes place at 36 Bradfield Road, in Lindfield. Refreshments and light lunch will be included, but please specify any dietary needs when registering.

More info


Nominations are now open for the 2020 NSW Branch committee of the AIP. We’re on the look out for Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and Committee Members.

The committee meets monthly from February to November. The primary focus of the branch is to develop and coordinate an interesting program of physics-themed events and speakers during the year.

Current financial members are welcome to nominate for any position by emailing fosman@bu.edu by close of business on Friday, November 8.

2019 AIP NSW Postgraduate Awards Day

The AIP NSW Postgraduate award and Royal Society of NSW Jak Kelly scholarship prize have been created to encourage excellence in postgraduate work. Both awards are worth $500.

They will be presented on Tuesday, November 12, before the AIP Branch annual dinner at the University of Technology in Sydney. The whole event will run from 2pm until 10pm, and includes a talk by AIP President, Jodie Bradby.

The Awards Day is proudly sponsored by the Australian Institute of Physics, The Royal Australian Chemical Institute and The Royal Society of New South Wales. See here for the full schedule: https://aip.org.au/event/annual-postgraduate-awards-day-nsw-aip-branch/

AIP Western Australia Student Conference

The AIP WA Conference brings together Honours, Masters and PhD students from local institutions. Early stage physics researchers are invited to present their projects to a supportive and tight-knit community of their peers.

Enjoy a day of networking and 10-to-15-minute presentations in a formal setting.

Preliminary details

November 14, 9am to 5pm.

Ross Lecture Theatre, UWA Physics Building

Further details will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information, contact Mitchell Chiew: mitchell.chiew@research.uwa.edu.au

The WA AIP branch 2019 AGM and dinner

Guest speaker at this year’s WA AIP AGM and dinner will be Emeritus Professor David Blair. The event will be held on Thursday, November 14, at the University Club of Western Australia, kicking off at 6pm.

Dr Blair holds tenure at the University of Western Australia, is Director of the Australian International Gravitational Research Centre (AIGRC), and is credited with developing the niobium bar gravitational wave detector (NIOBE).

If you want to learn what the OzGrav Centre of Excellence and the LIGO-Virgo discovery teams have discovered, and what still remains to be found, then come along. This event will sell out quickly so please purchase tickets for yourselves and your students right away to avoid disappointment.

Enquiries and tickets here.

Facebook link here.

Nominations open for the 2020 Dirac Medal

The Dirac Medal for the Advancement of Physics is awarded annually by the UNSW jointly with the AIP. Nominations must be submitted by November 15.

The medal, and the lecture that accompanies its presentation, commemorate a visit to UNSW in 1975 by quantum mechanics pioneer Paul Dirac, who gave a series of five lectures. Past winners include David Pines, Klaus von Klitzing, and Brian Schmidt (full list here).

Since 2018 the medal has been open to external nominations, which are shortlisted and reviewed by the Dirac committee in the School of Physics at UNSW.

Full details can be found here: https://www.physics.unsw.edu.au/research/dirac-medal.

Nominate for the 2020 AIP Women in Physics Lecturer

The AIP Women in Physics Lecture Tour celebrates the contribution of women to advances in the field.

Presentations include school and public lectures and research colloquia in each state capital. Past lecturers include Gabriela González, Katie Mack, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell (full list here).

Nominations are currently sought for a woman working overseas who has made a significant contribution in a field of physics and has demonstrated public speaking ability. More details here: https://aip.org.au/women-in-physics-lecturer/

The deadline for is November 15.

Second AIP Summer Meeting

Registration closes November 16 for the second biennial AIP Summer Meeting, which will be held between Wednesday 4 and Friday 6 December at RMIT University in Melbourne.

The AIP summer meeting was established in 2017 as a biennial gathering for the physics community. The event takes place in odd-numbered years and focusses on the recent trends and developments in research. We particularly hope to see lots of our students and ECRs at this meeting.

Confirmed plenary and keynote speakers include:

  • Professor Allan MacDonald (University of Texas at Austin)
  • Professor Virginia Kilborn (Swinburne University)
  • Professor Sven Rogge (UNSW)
  • Professor Christine Charles (ANU)
  • Professor Deb Kane (Macquarie University)

More details here https://aip-summer-meeting.com/

IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics

Nominations are now open for the Australian Plenary speaker at the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) International Conference on Women in Physics to be held in Melbourne July 2020.

This is the first time this conference has been hosted by Australia and Dr Cathy Foley, currently the Chief Scientist of CSIRO and former AIP President, is the Australian 2020 Country Team Leader. Team Australia needs to nominate a plenary speaker for this conference. Suggestions for the Australian plenary speaker can be made to Jodie at aip_president@aip.org.au.

Watch the website for more information and hope to see you there. https://wp.csiro.au/icwip2020/

Other physics news and opportunities

Nobel Prize awarded to three scientists for contribution to understanding of evolution of universe

Three scientists have won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work improving our understanding of the evolution of the universe — and the Earth’s place in it.

Half the prize was given to James Peebles, from Princeton University, US, for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology. The other half was awarded jointly to Swiss astrophysicists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.

Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which chooses the laureates, credited the three for their “contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe, and Earth’s place in the cosmos”.

35th International Conference on the Physics of Semiconductors 2020 (ICPS 2020)

This biennial meeting is the premier forum for reporting all aspects of semiconductor physics. About 1,000 attendees from across the world will gather in Sydney. Focusing on the streams of electronic, structural, optical, magnetic and transport properties, the conference will reflect the state of the art in semiconductor physics, which has a heritage dating back to the 1950s.

It will take place from August 9 to 14, 2020, at the International Convention Centre.  

More details here

Seeking speakers for Girls in Physics Breakfasts

The Vicphysics Teachers’ Network invites women in physics or engineering to become keynote speakers at one, or more, of the Girls in Physics Breakfasts, which will be happening across the state in the first half of 2020.

The breakfasts will be held between March and June, and will take place in Melbourne Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Wodonga, and possibly Warrnambool and Mildura.

At each event students from Years 10 to 12 will share a table with, and ask questions of, two or three women who either have a career in physics or engineering, or are still at university. There will also be a featured talk by a working female physicist. The cost to each student is $15.  

More details here: https://www.vicphysics.org/breakfast.html

This initiative is sponsored by the Laby Foundation, Bank Australia and participating host universities and supported by the Royal Society of Victoria.

ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems announced

Monitoring systems for safer driving, holograms on mobile phones and super-fast, light-based WiFi are all a step closer thanks to the federal government’s decision to allocate $34.9 million funding to the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems.

Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, announced that the centre will be led by Professor Dragomir Neshev from the Australian National University (ANU), and partner with the University of Melbourne, University of Technology Sydney, RMIT University and the University of Western Australia, as well as industry, and universities in six other countries.    

The centre will research the interaction of light with nano-materials, producing technology thinner than a human hair.

Professor Neshev says the new centre would drive research to develop smart and miniaturised optical devices that link the digital and physical worlds through light.

“This work will make Australia a leader in the optical technologies for the fourth industrial revolution and improve all our lives,” he says.

“We will help create optical systems that empower autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, wearable sensors and remote sensing.

“The centre will help develop real-time monitoring for driver fatigue to keep people safe on our roads. It will lead to smaller, smarter, faster and cheaper wearable optical sensors to better monitor our health.

“It will also produce holographic displays and augmented reality for more immersive and powerful education in our classrooms, and laser tech that makes autonomous vehicles better at predicting and avoiding hazards.

“And it will underpin light-based WiFi – which is a thousand times faster than current technologies – to be used in our mobile phones and laptops.”

Read more here: https://science.anu.edu.au/news-events/news/lights-holograms-your-hands-and-super-fast-li-fi

Australian PhD student wins First Prize in Vietnam for a presentation at international workshop on Perspectives in Hadron Physics

The International Centre for Interdisciplinary Science and Education in Quy Nhon Vietnam recently hosted an international workshop on Perspectives in Hadron Physics, at which the Asian Nuclear Physics Association (ANPhA), one of the sponsors, recognised the contributions of young scientists.

The First Prize for a presentation by a young scientist was won by Kay Martinez, a PhD student within CSSM at the University of Adelaide.

Australia was represented by three other speakers: Derek Leinweber, Anthony Thomas, and Theo Motta.

Photo shows from left to right, Jean-Marc Richard (conference chair), Kay Martinez and Utku Can (the two prize winners) and Atsushi Hosaka (representing ANPhA).

Eleven physicists among the Future Fellowships for 2019

This year nine physicists were among the Australian Research Council’s 100 announced Future Fellowships.

The fellowships provide four-year funding to support excellent mid-career researchers undertaking high quality study in areas of national and international benefit.

The successful physicists are:

Dr Shari Breen – Macquarie University

Dr Breen aims to address one of the most fundamental problems in astrophysics, understanding how high-mass stars form, by utilising a new, innovative, purpose-designed astronomical survey.

Dr Daniel Burgarth – Macquarie University  

Dr Burgarth aims to help companies and government flagships to achieve quantum supremacy by building a computer based on quantum physics so complex that it outperforms all conventional computers.

Adj Assoc Prof. Kateryna Bazaka – Queensland University of Technology         

Dr Bazaka will show how Hall-effect thrusters can be made more efficient through the use of  modelling and experiment, intelligent selection of advanced materials and plasma parameters.

Dr Pat Scott – University of Queensland

Dr Scott is set to test theories for new particles and fundamental symmetries. By using advanced computational and statistical methods to combine all relevant data from many different experiments with a large number of different theoretical predictions, he expects to reveal just how well different theories actually describe reality.

Dr Tyler Neely – University of Queensland

Dr Neely aims to answer open questions in turbulence by stirring many tiny whirlpools into a superfluid Bose-Einstein condensate. His project seeks to determine how vortex dynamics redistribute energy across broad length scales in superfluids, how turbulence arises from instabilities, and how turbulence redistributes energy in multicomponent superfluids.

Prof. Ilya Mandel – Monash University

Prof. Mandel aims to take advantage of the growing data set of gravitational-wave observations, which ushered in a new field of gravitational-wave astronomy, to answer fundamental questions in astrophysics.

Dr Scott Findlay – Monash University           

This project aims to tackle a great challenge of atomic-scale characterisation: quantitative structure determination. Powerful new electron microscopes offer a window into the atomic world, but complex electron multiple scattering has limited reliable structure determination to ultrathin materials. Dr Findlay expects to overcome this barrier.

Dr Ryan Shannon – Swinburne University of Technology

Dr Shannon aims to determine what causes fast radio bursts by utilising the revolutionary capabilities of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder. FRBs are one of the most poorly understood astronomical objects. This project will deliver a catalogue of localised FRBs, pinpointed to hostgalaxies .

Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker – Curtin University

Dr Hurley-Walker will explore the entire radio sky visible to the future Square Kilometre Array 10 times more deeply than before, fully characterising the life cycles of active galactic nuclei and finding previously undetected supernova remnants in the Galactic Plane.

Dr Danail Obreschkow – University of Western Australia

Dr Obreschkow aims to uncover the origin and evolution of galactic rotation. This is one of the most exciting and critical challenges in modern astrophysics and key to our own existence.

Dr Dimitrie Culcer – University of New South Wales

Dr Dimitrie Culcer will investigate ultra-fast information processing and state-of-the-art computer memory. Dr Culcer expects to establish the use of magnets and newly discovered topological materials, to improve the speed and functionality of computer memory, logic elements, artificial intelligence devices and sensors.

More detail about each of these and the full list of 2019 Future Fellowships can be found here: https://rms.arc.gov.au/RMS/Report/Download/Report/1b0c8b2e-7bb0-4f2d-8f52-ad207cfbb41d/204

Hidden Physicists – featuring Virginia Drumm

Name: Virginia Drumm

Employer: Icon Cancer Centre Warrnambool

Job title and description: Radiation Oncology Medical Physicist.

What does your work involve?

I look after the linear accelerator we use to deliver radiotherapy to treat cancer patients with millimetre accuracy, and was responsible for collecting the data to characterise the machine. This data underpins all of our patient treatment plan calculations. As well as dealing with ongoing quality assurance, I am often consulted by Radiation Oncologists and Radiation Therapists about complex cases and how to best deliver the treatment required.

How does physics come into it?

I enjoy the challenge of applying the physics knowledge of particle interactions to a real world situation, which may involve a doctor asking if a certain treatment method is possible with a patient lying on a bed in front of you. It is particularly important to know the physical limitations of the system and just how accurate your computer calculations are.

I work at a regional centre which usually means I am the only physicist on site, but working for a nation-wide company with many regional centres means I have a large team to call on for support. I also get the chance to do more of the hands-on front-line maintenance than if engineering support were nearby. I have tremendous job satisfaction knowing that if we weren’t here patients would have to travel several hours for weeks at a time to receive treatment.

Describe your career pathway.

Bachelor of Science with Honours and Master of Philosophy in Physics at University of Melbourne; Medical Physics Registrar at the Alfred hospital in Traralgon and Melbourne; Medical Physicist at South West Regional Cancer Centre.

Please email physics@scienceinpublic.com.au if you’d like to nominate a ‘hidden’ physicist for us to profile.

Jobs Corner – physics employment opportunities

Research Fellow in Experimental Physics in Magnetic Sensing (FLEET/Monash) (Advert)

Deadline 26 November 2019

The ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET) is seeking to develop ultra-low energy electronics to address the challenge of electricity use in computing, which is already 8% of global electricity and doubling every decade, making the same climate-change impact as the aviation industry.

Help shape a sustainable future for electronics. We are seeking a Research Fellow (Level A) to develop a platform for measuring the spatial distribution of electron currents in optically modified, atomically-thin topological insulators. The platform is based on magnetometry using wide-field detection of nitrogen vacancy centres in diamond films.

Based in Melbourne, the fellow will be working with Prof Kris Helmerson at Monash and Dr Jeff Davis at Swinburne. We are looking for:

  • A doctoral qualification in Experimental Physics, Engineering or closely related fields;
  • A record of publications in experimental physics, optics, surface science or materials engineering;
  • Experience in developing and working on research projects.


Research Fellow in Ultrafast Femtosecond Dynamics in Advanced Materials  (FLEET/Monash) (Advert)

Deadline 28 November 2019

We are seeking a Research Fellow (Level A) to join our FLEET team to conduct research in ultrafast photonics, nonlinear optics, experimental condensed matter physics and nanoscience. The successful candidate will investigate ultrafast femtosecond charge dynamics in functional materials by means of pump-probe spectroscopy techniques.

Based in Melbourne, the fellow will be working with Dr Agustin Schiffrin at Monash. We are looking for:

  • A doctoral qualification in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics, or related fields in Physics, Physical Chemistry or Materials Engineering;
  • A strong background in ultrafast photonics, nonlinear optics, pump-probe spectroscopy and/or experimental condensed matter physics (particularly surface and nanophysics);
  • •Experience in developing and working on research projects.


The AIP is happy to provide a free link to your physics-related job or PhD opportunity. Please send them to physics@scienceinpublic.com.au. If you would like to feature more details and a picture, please email Kirrily Rule for more information and pricing. 

Aussie physics in the news

Academics condemn ‘harassment’ of whistleblower by Murdoch University https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/oct/15/academics-condemn-harassment-whistleblower-murdoch-university-schroeder-turk

Astronomers discover ghosts of supernovas in nearby galaxy https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/astronomers-discover-ghosts-of-supernovas-in-nearby-galaxy/

Construction begins on groundbreaking Stawell physics project https://www.stawelltimes.com.au/story/6427035/construction-begins-on-groundbreaking-stawell-physics-project/

‘Crosses a moral boundary’: Chief Scientist warns against risks of artificial intelligence https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/crosses-a-moral-boundary-chief-scientist-warns-against-risks-of-artificial-intelligence-20191031-p5360a.html

Usually bolted shut, the Australian Synchrotron is now open to all https://www.smh.com.au/national/usually-bolted-shut-the-australian-synchrotron-is-now-open-to-all-20191020-p532g0.html

Revealed: the violent past of Andromeda, our neighbouring galaxy https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2019/10/03/violent-past-of-andromeda-our-neighbouring-galaxy.html

Annika Glac aims to tell the true story of pioneering scientist Marie Curie https://www.if.com.au/annika-glac-aims-to-tell-the-true-story-of-pioneering-scientist-marie-curie/

Prototype Large-Scale Quantum Processor Made Entirely of Light https://scitechdaily.com/prototype-large-scale-quantum-processor-made-entirely-of-light/