New hands at the helm, galactic evolution, Science Meets Parliament, and old computers the size of wardrobes

Welcome to the first edition of the AIP bulletin for the new year.

I’m Sven Rogge, president-elect of the AIP and Scientia Professor at UNSW, Sydney, studying condensed matter physics and, in particular quantum electronics.

As president-elect, I’d like to thank outgoing president, Jodie Bradby, for her tireless and inspiring work in the position. I would also like to formally welcome the rest of the new executive. We’ll all take up our offices following the AGM next week.

The priorities established by Jodie during her tenure will not be shifting. I look forward to progressively reaching more physicists – especially younger ones – around Australia, and gradually growing our membership. In addition, I want to engage more physicists outside academia to work with the industry to showcase the important work that is happing in this area.

As our long-running series, Hidden Physicist, demonstrates, the practise of physics is not confined to academia, but is a critical element of many industries.

Hidden Physicist has now been renamed #PhysicsGotMeHere. It will continue, I hope, to play a part in breaking down silos between public and private sector physicists. Read on for this month’s article.

Read on, too, to find out more about the AIP’s new vice-president, Nicole Bell.

In our next livestreamed talk, ANU astronomer and ASTRO 3D director Lisa Kewley will discuss the physics of galactic evolution. More details below.

We bring you news of some interesting career opportunities, in the form of prizes, scholarships and an academic position.

As usual, we round up some of the exciting pieces of Australian research that have made it into the news – including a new world record for the stable transmission of a laser through the atmosphere.

And please enjoy this month’s deep-dive into the vaults of the AIP’s venerable magazine, Australian Physics.

My colleagues on the executive and I are keen to hear thoughts from any and all members about the future of physics in Australia, and how the discourse in our discipline should develop. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,

Sven Rogge
President-elect, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

AIP News

AIP welcomes new executive committee at AGM

Professor Sven Rogge from the University of NSW will officially take the helm as President of the AIP when the organisation holds its Annual General Meeting – via Zoom – on Wednesday, February 10.

Sven will be joined by the rest of the new executive: University of Melbourne’s Professor Nicole Bell as Vice President, Dr Kirrily Rule from ANSTO as Honorary Secretary, Professor Stephen Collins from Victoria University as Honorary Registrar, and Dr Judith Pollard from the University of Adelaide as Honorary Treasurer.

The AGM will run between 6pm and 7pm AEDT, and is open to all members. The link to join has already been emailed out. If you haven’t received it, please contact us on 0478 260 533, or email aip@aip.org.au.

Introducing our new Vice-President-elect, Professor Nicole Bell

Professor Bell is a theoretical physicist based at the University of Melbourne – the same institution at which she was awarded her PhD, back in 2001. 

Her research interests lie at the intersection of elementary particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology. Her work encompasses dark matter, the cosmological matter-antimatter asymmetry, neutrinos, particle and astroparticle phenomenology and particle physics beyond the Standard Model. 

She spent several years working in the US, first at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and then at Caltech, before returning to her alma mater in 2007. 

Professor Bell is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, as well as the AIP. Among many honours, she was awarded the 2020 Nancy Millis Medal by the Australian Academy of Science. 

“If I had to choose one question in my field that I would most like to see answered, it is what is the identity of the cosmological dark matter?” she says. 

“And if I had to choose a second, it would be is the neutrino its own antiparticle? Or, to put it another way, are neutrinos Dirac or Majorana fermions?”   

ASTRO 3D and Galaxy Evolution: get set for our latest livestreamed event

The complex forces that influence the evolution of galaxies are being gradually discovered and teased apart by astronomers around the world – not least among them the researchers of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D).

Meet the organisation’s director, Professor Lisa Kewley of the Australian National University, in the next AIP livestreamed event, taking place on Friday, February 5.

The fun starts at 2pm AEDT. Join via Zoom here.

#PhysicsGotMeHere: Meet Nicole Reynolds

Name: Nicole Reynolds

Employer: Australian Institute of Physics (AIP)

Job title and description: Operations Manager

Got a question? Feel free to call or email! As the Operations Manager, I look after the daily running of the AIP: answering emails and phone calls, manage the finances, liaise with publishers and printers for the mailout of Australian Physics magazine, and work with Science In Public to get out the monthly bulletin. The best things about my role are its diversity and flexibility.

I work part-time and in among my daily tasks are projects, which range from assisting in the transition to new membership software, setting up the Public Fellows List and working on organizing the database. I am facilitating the merger of the aip.org.au website and Wild Apricot membership software, so stay tuned!

My career story so far:

I have not followed a typical linear progression. I started out as a scientist, enthusiastic about science communication, and now am a marketing and communication graduate who is passionate about working with science-related businesses to achieve their goals. The general theme through my career has been a thirst for learning and new ideas.

I discovered science communication through working at Kickstart at the University of Sydney, while completing my Physics BSc. Science communication is a great way for physicists to give back to the community – explaining the physics problems of our time, and using physics to explain the world around us. During my BSc I was lucky enough to get a summer vacation physicist position at ANSTO. That set me along a lifelong love of magnetism and neutron science.

Through ANSTO I went on to do a MPhil of Physics at UNSW. During that time I had the privilege of attending the Oxford Neutron School. The culture and excitement of traveling to further my physics career led me to pursue a PhD in Quantum Magnetism at ETH, Switzerland. I travelled to France and England to perform experiments at neutron facilities. I attended schools, meetings and lectures with my European peers. I had great fun growing crystals, categorising them and using them for neutron, muon and x-ray experiments.

Unfortunately, my health had other ideas for my career, and nine months after a spinal surgery I made the hard decision to stop my PhD, move back to Australia and focus on physical recovery. As many of you may know, and I soon found out, focusing on your health cannot be a full-time occupation. So, I decided to improve my skillset in between my therapy sessions. I took a short course in science communication writing and completed a Certificate IV in marketing and communications at TAFE.

Six months into my course I applied for the role Operations Manager with AIP. Like all things in my life, I threw myself in and worked as hard as I could learning how to do and understand everything; thinking of ideas for assisting with the running and outlook of the AIP where I can. It has been the best decision. With the aid of some old colleagues, I have found a surprising new path that allows me to stay connected to the  physics world, uses my problem-solver brain and, most importantly, that I enjoy.

#PhysicsGotMeHereere. Looking back on 2020

Last year we profiled a surprising bunch of physicists whose work and passion led them along some unexpected journeys. You can revisit the collection, collated in a single place, here.

Attend Science Meets Parliament as an AIP delegate 

Science and Technology Australia has just opened nominations for Science Meets Parliament 2021. As a member organisation, the AIP can sponsor two delegates to the event.

Science Meets Parliament offers science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals the chance to build a profile for their work. This year the event will take place in a virtual format from March 2 to April 1, with the National Gala Dinner held in-person across five locations on Monday, March 29.

Attendees at previous Science Meets Parliament events have described it as “a fantastic opportunity to see the inside operation of our government”, “a rewarding experience” and “very motivational and educational”.

If you are interested in attending, please send an expression of interest to AIP Secretary Kirrily Rule at aip_secretary@aip.org.au. Please include: 

  • A CV, no longer than one page;
  • A statement, no longer than one page, indicating why you would like to attend and what you hope to gain from the experience.

The AIP will cover your registration for the event.

The executive team will assess each application, taking into account gender balance, research area balance and geographic coverage.

Please send your expressions of interest to aip_secretary@aip.org.au by Wednesday, 10 February. More information about this year’s Science Meets Parliament can be found here.

In addition to the two AIP-sponsored delegates, scholarships open to STEM practitioners in specific categories. More information is provided below in News from Science and Technology Australia.

Would you like to join the National Committee for Physics?

The Australian Academy of Science (AAS) is looking for an early-to-mid career researcher to join its National Committee for Physics (NCP).

The AAS convenes 22 discipline-based national committees for science. These work with Australian and international scientists to foster their discipline, provide input into policy, and advise the Academy’s Council on Australia’s representation on the International Science Council and other international bodies.

The NCP aims to foster physics in Australia, to link the Academy to Australian physicists and relevant scientific societies, and to serve as a link between Australian and overseas physicists, primarily through the International Union for Pure and Applied Physics and the International Commission for Optics.

In December 2021, the NCP launched the Physics decadal plan 2012–2021: building on excellence in physics. The plan was jointly created by the Academy, the Australian Institute of Physics, the Australian Research Council and the physics community.

NCP is now seeking an early-to-mid career researcher (EMCR) working in a field of physics to join

the committee. The role involves:

  • providing discipline-specific input to the National Committee, through an EMCR perspective;
  • providing input to from a broad science-sector perspective, by linking with EMCR Forum.

The term runs for three years and currently involves at least six video-conference committee meetings per year.  More information, eligibility criteria and the application form can be found here. If you have any questions, please contact the Academy’s National Committees team: nc@science.org.au.

More physics awards and appointments

Noms open for the David Syme Research Prize

Nominations are invited for the 2020 David Syme Research Prize. This nationwide award recognises the best original research in biology, physics, chemistry or geology published in Australia between January 2019 and December 2020.

The $9000 prize is managed by the Faculty of Science at the University of Melbourne, and nominations close on April 28.

Senior members of the academic or research community such as co-authors or co-researchers, heads of department or deputy vice-chancellors (research) are invited to nominate eligible colleagues. Self-nominations are not accepted.

Full details and the nomination form are available here.

Enquiries: science-awards@unimelb.edu.au

Physicists receive Australia Day Honours

A former member of the AIP Education sub-committee, Dr Colin Hopkins, was among the physicists honoured in the Australia Day awards on January 26.

Dr Hopkins, 68, is officially retired, but continues to work as an educator, mentoring about 500 senior high school physics teachers around Victoria. He was awarded an Order of the Medal of Australia (OAM). 

Also honoured, posthumously, was Dr Brian O’Brien, a radiation expert who designed an experiment that reached the moon on Apollo 11. Dr O’Brien, who died last year, was awarded an Order of Australia.

Dr Barry Inglis, former director of CSIRO’s National Measurement Laboratory, and inaugural CEO and Chief Metrologist of the National Measurement Institute, was made an officer of the Order of Australia. Dr Inglis, of course, is the name behind the NMI’s annual medal, which in 2020 was awarded to University of Queensland quantum physicist Professor Warwick Bowen.

Congratulations to all!

News from Australian Physics magazine

Calling all physics writers …

The Australian Physicist, now Australian Physics, has been produced by the AIP since 1964. It is the oldest science magazine in Australia.

Current editors Peter Kappen and David Hoxley are always on the hunt for material to include in forthcoming issues.

To that end, they also invite members to submit:  

  • Pitches for articles describing current research;
  • Physics-themed cartoons;
  • Reviews of physics-themed books (they might even be able to get the book for you!);
  • Physics poetry;
  • Obituaries of recently passed members.

Proposals and finished items can be sent to aip_editor@aip.org.au

FROM THE VAULT: stories from The Australian Physicist

This month in 1974: Computers for Medical Physics

Two Perth hospitals will have the most extensive on-line real-time computing systems for medical use in Australia. The Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the Royal Perth Hospital will each have a PDP-11/40.

In each hospital, the computing facilities will be developed and administered independently by the departments of medical physics, with the cooperation of the W.A. Government Medical Department, and will be used for clinical and research work in the fields of nuclear medicine and lung physiology.

Storage capacity of the system at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital will be 40K and the Royal Perth Hospital system will have a capacity of 32K words of core storage.

One of the most interesting applications will be the processing of data from a gamma camera, which will display an image of the distribution of a radioisotope in a living organ, to detect malignancy or organ malfunction.

Read the full story here.

News from Science and Technology Australia

STA members are invited to apply for eight scholarships to attend Science Meets Parliament (SMP), an annual series of events which bring Australian scientists and technologists together for professional development, networking, and to meet with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

SMP runs throughout March, and this year will be conducted entirely as a virtual program.

Two scholarships are open to STEM practitioners in each of the following categories: 

  • Indigenous STEM Scholarships for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people;
  • STEM Pride scholarships for people who identify as LGBTQI+;
  • Regional STEM scholarships for STEM practitioners who work in remote or regional Australia, defined as any location more than 150km from a capital city;
  • STEM practitioners working in the technologically based areas of engineering and information technology.

Applications close on 17 February. Recipients will be contacted by 23 February.  


You will find more information and the means to apply here.

Australian physics in the news

Record-breaking laser link could provide test of Einstein’s theory

Scientists from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and the University of Western Australia (UWA) have set a world record for the most stable transmission of a laser signal through the atmosphere.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, Australian researchers teamed up with researchers from the French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) and the French metrology lab Systèmes de Référence Temps-Espace (SYRTE) at Paris Observatory.

The team set the world record for the most stable laser transmission by combining the Aussies’ phase stabilisation technology with advanced self-guiding optical terminals. Together, these technologies allowed laser signals to be sent from one point to another without interference from the atmosphere.

Read more here.

Star-making motion

Quantum physicist Richard Feynman once called turbulence “the most important unsolved problem of classical physics”.

Even after centuries of research, scientists are still trying to understand the complex and unpredictable nature of turbulence down here on Earth, from weather patterns to blood flow in arteries.

Astrophysical turbulence is perhaps even more perplexing.

Now, in a study published in Nature Astronomy, Australian and German scientists have used the computing power of the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) in Germany to probe how turbulence shapes the interstellar medium, and thus helps form stars and planets.

“Turbulence is a key ingredient for star formation,” says co-lead author Cristoph Federrath, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University.

“It controls the pace of star formation, stirring up gas and slowing down the action of gravity, which – without turbulence – would make stars form a hundred times quicker than observed.

“The formation of stars powers the evolution of galaxies on large scales and sets the initial conditions for planet formation on small scales, and turbulence is playing a big role in all of this.”

Read more here.

Quantum Computing’s New Dynamic Duo: John Martinis and Michelle Simmons

Professors John M. Martinis and Michelle Simmons are two of the world’s top quantum scientists. In January they were interviewed by quantum computing analyst Paul Smith-Goodson for Forbes magazine.

Read the result here.

In brief

Diamonds put the heat on cells
https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/physics/diamonds-put-the-heat-on-cells/

Truly astronomical: over half a billion celestial objects mapped
https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2021/01/truly-astronomical-over-half-billion-celestial-objects-mapped?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news

Darkened SpaceX Satellites Can Still Disrupt Astronomy, New Research Suggests
https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2021/01/darkened-spacex-satellites-can-still-disrupt-astronomy-new-research-suggests/

Radio telescopes could give us a new view of gravitational waves
https://physicsworld.com/a/radio-telescopes-could-give-us-a-new-view-of-gravitational-waves/


Jobs Corner – physics employment opportunities

Postdoctoral Research Associate to undertake research within the ASTRO 3D ARC Centre of Excellence

  • Opportunity to contribute to the research and development for the ASTRO 3D ARC Centre of Excellence
  • Located on the Camperdown Campus at the School of Physics
  • Full-time Level A, 3 Years with a base salary of $93K – $103K p.a., plus leave loading and a generous employer’s contribution to superannuation

About the opportunity           

We are seeking to appoint a Postdoctoral Research Associate to undertake research within the ASTRO 3D ARC Centre of Excellence. The person appointed to this role will be part of the ASTRO 3D First Large Absorption Survey in HI (FLASH) team within the ASTRO 3D ‘ASKAP Surveys’ project, and will analyse HI spectral-line data obtained with the new Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope and carry out follow-up studies with optical/IR telescopes and the ALMA millimetre array.

For more details and application procedures visit https://sydney.edu.au/about-us/careers-at-sydney.html and search by the reference number 1432/1120F to apply.

Closing date: 11:30pm, Wednesday 3 February 2021

Opportunity to develop a prototype diamond quantum sensor as a Quantum Systems Engineer at the University of Sydney

  • Opportunity to join a world class team of scientists and engineers developing a prototype diamond quantum sensor
  • Located on the Camperdown Campus at the School of Physics. Join a community of world-class scientists
  • Full-time Level A or B, fixed term 2 years with a base salary of $93K – $128K p.a., plus leave loading and a generous employer’s contribution to superannuation

We are seeking to appoint a Quantum Systems Engineer for projects focused on the development of an integrated diamond-based quantum sensor.  You will be required to undertake research and development in quantum, optical, electronic and mechanical systems under the guidance of the Chief Investigator and in collaboration with other senior research staff across the University and with our industry partner. 

For more details and application procedures visit https://sydney.edu.au/about-us/careers-at-sydney.html and search by the reference number 052/0121F to apply.

Closing date: 11:30pm, Thursday 11 February 2021

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. 

CSIRO Postdoctoral Fellow in Pulsar Astronomy https://jobs.csiro.au/job/Sydney%2C-NSW-Postdoctoral-Fellow-in-Pulsar-Astronomy/707174300/

CSIRO Materials Characterisation Instrumentation Officer (Melb)
https://jobs.csiro.au/job/Melbourne%2C-VIC-Materials-Characterisation-Instrumentation-Officer/706104900/

CSIRO Mathematical Modeller/ Data Scientist
https://jobs.csiro.au/job/Brisbane%2C-QLD-Mathematical-Modeller-Data-Scientist/706812000/

Full-Time Science (Physics) Teacher (one of MANY such positions on SEEK) https://www.seek.com.au/job/51206296?type=standard#searchRequestToken=f91e2e78-4bbf-4637-a118-9025b0973509

Data Scientist (one of MANY such positions on SEEK)
https://www.seek.com.au/job/51336642?type=standout#searchRequestToken=f91e2e78-4bbf-4637-a118-9025b0973509

Quantitative Analyst
https://www.seek.com.au/job/51318395?type=standout#searchRequestToken=f5fc11fe-5479-4f28-a5a5-652bf400721e

Senior Nuclear Medicine Physicist (Canberra)
https://jobsearch.gov.au/job/view/details/2291064921

Research Fellow in electrochemistry and water splitting (ANU)
https://jobs.anu.edu.au/cw/en/job/538928/research-fellow

Research Fellow – Superconducting Nanodevices (Uni Melb)
http://jobs.unimelb.edu.au/caw/en/job/903869/research-fellow-superconducting-nanodevices

Research Fellow In Gravitational Wave DISCOVERY (Uni Melb)
http://jobs.unimelb.edu.au/caw/en/job/903617/research-fellow-in-gravitational-wave-discovery

Research Fellow In Experimental Quantum Optics (Uni Melb)
http://jobs.unimelb.edu.au/caw/en/job/903838/research-fellow-in-experimental-quantum-optics

Quantum Systems Engineer (Syd)
https://www.seek.com.au/job/51394784?type=standout#searchRequestToken=9f43d31e-ca92-471f-8bb3-d9871805c36a

PhD/MSc opportunities:

CSIRO/RMIT Masters by Research
https://www.csiro.au/en/Careers/Studentships/RMIT

The Vienna Doctoral School in Physics is offering 11 fully funded PhD positions in Physics based at the University of Vienna, Austria: https://vds-physics.univie.ac.at/admission/

QUT PhD Scholarship in Physics-informed Lattice Boltzmann Modelling https://www.qut.edu.au/study/fees-and-scholarships/scholarships/phd-scholarship-in-physics-informed-lattice-boltzmann-modelling