AIP Summer Meeting, Awards, Hidden Physicists and jobs; new committees, and more physics in December

In this bulletin – the last for 2019 – we meet our final Hidden Physicist for the year – Max Post, who is using his physics smarts learned at RMIT university in his role as an Area Operations Manager at Holcim Australia. We hope you have enjoyed seeing the amazing careers undertaken by physics graduates in Australia. I know I have really appreciated hearing about them and we be continuing the series in 2020 in keeping with our commitment to promoting diversity of careers.

This month’s photo is a happy selfie taken by Professor Ken Baldwin at Science Meets Parliament last week. Dr Tim Van Der Laan, who is a Special Project Officer for AIP Outreach, had the pleasure to present Ken with the AIP Award for Outstanding Service to Physics in Australia for his vision and support in establishing Science Meets Parliament. More below.

I had a wonderful visit to Sydney to take part in the NSW Postgraduate Awards and Career day and am looking forward to attending the AIP summer meeting in Melbourne this week. As part of this event, the Physics Industry and Job Fair will be held on Tuesday, 3 December, between 1:30pm and 3pm in the RMIT. More details below.

The AIP has been busy with lobbying – with two members (both early career physicists) attending Science Meets Parliament. I wrote an article on the delays in funding announcements from the ARC in The Conversation, which resulted in a discussion of this issue on the floor of parliament.

Also in this month’s bulletin you’ll find details for two of next year’s AIP state branch committees, plus some well-deserved congratulations on awards and grants. 

Finally, a reminder that with the end of the year comes AIP membership renewal time and we are changing some of the ways we handle our database. You will see some big changes in this in the new year. More below.

All in all, it’s been a great year for the AIP – and for physics around the world. And next year, with all that’s going on and all that’s planned, promises to be better still.

On behalf of the AIP, may I wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season, and an optimistic New Year. 
  Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

AIP News

Second AIP Summer Meeting 

The AIP summer meeting will be held between Wednesday 4 and Friday 6 December, at RMIT University in Melbourne. 

The event was established in 2017 as a biennial gathering for the physics community. It 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/

Hidden Physicists – featuring Max Post

Name: Max Post

Employer: Holcim Australia & New Zealand (www.holcim.com.au), a leading supplier of aggregates, concrete and precast concrete products.

Job title and description: Area Operations Manager. 

What does your work involve?
I’m responsible for managing the operations of a number of concrete plants within the Melbourne metro area, with a focus on maximising the performance of my people, plant and fleet. My job is to ensure each site is safely producing and delivering a quality product to our customers. As a leader, building relationships is a key part of my role; I support and develop my staff to ensure I have a highly motivated team with all the necessary tools at their disposal.  

How does physics come into it?
For me, physics was more than just a key to open doors. It has formed the whole framework for how I think and approach problems. Although I’m no longer wrapping my head around quantum physics, the everyday issues that arise are greatly aided by the problem-solving methods taught during my degree.

A large part of my time is spent maintaining, repairing and maximising efficiencies in the equipment at each of my sites. This aspect of the job requires a large amount of problem solving which, for me, relies heavily on the skills I developed throughout my physics degree. I find myself systematically isolating each variable within a system to determine the effect on the overall performance. This methodical approach has become a foundation for much of my work, which I credit to physics. 

Describe your career pathway. 
I studied a double degree: Bachelor of Science (Nanotechnology) and Bachelor of Science (Science), majoring in physics, at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 2016. 

I received my start in the working world as a Technical Officer at Rio Tinto, focusing on lithium and copper extraction. After that I joined the graduate program at Holcim Australia, working in their aggregates, concrete and precast concrete businesses all across Victoria. This led to my current position as an Area Operations Manager at Holcim, in their Victorian concrete division. 

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

Award for Outstanding Service to Physics in Australia

We were delighted to present Professor Ken Baldwin (ANU) with an award in recognition of his contribution to physics in Australia, including supporting the groups that became Science and Technology Australia, and for his original vision in establishing Science Meets Parliament.

This award happened to coincide with Ken’s 65th birthday –and the 20th birthday of Science Meets Parliament! Congratulations Ken. 

Changes in AIP administration and membership database

The AIP has for many years now contracted a professional secretariat to handle the membership database and the day-to-day operations of the organisation. However the cost of this service, especially in light of new cheaper on-line alternatives and lower membership numbers, is one we are no longer able to justify. Thus from mid-Jan 2020 to transition to a new online membership management system.

For members this should be all relatively seamless but you will notice a difference in the web-portal. I hope you find the new renewal system easy to use and you like the new site. Importantly I also hope that the process for new members to join will be a much smoother and faster. 

The huge upside to this change is that we free up some funds to contract a part-time AIP Operations Manager who we will announce in the next bulletin! Watch this space!

Branch News:

Victoria

Physics Industry and Job Fair

The Physics Industry and Job Fair will be held on Tuesday, 3 December, between 1:30pm and 3pm in the RMIT Storey Hall foyer (Building 16, Level 5)

We invite undergraduates, postgraduates and early career researchers to attend.

You should bring several copies of your CV with you and any business cards you have. Be prepared to introduce yourself and your research in a few short sentences. Visit as many of the industry booths as possible and have a list of questions ready to ask. Dress smartly, as though you were attending an interview – first impressions count!

Companies and organisations attending include Defence Science and Technology (DST), Teach For Australia, CSIRO|Ribit, APR Intern, RMIT Jobshop, RMIT Study/Learning Centre, Corporate Commanders, Bureau of Meteorology, ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET).

More details here: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/physics-industry-and-job-fair-tickets-78129925711

New South Wales 

AIP NSW Branch Postgraduate Awards Day

This event was held on Tuesday 12 November at the University of Technology Sydney. One student from each NSW university was invited to compete for a $500 prize and medal.

Students were asked to make a 20-minute presentation on their postgraduate research in physics.

The nominated speakers for 2019 were Gayathri Bharathan (Macquarie University), Dougal Dobie (University of Sydney), Levi Tegg (University of Newcastle), Lauren Bezzina (Australian National University), Andrew Chacon (University of Wollongong), Johannes Froch (University of Technology Sydney) and Hoang Bao Tran Tan (University of New South Wales).

The winner was Hoang Bao Tran Tan, who received the 2019 crystal postgraduate figurine, and a $500 award from the AIP.

The winner of the Royal Society of NSW Jak Kelly Award for 2019 was Gayathri Bharathan (Macquarie University). Gayathri received a trophy and a scholarship prize of $500 from the Royal Society of NSW.

NSW AGM results

The NSW AGM was held on Tuesday, 12 November. Executive office bearers for 2020 are Dr Scott Martin (Chair), Dr Frederick Osman (Secretary) and Dr Phillip Burns (Treasurer). Committee members are Professor Michael Lerch, Associate Professor Matthew Arnold, Dr Timothy Van der Laan, Dr Scott Martin, Dr Graeme Melville and Dr Danica Solina.

Congratulations to all.

2019 AIP NSW Community Outreach to Physics Award

The NSW AIP congratulates Mr Glen Moore, immediate past director of Wollongong’s Science Centre and Planetarium, as our sixth annual winner of the Community Outreach to Physics Award.

Fostering a love of learning and an appreciation of science in people of all ages has been Glen’s lifelong mission. He is the founder and was, until 2014, the director of the University of Wollongong’s Science Centre and Planetarium. Over a remarkable 48-year career spent at UOW, he has shared his love of the cosmos and has gifted the Illawarra region with one of the country’s most sophisticated and innovative science spaces. For nearly two decades, Glen harboured a passion to build a planetarium at UOW which became a reality in 1989. Its champions, in response to a petition he organised, were Barry Jones, Minister for Science, and Paul Keating, the then-Treasurer, along with former UOW Vice-Chancellor, Ken McKinnon and former state MP Colin Markham. The first incarnation of the Science Centre was housed in a cluster of drab Nissan huts located in Fairy Meadow.

Following extensive damage caused by the devastating floods of 1998, Glen’s tireless advocacy saw a collective three-million-dollar commitment come from the NSW Government, industry and the community to rebuild it. It was re-opened in 2000 by the Nobel Laureate for Chemistry, Professor Alan McDermott of the University of Pennsylvania – a reflection of the standing of Glen’s achievements on a global scale. The Science Centre clocked the milestone of one million visitors in 2012 and was recently relaunched as ‘Science Space’.

Western Australia

WA AGM results

The WA AIP AGM was held on Thursday, 14 November. Executive office bearers for 2020 are Justin Freeman (Chair), Stuart Midgley (Vice chair), Drew Parsons (Treasurer), and Ben Arrow (Secretary). Committee members are Rick Hughes, Geoff Swan, John Ferrerino, Ketesse Hansen, Kirsten Emory, Tristan Ward, Kathryn Wilson, Loughlan Weatherly, Diana Tomazos, John Chapman, Gerd Schröder-Turk and Andrea F. Biondo.

Congratulations to all!

Other Physics News & Opportunities

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.

Opportunity – Expression of Interest for Membership of the Editorial Board of the AAPPS Bulletin

We are seeking a member to nominate for the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies (AAPPS) Bulletin Editorial Board. The AIP is one of 17 member societies of the organisation. 

Appointment is for a three-year term. It involves taking part in monthly one hour video meetings, and from time to time seeking content for the bulletin from Australia and New Zealand. There is also a yearly face-to-face board meeting held in Pohang, South Korea. All local costs are paid by AAPPS. 

 Although it is not necessary for the AIP to be represented it is highly desirable.  AAPPS sees itself as a third regional organisation on a par with APS and EPS.

The new appointee would start in January 2020 and overlap with the current AIP representative’s term, which ends six months later. If you wish to express an interest in nomination, please contact AIP secretary Kirrily Rule (aip_secretary@aip.org.au). 

IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics

Nominations are 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 it’s not too late to submit suggestions for the Australian plenary speaker to aip_president@aip.org.au

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

Swinburne physicist Professor Margaret Reid wins Moyal Medal

Swinburne researcher Professor Margaret Reid has become the first woman physicist to be awarded the Moyal Medal, recognising her outstanding contributions to the field of physics.

The prestigious science award is given annually and named after the late Australian mathematician and mathematical physicist Professor José Enrique Moyal.

His insight into the interaction between mathematics, physics and statistics has had far-reaching ramifications for a number of fields, including aeronautical engineering, electrical engineering and statistics.

“It is such an honour to be awarded,” says Professor Reid. “It was the nicest professional email and invitation I have ever received! I was totally surprised.”

It was especially wonderful given the nature of Moyal’s work and how it relates to her own, she says.

“He was responsible for many of the results on phase space methods that I use routinely in my theoretical work in quantum physics. In preparing the talk I gave when receiving the award, it was good to be able to reflect on his work and its impact.”

Major inroads into Stawell’s Underground Physics Laboratory have begun

Once complete, the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, in regional Victoria, will be the first underground physics laboratory in the southern hemisphere. It is being constructed inside a disused gold mine. 

The lab consists of a main research hall and a side access wing, configured in an ‘L’ Shape.

The excavation work began in August 2019 and is expected to take another two months.

University of Melbourne professor Elisabetta Barberio, who heads the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory project, said the groundwork marks a step closer to the discovery of dark matter.

Construction completion for the laboratory is planned for late 2020 with operations expected to commence in early 2021.

The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments have each allocated $5 million in funding for the building of the facility.

Universal highways impact how galaxies rotate

The direction in which a galaxy spins depends on its mass, researchers have found.

A team of astrophysicists analysed 1418 galaxies and found that small ones are likely to spin on a different axis to large ones. The rotation was measured in relation to each galaxy’s closest “cosmic filament” – the largest structures in the universe.

Filaments are massive thread-like formations, comprising huge amounts of matter – including galaxies, gas and, modelling implies, dark matter. They can be 500 million light years long but just 20 million light years wide. At their largest scale, the filaments divide the universe into a vast gravitationally linked lattice interspersed with enormous dark matter voids.

“It’s worth noticing that the spine of cosmic filaments is pretty much the highway of galactic migration, with many galaxies encountering and merging along the way,” says lead researcher Charlotte Welker, an ASTRO 3D researcher working initially at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and now at McMaster University in Canada.

ASTRO 3D is the ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics, based in Australia.

The filaments are why the universe looks a little like a honeycomb, or a cosmic Aero chocolate bar.

Using data gathered by an instrument called the Sydney-AAO Multi-object Integral-field spectrograph (SAMI) at Australia’s Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), Dr Welker, second author and ASTRO 3D principal investigator Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn from the University of Sydney, and colleagues from Australia, the US, France and Korea studied each of the target galaxies and measured its spin in relation to its nearest filament.

They found that smaller ones tended to rotate in direct alignment to the filaments, while larger ones turned at right angles. The alignment changes from the first to the second as galaxies, drawn by gravity towards the spine of a filament, collide and merge with others, thus gaining mass.

Co-author Scott Croom from the University of Sydney, also an ASTRO 3D principal investigator, says the result offers insight into the deep structure of the Universe.
“Virtually all galaxies rotate, and this rotation is fundamental to how galaxies form,” he says.

“For example, most galaxies are in flat rotating disks, like our Milky Way. Our result is helping us to understand how that galactic rotation builds up across cosmic time.”
He adds that a new instrument, called Hector, set to be installed at the Anglo Australian Telescope next year, will enable a significant expansion of research in the field.

“Hector will be able to carry out surveys five times larger than SAMI,” he says. “With this we will be able to dig into the details of this spin alignment to better understand the physics behind it.”

The Milky Way, by the way, has a spin well aligned with its nearest cosmic filament, but belongs to a class of intermediate size galaxies that, overall, show no clear tendency towards parallel or perpendicular spins.

Jobs corner

Postdoctoral Research Associate (PDRA) in computational modelling of plasma processes, 2343/1119F (Advert)

Opportunity in computational modelling of plasma surface modification and liquid phase processes

Located at between the Darlington and Camperdown Campus, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Science

Full-Time, 5 Years Fixed Term, Academic Level A: Base Salary: $94,629 p.a. – $101,018 p.a. plus annual leave loading and a generous employer’s contribution to superannuation.

We are seeking to appoint a Postdoctoral Research Associate to be part of the research group of Professor Marcela Bilek. The position involves working in a multidisciplinary team on a research programme aiming to develop novel surface modifications with biomolecular functionalisation that modulates and controls cell responses at materials interfaces. You will design and perform a variety of computational simulations to accompany and inform the plasma process experimental studies both by enabling deeper understanding of experimentally observed phenomena and by predicting parameter adjustments for optimisation. The physical phenomena that require investigation will drive the choice of software, and you will be required to make informed, strategic decisions about the approaches and software tools to use for each problem. For example, Multiphysics finite element codes may be used to understand gas pressure, fluid flows and electric field distributions and how they depend on the structure and properties of the materials being modified, and particle in cell (PIC) codes may be used to perform simulations of sheaths around complex shaped structural components and to provide insight into surface charging effects.

All applications must be submitted via the University of Sydney careers website.  Visit sydney.edu.au/recruitment and search by the reference number 2343/1119F  to apply.

Closing date: 11:30pm, Tuesday 3 December 2019

More info here.

Lecturer in Physics (academic Level B) within the School of Natural Sciences at the University of Tasmania (Advert)

Full time (flexible) ongoing position based in Hobart

Relocation support provided

Collaborative, innovative and people centred University

The Lecturer in Physics is a full-time, continuing position (flexible options available) with balanced research and teaching duties. The teaching supports the delivery of our undergraduate and Honours B.Sc. degrees. The appointee will join a group of 7 academic and 3 technical staff to become part of a vibrant and intellectually active environment with strong links to other disciplines within the School and College.

For further information about this position, please contact Professor Andrew Cole, Head of Discipline (Physics), on telephone (03) 6226 2438 or email Andrew.Cole@utas.edu.au

Please visit http://www.utas.edu.au/jobs/applying2 for our guide to applying and details on the recruitment process.

Applications close Wednesday, 15 January 2020, 11.55pm 

More info here.

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

Aussie Physics in the News

The hidden stories of Australia’s first women working in computing
https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-12-01/women-computing-astronomy-technology/11713282
 
A runaway star, ejected from the galactic heart of darkness
https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/runaway-star-ejected-galactic-heart-darkness
 
Astronomers Are Closing in on The Precise Moment The Universe Lit Up
https://www.sciencealert.com/astronomers-are-closing-in-on-the-precise-moment-the-universe-lit-up
 
Square Kilometre Array hit by €250m shortfall
https://physicsworld.com/a/square-kilometre-array-hit-by-e250m-shortfall/
 
Stunning image of the Milky Way captured using radio waves giving us a ‘brand new view’ of our galaxy uncovers the remains of 27 dead stars
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-7714031/Astronomers-Australia-capture-STUNNING-image-Milky-Way.html