One of the year’s highlights for me as AIP President is our Annual
Council Meeting, which gives us the chance to meet in person, hear about what our interstate colleagues are up to, and share our vision for the coming year for the AIP.
For me it’s exciting to see the volume of activity being managed through the state branches of the AIP. Not just in the traditional talk formats—where we continue to share some of the newest and best research from around the country—but also events such as physics in the pub, careers nights and debates, which encourage interaction and sharing of ideas.
One of the reasons that physics is able to feature at the highest levels of international science, and at the highest levels of public recognition, is because of the quality of grass-roots activities like these. The Council Meeting is a great way to bring to light some of this work, which can otherwise get overlooked, and to recognise its value.
Reflecting on another grass-roots activity—our first Summer Meeting—I think we can be pleased with the outcome for this first-time event. The low-cost event featured many opportunities for our early-career researchers and students, whilst also providing a collaborative and informative space for productive discussions. I want to thank those who put time and effort into bringing this event to fruition, and I am sure there will be more discussions about how we make the most of this event in the future. Meanwhile, it’s an AIP Congress year this year, so save the dates of 9-14 December, and keep your eyes on this bulletin for calls for content.
It was also my absolute pleasure to present an award for Outstanding Service to Physics at our AGM to Brian James. Brian’s most recent contribution to physics has been editing our member-only magazine Australian Physics for the past five years. Brian deserves to be recognised wholeheartedly for the time, effort and passion he has put into the magazine during his tenure. He will be stepping away from the role in coming months. Peter Kappen and David Hoxley will be taking over the reins and I look forward to a full introduction from them in the magazine pages once they do. Read more about Brian’s award below.
And on the topic of awards, included in this bulletin are the details of a number of science prizes. I’d encourage each state branch to consider who you’ve awarded prizes to over the past 12-18 months, and to put those people forward for some of these awards. We on the National Exec will do the same. If you are working on a nomination, please let us know so we don’t double up.
President, Australian Institute of Physics
From Australia’s role in the discovery of gravitational waves, to the quantum computing wave, Professor Brian James from The University of Sydney has covered a lot in his five years as the editor of Australian Physics—the AIP’s bi-monthly, members-only magazine.
Brian embraced the editorial role within the AIP, where he created an improved editorial process which ensured on-time publication at a higher quality, while also managing to save on production costs.
Not to mention his contributions to his field as an experimental plasma physicist and his two-year stint as President of the AIP. Brian served as President of the AIP during a transition period, which saw various changes to the AIP administration; the AIP input into the Decadal Plan for Physics and the AIP response to the national draft K-10 and Senior Physics curriculums. Most recently, Brian jumped at the chance to accept the role of AIP representative on the Editorial Board of the AAPPS bulletin.
He’s also undertaking the mammoth task of getting all past editions of Australian Physics up online—you can find them here: https://aip.org.au/australian-physics
Brian’s outstanding contributions to physics were recognised at last month’s AIP AGM, where he was presented with a certificate and rousing applause.
Initiative pioneered by AIP Physics Education Group leader makes headlines
The successful physics fan will present an eight-minute entertaining presentation of any preferred medium (comedy, music, demonstrations etc.) on some aspect of physics. If it’s physics related and can capture an audience, we’ll take it.
If you know someone who fits the bill but might be shy putting their hand up, give them a gentle nudge by nominating them yourself. A presentation statement of 200 words outlining the entertaining act is all that’s required for nomination.
Nominations strictly close on Friday 1 June 2018.
On the 22 of February, AIP South Australia held a free lecture to celebrate the highest achievers in physics in the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) Stage 2 assessments.
The night was led by Professor David Ottoway from the University of Adelaide, who gave his presentation on gravitational wave detection and the birth of multi-messenger astronomy to a captivated audience.
A medal is generally awarded to the top achieving student of the year, whilst merit certificates are awarded to recognise those who achieved merit in physics in their final year of high school, in turn identifying the next generation of physicists in South Australia.
Stephanie Sonja Trinkle
Harry Thomas Clarke
In addition, 37 students were awarded Bragg certificates for having achieved merit in physics. Congratulations to all; it’s great to see so many high-achieving physics students in South Australia.
This year’s 42nd Condensed Matter and Materials meeting (endearingly nick-named the ‘Wagga’ conference) was held at Charles Sturt University where it attracted an array of international participants.
The meeting is a low-cost way to gather individuals for valuable discussion including the formation of new links over a wide range of condensed matter and materials research.
Adding some flavour to the night, the evening’s activities included an exclusive wine-tasting featuring wines solely produced at the CSU winery, an after dinner talk with Cathy Foley and a hotly-contested trivia competition.
As part of an ongoing effort to encourage and improve diversity at the Wagga meeting, gender representation statistics were tabulated and are available on the conference website. This year, the Wagga meeting achieved female/male gender parity in both Invited Speakers and Session Chairs, accentuating the diversity of the evening.
Save the date: next year’s meeting will be held from 5-8 February 2019. For information as it is announced, check here regularly.
Other Physics News & Opportunities
What we learned from Kepler and Casini; the science behind sport at the “Innovation Games”; pocket astronomy; and Indigenous Science are all on this list of events for National Science Week thanks to science week grants.
The annual event which brings science to the forefront of the country for a week has just announced its 2018 National Grant Recipients—here are some of the physics highlights:
Australian National University launched the Mike Gore Physics Education Precinct earlier this month to celebrate the Questacon founder.
This naming recognises Mike as a pioneer, leader, teacher and mentor in science communication and science centres in Australia.
Mike is a recipient of the AIP’s Award for Outstanding Service to Physics in Australia and holds many other distinctions for his service to the industry. In 2015 Mike was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia for his distinguished service to science and science communication.
During his time as a lecturer at ANU, Mike not only taught physics students, but also inspired them to love physics.
Passionate about science communication, Mike opened Questacon in 1988, making it Australia’s first interactive science centre at the time. This was a feat which saw Mike take home the 1992 Eureka Prize.
The inspiration for Questacon came from a visit to San Francisco’s Exploratorium when Mike was a lecturer in physics at ANU. Convinced that a hands-on science centre would be just as popular in Australia, Mike got to work investigating the means to establish one.
All you have to do is enter Questacon now and see for yourself what an impact Mike has had to physics and science as a discipline.
Now with this renaming, Mike will continue to inspire future generations of students for as long as the centre remains.
The responsibility involves overseeing operations of more than 50 telescopes—both national and international.
As the largest optical observatory in Australia, Siding Spring houses international research telescopes and commercially operated telescopes; labelling the observatory Australia’s foremost optical and infrared observatory.
Just to mention a few, operating out of SSO is the ANU skymapper which is charting the entire southern sky and ANU United Kingdom Schmidt Telescope, which is taking spectra for two million nearby galaxies and three million bright stars.
Director of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor Matthew Colless gave his confidence that Chris was a good match for the role, as he welcomed Dr Lidman.
“Chris is one of Australia’s leading astronomers and he will ensure Siding Spring Observatory remains Australia’s top observatory and a centre known around the world for its excellence in astronomy,” Professor Colless said.
Early in his career, Dr Lidman became well acquainted with the Atacama Desert in Chile where he spent over 12 years at Paranal Observatory, home of the “Very Large Telescope”.
Assisted by the four identical telescopes, Chris was part of a team who discovered that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating; a discovery that was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize. This discovery led to a share in the 2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize and the 2014 Breakthrough Prize. Situated amongst some of the largest mountains in South America and equipped with this discovery, Chris’ research then developed primarily into understanding the mysteries surrounding Dark Energy.
Chris completed his PHD at ANU in 1994 and will be re-joining the university from the Australian Astronomical Observatory where he is currently part of the research team.
“As a student using the telescopes at Siding Spring 25 years ago, I never imagined that I would one day be given the opportunity to be the Director of the Observatory,” Dr Lidman said.
“Siding Spring is not only a world class observatory, it is a place where we can inspire students to learn, conduct research and become the astronomers of the future.”
Aussie Physics in the News