It is an impressive triumph of science that just one year after the declaration of the pandemic there are several vaccines in widescale use. The humanitarian crisis in India illustrates that Australia is in the fortunate situation of having close to no local transmission and thus can be cautious in the vaccination roll-out. It also highlights the urgency for countries like ours to support regions in need, in order to limit further mutations and foster a global recovery.
The situation in India and the recent setback with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine puts the Australian economy, and in particular the higher education sector, further at risk. We need the international undergraduate and postgraduate students to sustain the high quality education and research to which we are accustomed.
PhD students are the key contributors to academic research. They and their host groups are eager to continue their work on site. It is encouraging to see that the slowed vaccination roll-out is prompting discussion about intermediate arrangements while the world cannot yet freely travel. These include serious consideration of university-led pilot quarantine programs put forward initially by South Australia, the ACT and recently by NSW. It would be a welcome triumph if international students return shortly after local ones get fully back onto campus.
An indication that campus life is getting a step closer to normal is the Australian National University physics degree accreditation visit that was just completed. The importance of an accredited program has been taken to a new level in the pandemic. The need to reduce cost, combined with the necessity of online content delivery and assessment, is understandable in a crisis.
The challenge is to ensure that the experience and quality of a physics degree is as high as possible, and above the requirements of the AIP’s accreditation standards. These requirements were a key component in the dialogue between physics departments and their institutions to maintain identity, rigour, and a positive experience for their programs.
Great to see the ANU physics team to be the first program to be reviewed in the pandemic, and many thanks to the accreditation committee (pictured left, by Tim Senden): Michael Wheatland, and Tim McIntyre, led by Professor Deb Kane, and ANU Physics Deputy Director Joe Hope.
The AIP welcomes the government’s focus on research translation. In this context, our Special Project Officer for Policy, Associate Professor Gerd Schröder-Turk, drove a member poll that led to an AIP submission to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s consultation on commercialising university research. It emphasised translation opportunities, especially for early career researchers, and the need to stay committed to fundamental science. More details below.
Gerd has also been speaking up over the composition of university councils. See below for details.
In preparation for the AIP Summer Meeting, to be held in December at the Queensland University of Technology, the program committee will select several focused sessions from contributed proposals. These will feature a series of invited talks around a contemporary topic, giving the audience accessible and in-depth understanding, nuanced by multiple speakers. Please start to think about suitable topics, and appropriately excellent presenters – we will be calling for submissions soon!
The next AIP Congress has been postponed to December 2022. Professor Andre Luiten has stepped down as chair of this event, but remains on the organising committee. The new chair will be Associate Professor James Zanotti. I thank both for their leadership and commitment.
Congratulations to AIP Fellow Professor David Jamieson of the University of Melbourne, who has been awarded a Wolfson Fellowship by the Royal Society. Read on for more.
Also in this issue of the bulletin, meet the most recent scientist proclaiming #physicsgotmehere, Tamara Martin from the Naval Shipbuilding College. You can also meet one of our valued sponsors, Lastek Pty Ltd.
Kirrily Rule and Jayden Newstead give their impressions of this year’s Science Meets Parliament program, and we introduce the 2021 Women in Physics lecturer, Associate Professor Susanna Guatelli.
Discover, too, some exciting opportunities to nominate for awards and fellowships, and enjoy our latest story drawn from the vaults of Australian Physics magazine.
Plus there’s our monthly round up of Australian physics in the news, as well as employment opportunities and upcoming events.
President, Australian Institute of Physics