How the AIP is managing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, awards and prize nominations open, 58-year-old puzzle solved, and more physics in April

Firstly, I hope you are coping as best as you can with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. It’s a tough time for everyone and I’m encourage people to do what they can to look out for each other. The response to the pandemic has meant big changes for us all as we adjust to laboratory shutdowns, online teaching, and deal with cancelled travel and events.

There has been a flurry of e-meetings and emails over the past week within the AIP and I am heartened to report that we continue to work hard to support and connect the Australian Physics community. Of course, COVID-19 is going to cause our face-to-face events to be cancelled or postponed, but we hope to take what we can online. Sadly, however, we have had to postpone our Congress, which was to be held in Adelaide in December. More details below.

The eligibility criteria have been announced for the AIP NSW Best Graduating Student annual prize. See below for details.

In this bulletin we meet another Hidden Physicist. Dr Jonathan Hall who is the co-founder and director of Life Whisperer, company that uses a machine-learning medical imaging technique to improve IVF pregnancy rates.

I was saddened to hear that former AIP national president Emeritus Professor Geoff Wilson passed away in January. As AIP president he helped form what is now Science & Technology Australia to more effectively lobby government. You can read more about him below.

A 58-year-old puzzle has been cracked on the way to a quantum breakthrough by scientists at UNSW. Read more below.
And the review of the decadal plan for physics needs case studies. See below for details on how you can contribute.

Kind regards,

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

AIP News

How the AIP is managing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is going to be affecting most events, branches will be looking to other means of communicating with members and the public.

Two events, in particular, are going to be affected:

  • the Women in Physics lecture series for 2020, which has been postponed;
  • and the AIP congress, originally scheduled for December, has now been postponed until sometime in 2021. The local organising committee is currently weighing up options. Watch this space in the months to come!

In the meantime, we are hoping to soon get some resources in place to assist kids learning from home. This is still in the works and might be an outward-looking webpage, but we’re also hoping to get some physicists online to answer questions and chat.

If you have any other ideas of how physicists could help with this current situation, let me know.

#PhysicsGotMeHere: Hidden Physicists – featuring Jonathan Hall

Employer: Life Whisperer & Presagen

Job and description: Co-founder and director. Life Whisperer uses a machine-learning medical imaging technique, which has been used to identify viable human embryos prior to implantation. The way it works is through a web browser accessed in clinic, which enables clinicians to drag-and-drop microscope images and instantly receive a report as to the confidence of viability, to support the clinician’s decision about which embryo to transfer to the patient. As infertility continues to increase each year, more couples look to IVF to help them have children. Using deep learning, computer vision, statistics, and physics techniques, Life Whisperer identifies morphological features that constitute a healthy embryo which are often invisible to the human eye. Life Whisperer requires neither significant clinical process change nor costly hardware.

My career story so far: I completed two PhDs (as a crazy person), one in theoretical particle physics (2011) focusing on quantum chromodynamics, and one in nanotechnology specialising in biosensing in embryos (2017), both of which have received awards in their respective fields. These topics have a common thread of simulating resonances in finite volumes (although at vastly different orders of magnitude!). After chairing the international IONS-KOALA 2014 Conference on optics, atomic and laser applications in 2016, I was fortunate enough to be a member of one of the few teams to reach the inaugural CSIRO ON Prime pre-accelerator program for commercialisation in Sydney. On championing an idea for developing a new web-application for classifying human embryo viability, we won the Australian eChallenge awards for both Medical Innovations and Research Commercialization.

We set up Presagen as the company which houses the core AI technology, so that it can be leveraged for future medical imaging products. We developed a new decentralised training technique (patent-pending) in order to change the way health and medical information from around the world is connected. We believe in putting couples first, and empower prospective patients with the goal to improve IVF success rates, and reduce cost and emotional burden on couples by selecting the best embryos.

After officially launching the company in February of 2017, Life Whisperer made significant progress over a short period of time, with recognition from the AIIA as Startup of the Year and Machine Learning/Big Data Innovation of the Year – SA, Top 5 of the finals at TechCrunch Startup Battlefield held in Sydney in 2017, and won ‘Global Winner – One to Watch’ for the APAC region at Talent Unleashed, whose judges included global innovation giants Richard Branson and Steve Wozniak. Since then I got onto the honours list of 10 MIT Technology Review Innovators under 35 (Asia Pacific) in 2019, and was named among the InDaily 40 Under 40 Business Leaders in South Australia, receiving the Entrepreneurial Award for the state in 2019.

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

Postponed – AIP Congress 2020

The next AIP Congress, which was to be held in Adelaide in Dec, has been postponed. More details in coming bulletins.

Postponed – International Women in Physics Conference

Australia will be hosting the 7th International Union of Pure and Applied Physics International Conference on Women in Physics, in Melbourne. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic,  the international and local organising committees have opted to postpone the event for 12 months.

2021 dates will be advised. Watch the website for details.

Reach out to us on social media

The AIP wants to know! We are keen to amplify Australian Physics!

Please reach out and let us know when you have some exciting new research result, a cool outreach event, or even have a articles published in other forums such as the Conversation.

Let us know on Twitter and LinkedIn and we’ll share it to our followers.

If you aren’t already, subscribe to us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

URGENT: Science and Technology Australia seek urgent input on the relief measures

Science and Technology Australia is seeking urgent input on the relief measures to help businesses/not-for-profits and workers to sustain jobs during the hard months ahead.

This will be a hugely challenging time for everyone financially, including all across the science and tech sector.

There is a willingness to hear about unintended consequences, or survival measures, where a modest intervention from Government would make the difference between survival or otherwise.

If there is information that you would like to feed in please contact aip_president@aip.org.au  by close of business next Monday (6 April 2020).

Eligibility criteria announced for AIP NSW Best Graduating Student

The NSW AIP branch has instituted this annual prize to recognise the work of the best graduating student nominated by physics institutions in the state.

The prize seeks to acknowledge an individual who has achieved clearly outstanding work.

The honour comprises a $250 monetary award and a certificate.  

Eligibility and Criteria

The nomination should show that the individual has completed a undergraduate, Honours or Masters program in physics, and has achieved at least a Distinction average or, for Honours students, a First Class.

Nominations should be lodged by email to: Dr Frederick Osman, NSW Branch Secretary, Australian Institute of Physics: fosman@bu.edu

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 final report will be completed in the coming months.

The structure of the review 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

Other Physics News & Opportunities

Renowned physicist and former AIP president Geoff Wilson dies

Former AIP national president Emeritus Professor Geoff Wilson passed away in January aged 81 after a short illness.

He was well known in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance, and as AIP president helped form what is now Science & Technology Australia to more effectively lobby government.

Geoff Wilson was the first vice-chancellor of Central Queensland University and the fourth vice-chancellor of Deakin University.

He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1997 and received a Centenary Medal in 2003.

After retiring in 2002, he continued to be active in higher education, chairing the board of AMC Search, the Australian Maritime College’s training and consultancy division, and contributing to the development of new national protocols on higher-education processes.

Among his numerous other interests were beekeeping, olive growing, tree planting and native garden landscaping.

He is survived by his wife, Beverley, four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Deakin University has established in his memory the Professor Geoff Wilson Scholarship for Indigenous Students, with a focus on ecology and environmental science.

Scientists crack 58-year-old puzzle on way to quantum breakthrough

A “happy accident” in the laboratory has led to a breakthrough discovery that has not only solved a problem that stood for more than half a century but has major implications for the development of quantum computers and sensors.

In a study published in the journal Nature, a team of engineers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has controlled the nucleus of a single atom using only electric fields.

“This discovery means that we now have a pathway to build quantum computers using single-atom spins without the need for any oscillating magnetic field for their operation,” says UNSW’s Scientia Professor of Quantum Engineering Andrea Morello.

“Moreover, we can use these nuclei as exquisitely precise sensors of electric and magnetic fields, or to answer fundamental questions in quantum science.”

Read the full UNSW release here.

NSW release here.

Jobs corner – physics employment opportunities

(Advert) Postdoctoral Research Associate – ACRF Image-X Institute at The University of Sydney, Sydney

The University of Sydney are seeking a Postdoctoral Research Associate to work on the Australian MRI-Linac Program at the ACRF Image X Institute, led by Professor Paul Keall. MRI-Linacs are cutting-edge treatment machines that use MRI to image tumour anatomy and biological function with unrivalled quality while radiation therapy is performed with X-rays from a linear accelerator (linac). The research program is developing new technology to enable next-gen radiation therapy using in-room MRI to guide treatment. You will have the opportunity to participate in a wide ranging and multi-disciplinary research program funded via two sequential NHMRC program grants. Our research portfolio spans development of new treatment ideas, clinical trials, device development, MRI-Physics, radiation therapy physics, and computational physics. As such, this research opportunity can be adapted to the skillset of the successful applicant.  You will benefit from a strong mentoring environment; lead and be part of high impact research; author highly cited publications and attend international conferences.  You will be engaged in a global scientific network working closely with industry to develop new products that improve our ability to image and treat human disease. You will be based at South Eveleigh (formerly Australian Technology Park) and spend time at the Ingham Institute of Applied Medical Research in Liverpool, the location of our MRI-Linac.  

For more information please contact Dr David Waddington at david.waddington@sydney.edu.au

To apply, visit the website. Applications close: 20 April 2020 11:30:00 PM AUS Eastern Daylight Time

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. 

Postdoctoral Research Associate (University of Newcastle)

Research Associate – Condensed Matter Physics (UNSW)

Postdoctoral Research Associate / Postdoctoral Research Fellow (University of Technology Sydney)

Principal Fabrication Lead (Microsoft)

Physics Teacher ( Toowoomba)

Data scientist (Canberra)

Beamline scientist (ANSTO)

Trainee Patent Attorney (Physics) – New or Experienced Trainee (Melbourne)

Accelerator Physicist / Earth Scientist (ANSTO)

Director Energy (CSIRO)

Field Service Engineer (Galactic Co-operative)

Aussie Physics in the News

Physics in the pandemic: ‘Events moved quicker than I had anticipated’

Novel error-correction scheme developed for quantum computers

Astronomer had planet ‘171429 Hunstead’ named in his honour

Physicists weigh in on the origin of heavy elements

Particle physics for pre-schoolers

Deflecting the heat of climate change

Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck up nose while inventing coronavirus device