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
#PhysicsGotMeHere: Meet Tamara Martin
Name: Tamara Martin
Employer: The Naval Shipbuilding College
Job title and description: Education and Training Director, responsible for leading the Sydney office to support the college in educating a targeted, skilled workforce for the construction and maintenance of the Australian Naval fleet.
My career story so far: I worked within UNSW’s semiconductor nanofabrication facilities as part of my Honours project in quantum physics at the University of Sydney (USyd). I was then offered a role as Process Engineer at the Australian National Fabrication Facility.
From there, I observed the untapped potential of university research that was sitting, waiting to be shared with industry for application. I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of the CEO and Board Members to learn about the business operations. I shifted my focus to MBA rather than PhD and took a job with setting up Sydney Nano, a multidisciplinary institute, at USyd. During this time, I commenced my MBA and was using my workplace as a test bed for my business learnings.
I then moved over to a Government role, within the Ministry of Health, where I managed complaints about healthcare professionals. This insight into the health sector was an appropriate segue to my role within the Quality Department at Cochlear. After one year and well timed with the completion of my MBA, I took the role as Industry and Innovation Manager for the UNSW’s Faculty of Engineering. Here I enjoyed building new connections and strengthening earlier relationships to build a dynamic network of like-minded (and not so like-minded) individuals to bounce ideas off and grow our understanding of how to innovate and bring value to industry from the role of a university.
This led me to meet the Director of the Naval Shipbuilding Institute, where this current role became available.
What I have learned is to always keep an open mind about what may appear as an opportunity, to leverage your network and build a strong cohort of mentors.
Meet the sponsors: Lastek Pty Ltd
Lastek is one of our sponsors and an exclusive distributor for leading manufacturers in the photonics marketplace such as Toptica, Light Conversion, Gentec-EO and Thorlabs and many others; and have installed their equipment at leading institutions across Australia and New Zealand. Their portfolio covers a vast range of applications, from spectroscopy to atom optics, microscopy to advanced manufacturing and more. Being in the business for over 33 years Lastek has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the photonics area.
For more information, please see their website: www.lastek.com.au
We welcome the opportunity to build relationships with relevant organisations. If you are interested in sponsoring the AIP, please get in touch with me.
Advocacy: AIP submits response to Federal Government’s university research paper
We would like to thank all members who have provided opinions in response to our call for comments on the Federal Government’s consultation paper on the commercialisation of university research.
The submission of the AIP, developed by the National Executive, can be found here. In essence, our it makes the following point:
“The AIP strongly supports the idea of creating stronger links and closer partnerships between Australian industry and universities. As such, the AIP is supportive of the government’s proposal.
“However, the AIP is clear in its opinion that the value of university research activity is far broader than the scale of the economic return of commercialisation activities. The foundation for successful commercialisation is excellent research, hence any attempt at increasing commercialisation should go hand in hand with stronger support for fundamental research excellence.”
Highlights from Science Meets Parliament
Science Meets Parliament (SmP) was held in March. This year it comprised a series of online events, attended overall by almost 300 scientists and 60 Federal MPs. Here are some highlights, reported by Kirrily Rule and Jayden Newstead.
“I enjoyed this format thoroughly. It involved shorter sessions, which made it much easier to attend among work and family commitments. The extended program was in conjunction with two full days of focused sessions, which featured seminars on topics such as ‘How to speak to a Parliamentarian’ and ‘How to be a great ambassador for the STEM sector’. There was a lot of great advice given by panellists and attendees.
“The absolute highlight for me was the National Press Club address by Cathy Foley. I always love to hear Cathy speak and her words for progressing science in Australia were inspirational.
“There were plenty of opportunities to socialise and network, including evening sessions that involved some fantastic speakers and Zoom break-out rooms. The people I met through this structure were all highly engaging and enthusiastic – and, like most scientists, curious about what everyone else was working on.
“I think I most benefited from the discussions revolving around how (and when) to present your science to the media – and how best to present high level scientific achievements in terms that the public will understand and be interested in. It’s training that I have put to good use just recently.”
“This year I had the privilege of representing the AIP at SmP. The event started by providing a crash course in science communication/advocacy and the workings of government for the STEM professionals.
“As a first-time delegate I wasn’t sure what to expect from the event, but was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of topics and issues covered.
“For me, the highlight of the meeting was the (virtual) face-to-face meeting with a parliamentarian. Along with two others, I was fortunate to be paired with the Hon. Richard Marles, shadow Minister for Science. Richard has long been an advocate for STEM in Australia, being one of the few frontbenchers to hold a STEM degree himself. In 2012 he and the Hon Karen Andrews founded the Parliamentary Friends of Science. We talked about our research, how scientists can improve how they communicate to parliamentarians, his dismay at the lack of interest in science within parliament and the role of fundamental science in innovation.
“It was great to see many bright, young faces from diverse backgrounds engaging with each other and the Australian government. I am deeply grateful to the AIP for their support and for giving me this unique opportunity. I wholeheartedly encourage others to attend SmP in the future, we need as many physics advocates as possible.”
2021 Women in Physics Lecturer
Keeping astronauts safe from radiation damage on the long haul to Mars is the focus of Associate Professor Susanna Guatelli’s research.
Nuclear physicist Susanna, based at The University of Wollongong, is this year’s AIP Women in Physics Lecturer. Her Australian tour kicked off in late April, and continues this month, starting in Victoria.
She will be giving talks there between 11 and 13 May, followed by Queensland in the final week of the month. Dates in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia fall in August and September.
Exact times and locations were still being finalised as this bulletin went to press, but please check here for updated details.
By the way, the search is already underway for our 2022 Women In Physics lecturer. If you have suggestions for outstanding and inspiring scientists who might relish the role – especially if they are based overseas – please drop us a line at email@example.com
|VIC||11 – 13 May|
|QLD||26 – 28 May|
|TAS||8 – 11 August|
|SA||23 – 27 August|
|WA||31 August – 2 September|
Are university councils failing academics?
Reducing the number of academics on university councils means less focus on education and research, said the AIP’s Special Project Officer for Policy, Associate Professor Gerd Schröder-Turk, in a recent article in Australian Universities’ Review.
Professor Schroeder-Turk was responding to Western Australian legislation that cuts the number of academics on university councils, or senates, to just one, throwing more weight and influence on to corporate and administrative representatives.
He is the lone academic rep on the governing board of Murdoch University.
In his article, he argues that the current selection process for WA university council members produces a bias that continuously erodes protection for academics and their work.
Selection processes vary from state to state. Schroeder-Turk is keen to spark debate around Australia. He asks for AIP members in the tertiary sector to check the legislation that shapes their council formation, and join the discussion by contacting him on firstname.lastname@example.org
More physics awards and opportunities
Nominations for two AIP gongs closing soon
Mark your diaries and get a wriggle on: nominations for two major AIP awards close on 1 June.
The Walter Boas Medal rewards excellence in physics research conducted in Australia in the past five years.
Hopefuls must provide evidence of published and pre-print papers, and be prepared to deliver a seminar and write an article for Australian Physics.
Full details here.
The Outstanding Service to Physics in Australia Award rewards exactly what it says on the tin, and seeks to recognise up to three individuals each year who have served or promoted the discipline with particular aplomb.
Nominations can be made by branch committees, or by three AIP members.
More details here.
The Royal Society announces Royal Society Wolfson Fellowship
Implanting atoms into semiconductor chips is one plausible route to designing a billion-qubit quantum computer.
It’s a quest that dominates the research of AIP Fellow Professor David Jamieson from the University of Melbourne. Last month his hard work was recognised by the Royal Society, which award him one of eight Wolfson Fellowships.
David is a chief investigator and program manager within the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology.
His work addresses the challenge of finding pathways to building a very large-scale quantum computer device where robust logical qubits are encoded in clusters of atomic qubits.
Applications for next year’s Wolfson fellowships open later this month. Details here.
Winter Vacation Internships at University of Melbourne
The University of Melbourne’s Laby Research Scholarships provide outstanding students with a supervised introduction to research in physics.
The program is aimed at second or third years who are considering enrolment in postgraduate studies, and wish to gain research experience.
Applications open in the next few days, and close on June 4. For details, see here.
News from Australian Physics magazine
What’s a toroidal analyser? Find out in the next issue of Australian Physics magazine!
The next issue of Australian Physics is in preparation and will be out soon.
It will include a special feature on the toroidal analyser end-station at the Australian Synchrotron. Look out too for story by Anne Roberts, winner of the AIP’s Alan Walsh Medal, on her research into plasmonics and structural colour.
And, of course, you can enjoy all the regular features, such as #Physicsgotmehere, reflections from the AIP President and Executive, the Young Physicists’ page, and physics news from around the world.
More details in the next bulletin.
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 email@example.com
FROM THE VAULT: stories from The Australian Physicist
This month in 1984: Looking for the edge of the universe
Early last year a team of Australian and British astronomers concluded that the universe is a little bit larger and a little bit older than previously thought. They reached this conclusion when they detected an object that may be 18 billion light years – that is 17 x 1023km – from earth. It’s the most distant object found as yet, and it’s moving even further away from us at close to the speed of light.
The discovery came just 50 years after a chance finding that led to a revolution in astronomy. During 1932, a Bell Laboratories scientist was trying to track down sources of interference in trans-Atlantic telephone connections. When he pointed his antennae at the sky, it became obvious that the Milky Way itself was one source of interference. It seemed that our earth is constantly bathed in radio noise, and a new tool for probing the mysteries of our universe – the radio-telescope – had been discovered.
World War II broke the pace of development, but research into radar and electronics had direct application to radio-astronomy, and in the post-war years scientists incorporated the new technology into radio-telescopes constructed in Australia, the United States, Britain, and Europe.
Read the full story here.
Australian physics in the news
Australian student, 21, solves quantum computing mystery that baffled global experts for 20 years – and now Amazon and Yale are using his code
An Australian student has cracked a quantum computing mystery that theoretical physicists around the world have been perplexed by for decades.
Pablo Bonilla, 21, found a way to improve code-writing for supercomputers while he was working on a physics assignment at the University of Sydney.
The second-year student’s ingenious discovery has now drawn the eyes of Yale University in the US and the world’s largest tech company Amazon – who plan to start using his code.
Read more here.
Gender equality in astronomy could take 60 years to achieve
Without affirmative action, it could take another 60 years or more before women make up a third of Australia’s astronomers, according to award-winning astronomer Professor Lisa Kewley.
“Women in physics and astronomy report that their careers progress more slowly and that they received fewer career resources and opportunities than men,” she writes in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Read more here.
Free-space laser link beats the stability of optical clocks
Physicists in Australia have demonstrated how to create an exceptionally stable laser link to send frequency information through the atmosphere. The researchers say that fluctuations in the laser’s frequency are so miniscule that after just a few seconds of averaging such a link could be used to flawlessly transmit timing signals from the world’s most accurate optical clocks. This, they argue, offers the prospect of a global timing network that uses satellites to synchronize optical frequencies between continents.
Read more here.
Outback radio telescope discovers dense, spinning, dead star
Research finds a potential new “silver bullet” nanoparticle to treat brain cancer
Funding NEMO: The case for a gravitational wave detection observatory in Australia
$64.4 million for WA to process signals from the dawn of time
Exciting exciton breakthrough
Physicists find a brighter way to diagnose quantum states
Jobs corner – physics employment opportunities
Sydney Quantum Academy PhD Scholarships
Want a career in quantum? Applications are now open for Sydney Quantum Academy PhD Scholarships. Work alongside world-leading quantum experts, supported by a competitive stipend of up to AU$35k pa.
Scholarships offer access to the SQA PhD Experience Program which hosts a growing community of quantum PhD students from across Sydney.
Students have the unique opportunity to undertake coursework across SQA’s four partner universities, including: Macquarie University, UNSW Sydney, the University of Sydney, and the University of Technology Sydney.
SQA’s program provides specialised training, seminars, workshops and networking opportunities to gain a competitive edge in quantum’s future workforce.
Apply by 5 May 2021. Visit http://bit.ly/SQAPhDR4
Australian Government Department of Defence: APS Level 4/5-6 Radiological Scientist
As a team member you will contribute to the science team that provides support, training, advice and R&D for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The team provides training in radiation detection and safety to specialised units within the ADF and also provides testing of equipment in support of Defence acquisition programs. More details: https://bit.ly/3exHoDP
The AIP is happy to provide a free link to your physics-related job or PhD opportunity. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to feature more details and a picture, please email Kirrily Rule for more information and pricing.
Mathematical Statisticians, Data Scientists and Data Collection Methodologists (Australian Bureau of Statistics – multiple locations)
Data scientist (one of 200+ similar positions)
Physics Teacher (one of many similar positions)
Experimental Scientist – Mineralogy CSIRO (Melbourne)
Space Systems Engineer CSIRO
Lecturer in Quantum Science (PHYSICS – Continuing Positing) Uni Syd
Postdoctoral Associate in biophysics and biophotonics (Uni Syd)
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Quantum (UQ)
Research Associate – Gravitational Wave (UWA)
Materials Development Research Scientist
Research Fellow – School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials (Adelaide) https://careers.adelaide.edu.au/cw/en/job/505382/externallyfunded-research-fellow-ab-school-of-chemical-engineering-and-advanced-materials
Telescope Operations Specialist (Hobart)
Research Fellow In Gravitational Wave Discovery (Uni Melb)
Scientific Officer – Materials and Manufacturing Futures Institute (UNSW)
Scientific Applications Developer (Perth)
Lead Atomic Physicist – Nomad Atomics (Canberra)
CSIRO/RMIT Masters by Research
QUT PhD Scholarship in Physics-informed Lattice Boltzmann Modelling
University of Newcastle PhD Scholarship modelling explosive energy release in the Sun’s atmosphere https://www.newcastle.edu.au/study/research/phd-scholarships/phd-scholarships/modelling-explosive-energy-release-in-the-suns-atmosphere
PhD opportunities in quantum nanoscience and precision measurement