Awards and Prize nominations open, ARC Senate Order passed, Call for stories, and more physics in March

It is my great pleasure to announce that Dr Cathy Foley has been made an Honorary Fellow of the AIP. I wholeheartedly congratulate Cathy for her contributions to physics. This month’s bulletin picture is of the AIP council members applauding after the motion was passed unanimously at our annual council meeting recently. More details below.

That event and our Annual General Meeting were held in Melbourne in early February. It was a great opportunity for representatives to come together to plan and make decisions for the year ahead. Our wonderful Honorary Secretary, Kirrily Rule, has written a great report which I encourage you to read; see below for details.

The review of the decadal plan for physics is seeking case studies for the publication. See below for details on how you can contribute.

In this bulletin we meet another Hidden Physicist with a wonderful career story. Andreas Schreiber leads the bioinformatics groups of the Centre of Cancer Biology and the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Cancer Genomics Facility in Adelaide.

I was thrilled to hear the news at the end of February that the Senate has ordered a change to the way Australian Research Council grants are announced. This is a big improvement for researchers, and for transparency. Read more below.

There’s a chance to have your say on Australia’s future in space. The National Committee for Space and Radio Science is seeking your input, via an online survey – details below.

And be on the look-out for news soon about the AIP Congress 2020, which will be held in Adelaide from 7 to 11 December.

Kind regards,

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

AIP News

Report: Council meeting and Annual General Meeting

Adapted from the text provided by Dr Kirrily Rule, Honorary Secretary and Principal Instrument Scientist at ANSTO

The AIP Council meeting and AGM was held recently in Melbourne, bringing together the national executive team as well as representatives from each of the state branches, topical groups and some of our cognate societies. The meeting provided a forum to discuss physics across the nation and the role that the AIP plays. We were able to discuss topics such as the National Committee of Physics Decadal Plan, the AIP transition to Wild Apricot, the climate change crisis and the role that the AIP can play in advocacy for action.

Of interest to many of our members will be the two Topical Group have adopted changes that were voted on and approved unanimously. The Women in Physics group, chaired by Victoria Coleman, will now be called Diversity and Equity Group for Australian Physics (DEGAP)  and will broaden its scope to focus on diversity and inclusion of all underrepresented groups in physics including women, our LGBTI colleagues, and peoples from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Similarly, the QUICC group, chaired by Jingbo Wang, has now changed its name to Quantum Science and Technology (QST). This change better reflects the work done by this community and will attract more members who might find the new name more relatable. 

The meeting finished with a brief update on the progress of the AIP 2020 Congress organisation, and council members were treated to the logo designs that are being considered. The dates for this congress will be Sunday December 6 until Friday 11, with the venue in Adelaide already booked and plenary speaker nominations closed.  More news on the abstract submission deadline and other important dates and information will be released by the local organising committee soon.

A photo from the Council dinner: From L to R: Gerd Schroder-Turk (SPO science policy), Matt Lay (Vic), Joel Alroe (QLD), Stas Shabala (TAS), Judith Pollard (Hon. treasurer), Tim van de Laan (SPO social media), Olivia Samardzic (SPO awards), Kirrily Rule (Hon. Secretary), Sven Rogge (vice president), Justin Freeman (WA), Scott Martin (NSW), Matt Woolley (ACT), Deb Kane (chair of accreditation committee)
Photo credit: Justin Freeman’s phone

#PhysicsGotMeHere: Hidden Physicists – featuring Andreas Schreiber

Employer: SA Pathology

Job and description: I lead the bioinformatics groups of the Centre of Cancer Biology and the ACRF Cancer Genomics Facility in Adelaide. Working together with teams of biomedical researchers, we use computational and statistical techniques to analyse molecular data produced with the aid of modern high-throughput genome sequencing machines. The outcomes are used, for example, to advance knowledge of fundamental processes leading to the progression of cancers, and to help uncover and understand the role of a multitude of genetic mutations that give rise to various leukaemias, developmental and neurological disorders. Because we are embedded in the state health system, we also play an important role in translating our research outcomes directly into developing new diagnostic services provided by SA Pathology.

My career story so far: I obtained a BSc (Hons) and MSc in physics at the University of Melbourne and then moved to the University of Adelaide to study for a PhD in theoretical nuclear and particle physics. After 12 years of postdocs overseas and an ARC research fellowship back in Adelaide, I switched careers and moved into the emerging research areas of bioinformatics and computational biology. I was introduced into this by first working in plant bioinformatics and, for almost a decade now, in the biomedical area.

While at first sight moving from physics to bioinformatics may appear to be a dramatic change (it is certainly true that lately I have not had too many occasions to solve any equations of motion!), in many ways a background in the archetypal quantitative and computational science is ideal preparation for working in a field increasingly being dominated by ‘big data’. It is no accident that many of the techniques used in bioinformatics had their origin in the physical sciences and, indeed, it is rare for me to attend a conference where I do not meet fellow physicists. To name a few, Markov processes, subtle signals hidden in high-dimensional matrices of noisy data, Eigen decompositions, data visualisation and mathematical modelling are all part of the lexicon of researchers working in either discipline.

Taking a step back, it is fun to reflect on general similarities and differences between the two parts of my career. Then and now, as a researcher I still spend my days learning new things and solving puzzles. Alas, I also still spend time battling with referees, funding agencies and University bureaucracies, but no need to dwell on that. 

Both in physics as well as now I have had the luck and privilege to work with inspiring mentors and colleagues that get as excited as I do by new discoveries or sudden moments of clarity. When working as a physicist, I always got joy out of seeing concepts developed in one area crop up in seemingly unrelated ones, leading to the realisation that they are not unrelated at all. As a bioinformatician, the same is true in spades, given that the field borrows concepts from areas as diverse as physics (of course), computing and information theory, statistics and even computational linguistics.

Publishing a good paper still brings great satisfaction as well. But there are also differences, some unexpected. From time to time – as before by staring at my computer screen, still trying to extract meaning from noisy data — I am now able to directly contribute to the improvement of cancer treatment of a patient or provide genetic information that helps a young couple with their family planning. This is a routine satisfaction for any medical professional, of course, but I was completely unprepared for the pleasure it brings to be able to use skills acquired as a physicist a long time ago in this unexpected new way.

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

Call for stories – National Committee for Physics

The work of the committee in 2019 was primarily focused on writing a mid-term review of the current decadal plan for physics. The plan can be found here.

The final review report is ongoing and will be finalised in the coming months. The AIP ran townhall meetings at the 2018 Summer meeting and the 2019 Congress.

The AIP President is an ex-officio member of this committee.

The structure of the review of the decal plan is in place. It will be a shorter document framed around four ‘Critical Issues’ and one major recommendation which focuses on support for the discipline of physics across education, research and industry.

Critical Issue 1: Achieving a physics-literate workforce and community;

Critical Issue 2: Realising human capital in physics;

Critical Issue 3: Building on physics research and investment;

Critical Issue 4: Engaging in the international enterprise of physics.

Case studies pertaining to these issues are now being sourced from the community. If you have a story to share please contact Meaghan Dzundza: meaghan.dzundza@science.org.au

International Day of Women & Girls in Science

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science was on February 11, and recognised the critical role women and girls play in science and technology.

To celebrate this year we asked Australian women to tweet a selfie and tell us what they do in physics.

Here are just a few of the responses we saw.

International Women in Physics Conference

Australia is hosting the 7th International Union of Pure ad Applied Physics International Conference on Women in Physics in Melbourne, 13 – 17 July 2020.

Expressions of interest to attend can be made here by 31 May: https://wp.csiro.au/icwip2020/registration/request-an-invitation/

All genders, women and men are very welcome to attend

Costs will be around $500, and must be covered by delegates. Watch the website for details.

AIP Awards and Prizes

The Institute celebrates the best in Australian physics through its AIP medals. Each of these awards recognises an individual’s outstanding contribution to the discipline.

Physicists come from diverse cultures, backgrounds, ethnicity and experiences. It is our goal to identify and nurture these future leaders of the organisation and ensure they are celebrated.

Nominations are now open for the following:

Harrie Massey Medal recognises contributions made by an Australian physicist working anywhere in the world, or a physicist carrying out work in Australia.

Alan Walsh Medal is a contribution by the NSW branch of the AIP and recognises significant contributions by a practising physicist in Australia.

Education Medal is an initiative of the 2000 AIP Congress in Adelaide, and recognises an outstanding contribution to university physics in Australia.

Ruby Payne-Scott Medal recognises outstanding contributions made by a physicist (theoretical, experimental, computational, or technical) who is just beginning their career, and to help promote the careers of exceptionally promising young physicists.

Bragg Gold Medal is an initiative of the SA branch since 1992, and recognises the work of a PhD student which is judged to be of outstanding quality. The recipient must be under the auspices of an Australian university.

Walter Boas Medal recognises and promotes excellence in physics research in Australia within the past five years.

TH Laby Medal recognises an outstanding body of work completed by an honours or masters student in Australia.

Outstanding Service to Physics: This award recognises Outstanding Service to Physics through an exceptional contribution on the part of an individual to the furtherance of physics as a discipline.

Nominations for the Massey, Walsh, Education, Payne-Scott awards close on 1 April 2020.

Nominations for the Bragg, Boas, Laby and Outstanding service to physics awards close on 1 June 2020.

You can find more information here: https://aip.org.au/medals-awards-and-prizes/

Other Physics News & Opportunities

Survey – Australia’s Future in Space

The National Committee for Space and Radio Science is managing the development of the next decadal, strategic plan for the field, and is seeking input via the survey below from those studying, employed in or otherwise contributing to the community.

Any information provided is confidential and will not be used to identify individual respondents. It comprises of a small number of multiple choice and open-ended questions and should take 10 minutes to complete.

The survey closes Monday 16 March and can be found here.

ARC Senate Order passed limiting delays on ARC grant announcements

The Australian Labor party introduced the ‘Australian Research Council Senate Order’ into the Senate on Thursday February 27. It was passed without revisions.

The ARC’s Discovery funding schemes recognise the importance of fundamental research to the national innovation system, which includes the people, processes and relationships involved in ‘new’ knowledge in a knowledge-based economy.

The Senate order was driven by Labor MP Brendan O’Connor and the ARC Tracker, in order to force transparency and limit delays. Holding off announcements has meant stress and anxiety for numerous researchers and organisations. ARC Discovery recommendations will now be public two to six weeks after they are sent to the responsible Minister. Our AIP President wrote an article in the Conversation on this issue late last year so we are thrilled to see this change.

Jobs corner

(Advert) Postdoctoral Fellow / Research Fellow at The Australian National University, Canberra

An Exciting opportunity within the Department of Quantum Science, Research School of Physics, the Australian National University for a Postdoctoral / Research Fellow to develop next-generation automatic three-dimensional volumetric imaging instruments.

The Postdoctoral Fellow / Research Fellow will be a key member of a multi-disciplinary team to develop next-generation automatic three-dimensional volumetric imaging instruments.  This is to map the features embedded within inorganic and organic materials to improve inspection precision, mapping accuracy and speed.  The Postdoctoral Fellow / Research Fellow will innovate optical imaging, tomographic and metrology techniques for integration as part of a multimodal approach to scientific instrumentation.  The project will in addition involve scientific computing, digital signal processing and mechatronic control as part of the development work.

For more information please contact Associate Professor Jong Chow on T: +61 2 6125 1547 E: jong.chow@anu.edu.au

To apply, visit: https://jobs.anu.edu.au/cw/en/job/535105/postdoctoral-fellow-research-fellow Applications close: 31 March 2020 11:55:00 PM AUS Eastern Daylight Time

(Advert) Tenure-Track Position in Gravitational Astrophysics, ANU

(open to female identifying candidates only)

The Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, has recently established a new Centre for Gravitational Astrophysics (CGA), jointly supported by the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Research School of Physics.

The Centre encompasses all aspects of gravitational wave physics and astrophysics, including instrumentation, theory and data analysis, source follow-up and multi-messenger astronomy. It will bring together existing ANU researchers in these areas under one umbrella and expand the capability by making up to seven new tenure-track academic appointments across these research programs over the next year. The inaugural CGA Director is Professor David McClelland.

We are seeking to appoint an outstanding early or mid-career academic with a strong research record in gravitational wave astrophysics (theory and data analysis, source follow-up, multi-messenger astronomy). This will be a tenure-track position attracting a significant start-up package. It will be a key foundation position in the CGA. The appointee will assist with recruiting additional appointments into the CGA, helping to shape its future.

We are now seeking Expressions of Interest (EoI) in this position. An EoI will comprise a 1-page statement of achievement and proposed program of research at ANU, along with a 2-page CV. EoIs will be accepted any time up until 31 March, 2020. Please email your EOI to the CGA administrator, Dr Sareh Rajabi, sareh.rajabi@anu.edu.au, and expect confirmation of receipt.

For further information, please contact Professor Susan Scott (susan.scott@anu.edu.au) or Professor David McClelland (david.mcclelland@anu.edu.au) at RSPhys and/or Associate Professor Christian Wolf (christian.wolf@anu.edu.au) at RSAA.

(Advert) Australian National University new Centre for Gravitational Astrophysics: Full Professor

The Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, has recently established a new Centre for Gravitational Astrophysics (CGA), jointly supported by the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Research School of Physics.

The Centre encompasses all aspects of gravitational wave physics and astrophysics, including instrumentation, theory and data analysis, source follow-up and multi-messenger astronomy. It will bring together existing ANU researchers in these areas under one umbrella and expand the capability by making up to seven new tenure-track academic appointments across these research programs over the next year. The inaugural CGA Director is Professor David McClelland.

We are now seeking Expressions of Interest for the key appointment of a Full Professor (Level E). It is the intention that the appointee will initially take on the role of Deputy Director, in the anticipation that they will take over as Director within the next five years. We are seeking an inspirational scientific leader with an equity agenda from any area of research covered by the Centre, who can grow ANU’s leadership across all areas of gravitational wave astronomy. If you think you have the skills, vision and drive required to fill this role, please consider applying, regardless of your current level of appointment.

The appointment comes with an attractive start-up package and the ability to help shape the future of the CGA through subsequent faculty hires. This is a tenure-track position with a negotiable probation period.

We are now seeking a 2-page Expression of Interest (EoI), along with a complete CV. EoIs will be accepted any time up to 31 March 2020. We anticipate advertising the position in April 2020. You are encouraged to contact Professor David McClelland (david.mcclelland@anu.edu.au) for further information. Please email your expression of interest and CV to the CGA Administrator, Dr Sareh Rajabi (sareh.rajabi@anu.edu.au), before the closing date.


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. 

Astro 3D Research Fellow (Curtin University)

Beamline Scientist – MX (Industry Specialist) (ANSTO)

Data Scientist (Medical Science company)

Electronics Principal Analogue Electronics Engineer (Research) (Minelab)

Electronics Research Engineer (Signal Processing) (Minelab)

Electronics Senior Research Engineer (Signal Processing) (Minelab)

Gamma Spectrometry Officer (ANSTO)

Graduates (Defence)

Medical Physicist G1 (Austin Health)

Medical Physics Technician (GenesisCare)

Optical (OCT) Physicist – Instrument Manufacturing (Cylite)

Physics Graduate (Selectrail)

Research Associate – Magnetic Resonance (NMR) (University of Western Australia)

Research Fellow in Physics (Astronomy) (University of Tasmania)

Sample Environment Officer/Senior Sample Environment Officer (ANSTO)

Software Research Engineer Scientific Visualisation (CSIRO)

VCE Physics Teacher (Victoria)

Aussie Physics in the News

Gravitational waves in space reveal the secret lives of dead stars
https://spaceaustralia.com/feature/gravitational-waves-space-reveal-secret-lives-dead-stars
 
Australian scientists close to developing holy grail of clean energy https://www.theaustralian.com.au/science/lasers-fire-hopes-of-clean-energy-switch/news-story/c95e88bae781899dd45b9e0ec532f020
 
We won’t have fusion generators in five years. But the holy grail of clean energy may still be on its way
https://theconversation.com/we-wont-have-fusion-generators-in-five-years-but-the-holy-grail-of-clean-energy-may-still-be-on-its-way-132250
 
Chernobyl scientist still backs nuclear power for Australia’s future energy mix https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-13/chernobyl-scientist-recommends-nuclear-energy-for-australia/11957880
 
Reducing noise below the sound of silence
https://cosmosmagazine.com/physics/reducing-noise-below-the-sound-of-silence
 
Catching frame dragging in action
https://cosmosmagazine.com/physics/catching-frame-dragging-in-action
 
Artificial atoms create stable qubits
https://cosmosmagazine.com/physics/artificial-atoms-create-stable-qubits
 
Kepler Observes Earliest Stages of Dwarf Nova’s Super-Outburst
http://www.sci-news.com/astronomy/dwarf-nova-super-outburst-08064.html