Australia’s Quantum Future, Physicists Honoured, Hidden Physicist, Physics in the News, and more physics fun in June

As COVID-19 continues to shape our lives it is heartening to see the Australian scientific community rising to the challenge.

AIP is a member of Science and Technology Australia, which is part of the Rapid Research Information Forum collaboration led by Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel. I encourage you to read through the rapid response reports provided to government. You can find them here.

And with COVID in mind we have extended the time to nominate a colleague or student for an AIP medal or award. See below.

We’ve published a list of our AIP Fellows. You can apply to become a Fellow of the AIP by completing the online application form.

Read on, too, to meet our Hidden Physicist for the month. Matthew Wiggins is a health physicist providing radiation science solutions to the Queensland Government, as well as to public and private sector clients.

I congratulate all the new Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science who were recently announced. I was delighted to see physics was well represented. Congratulations to three AIP members – Cathy Foley, Ping Koy Lam, Tim Bedding – who were elected this round. See below for details.

I also congratulate Professor Warwick Bowen on being the recipient of the 2020 Barry Inglis Medal from the National Measurement Institute, and ANU student Marika Niihori who will be heading to the UK with a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Read about them further on.

Recently Cathy Foley launched the National Quantum Roadmap, which started from a meeting at an AIP congress back in 2016. We’re holding an online forum, discussing the future of quantum technology in Australia, on June 4. In July, there is another, on the future of the gravitational wave detector. Read on for details.

From missing matter to a cosmic ring of fire, there have been some excellent stories of Australian physics in the news recently. You can find a good selection below.

And of course, you’ll find listings for exciting physics jobs.

Kind regards,
Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics

AIP News

AIP FLEET Seminar Series: Quantum Engineering and Gravitational Waves are the next ARC Centre talks

These are the latest in a monthly series of talks from physics-themed Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence, with subjects ranging from condensed matter and quantum technology to astronomy, co-organised by the AIP and the Centre for Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET).
June – The future of quantum engineering, with Professor Andrew White
You’re invited to a live-streamed talk looking at the international state of play in quantum technology, where Australia sits, and what the quantum community in Australia might want to do next. Delivered by Professor Andrew White, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS).
Join us online 11am Thursday 4 June | zoom-link.
July – The OzGrav High Frequency (OzHF) gravitational wave detector with Paul Lasky
July’s live-streamed talk will discuss the highly collaborative and cross-disciplinary endeavour that is investigating the scientific drivers, technical requirements, and cost of a mid-scale detector that investigates high-frequency gravitational waves to better understand the physics of binary neutron stars. Presented by Paul Lasky from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav).
Join us online 10am Friday 3 July | More details here.

#PhysicsGotMeHere: Hidden Physicists – featuring Matthew Wiggins

Employer:  Radiation and Nuclear Sciences – Queensland Health

Job and description:  Health Physicist – I provide radiation science-based solutions to Queensland Government, public and private sector clients. Some tasks require me to travel around Queensland to do radiological surveys of different sites.

These can range from travelling to historical mine sites where mineral sand activities might have been done, to laboratories using radiopharmaceuticals. In some special cases I even had to travel interstate to Tasmania for a radiological survey.

I really enjoy my work as it allows me to apply my studies, travel around Queensland and learning that radiation is used in many different fields and purposes ranging from medical and industrial applications all the way down to simple home appliance like smoke alarms.

My career story so far:

Before I started university I did an online course through the University of Pittsburgh, just to get a taste to see if I would enjoy this field. After realising I did enjoy it all I started my undergraduate degree in science, majoring in physics at the Queensland University of Technology, where I was the president of the QUT physics society and a member of the AIP.

After graduating I took a small break from studies and decided if I could not find a job within the next six months I would start a degree in medical physics. I ended up getting a job at Safe Radiation as a Technical/Scientific officer.

During my time there I joined other societies, such as the South Pacific Environmental Radioactivity Association (SPERA) and the Australasian Radiation Protection Society (ARPS). At one of the ARPS meeting in Queensland there was the advertisement for my current role at Radiation and Nuclear Sciences – Queensland Health. That was only 8 months ago!

Please email if you’d like to nominate a ‘hidden’ physicist for us to profile.

Become a Fellow of the AIP (FAIP)

If you have made significant contributions to physics in Australia consider applying to become an AIP Fellow. Current members can apply to upgrade to this level. If you are not an AIP member but meet the requirements, then you are able to join directly as a Fellow.

Relevant contributions normally include at least 10 years professional experience in:

  1. research and/or teaching,
  2. applications of physics in industry,
  3. leadership in industry or government,
  4. outreach and service to physics. 

You can apply to become a Fellow of the AIP by completing the online application form.

A list of our current Fellows who have agreed to have their names public can be found here:

AIP members elected as Fellows of the Academy of Science

Congratulations to the physicists who were elected as Fellows of the Academy of Science (AAS). This year three AIP members were among the crop.

AAS Fellows are among the nation’s most distinguished scientists, elected by their peers for ground-breaking research and contributions that have had clear impact.

Each year the Academy honours up to 20 new Fellows by ‘Ordinary Election’ and up to four additional Fellows by ‘Special Election’.

Dr Cathy Foley FAA FTSE
Dr Cathy Foley’s research is in the field of solid-state physics and its applications, combining quantum physics, material science and research translation.

She worked on the development of blue-green semiconductor lasers which contributed to the development of blue LEDs. In the 1990s she and her team led the development of field-deployable superconducting devices that locate valuable mineral deposits by detecting minute magnetic fields ten million times weaker than the Earth’s field.

Dr Foley is a past president of both the AIP and Science and Technology Australia. She is now the Chief Scientist at CSIRO and an Academy of Technology and Engineering Fellow.

Read more here:

Professor Ping Koy Lam FAA
Professor Ping Koy Lam from the Australian National University co-founded QuintessenceLabs, Australia’s first company that commercialises quantum communication technologies.

His work is used to protect sensitive information, improve computing capabilities and sharpen measurement precision.

Read more here:

Professor Tim Bedding FAA
Professor Tim Bedding from the University of Sydney improves our understanding of the inner workings of stars by studying their natural oscillations, in a process called asteroseismology.

His team recently puzzled out the pulsations of a previously elusive class, the Delta Scuti stars.

Read more here:

You can find the full list of 2020 Academy of Science Fellows here:

AIP Awards and Prizes

Extension of closing date for AIP Prize nominations

Given the demands on everyone’s time in these unusual days, the executive has decided to extend the closing date for nominations for the AIP Awards in 2020. A reminder too that the AIP strives to have representation that encompasses the diversity of gender, cultures and experiences of our members. It is our goal to identify and nurture these future leaders of the organisation and ensure they are celebrated.

Nominations for the Boas, Massey, Walsh, Education, Payne-Scott and Outstanding service to physics awards will now close at 5pm AEST on 15 June 2020.

Nominations for the Bragg and Laby awards close at 5pm AEST on 1 July 2020 (to be directed to your local State Branch).

AIP Awards and Prizes

The AIP celebrate the best in Australian physics through their AIP medals. Each of these awards recognise outstanding contribution to physics as a discipline.

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. 

More details can be found at

2020 NSW Community Outreach to Physics Award
This award is open to those in NSW. It consists of $1000, and a certificate citing achievements. It is proudly supported by Laboratories Credit Union.
Nominations close on Friday, 9 October. See here for details.

More honours for Australian physicists

Quantum physicist and defence scientist take out top awards on World Metrology Day

To mark World Metrology Day on Wednesday 20 May, the Australian National Measurement Institute (NMI) Chief Executive Officer and Chief Metrologist Dr Bruce Warrington announced the recipients of the Barry Inglis Medal and NMI Prize.

For his role in the development of quantum technologies and innovative practical solutions to the benefit of measurement science the Barry Inglis Medal winner was Professor Warwick Bowen from the University of Queensland.

The award recognises Professor Bowen’s work developing ground-breaking sensors, enabling the study of individual molecules, medical imaging, and mineral exploration.

These awards are presented annually and recognise significant contributions to measurement science, research and leadership. This year’s recipients highlight the broad range of organisations undertaking and applying measurement research in Australia.

The recipient of the NMI Prize this year was Dr Renée Webster, a Department of Defence Science and Technology Group chemist, in recognition of her work developing new analytical approaches to improve our understanding of the complex chemistry of fuels at high temperatures and trace impurities produced prior to combustion.

In light of the advice from the World Health Organisation and the Australian Federal Government, the 2020 International Conference on the Physics of Semiconductors (ICPS) has been postponed.  

ANU physicist receives Gates Cambridge Scholarship

 ANU student Marika Niihori has been awarded one of 77 prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarships.

The scholarship will allow Marika to continue her research as a physics PhD student at the University of Cambridge, where she hopes to build new nanoscale molecule detectors called ‘biosensors’.

“These ultra-sensitive biosensors would detect hormones and other key molecules in biofluids,” she said. “It’s a step towards creating compact, personalised medical and wearable sensors.”

During her research-intensive ANU Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours), Marika says she became fascinated with the intersection between physics and biology: “Even from first year, I was exposed to cutting-edge technology here at ANU. Research is my passion, and I’ve always enjoyed the aspect of introducing medicine into physics.”

She previously worked with the ANU Research School of Physics to understand and improve nanowire LED technology. Combined with her passion for helping people, she hopes to take a new leap into the frontier of nanotechnology during her PhD.

Other physics opportunities

News from Science and Technology Australia (STA) 

Did you know that membership of the AIP includes membership of STA? Check out some of the benefits here. They include:

A new How-To Get Started with Social Media Guide has been published on STA’s Member Resources webpage. This is a practical guide on how to get the most out of your social media engagement. It can be accessed through the STA Member Portal. (If you don’t have an existing account, sign up for one here.)

STA webinar: How to ‘Marie Kondo’ Your Writing 
This webinar will be run by Science & Technology Australia CEO and long-time journalist and speechwriter Misha Schubert.

Duration: 45-60 mins via Zoom
Date: Tuesday 23 June – 11.00AM (AEST)
Cost: STA Members $50.00 (+ GST) 

National Quantum Roadmap

CSIRO has released the National Quantum Roadmap, which outlines a vision to create a thriving quantum technology industry, including a turnover of $4 billion annually and 16,000 jobs by 2040.

Growing Australia’s Quantum Technology Industry outlines the opportunities that the sector can unlock for Australia.

The Roadmap was prepared by CSIRO Futures, under the direction of the organisation’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley.

The report can be downloaded here:

Australian physics in the news

Cosmic bursts unveil Universe’s missing matter

Astronomers have used mysterious fast radio bursts to solve a decades-old mystery of ‘missing matter’, long predicted to exist in the Universe but never detected—until now.

The researchers have now found all of the missing ‘normal’ matter in the vast space between stars and galaxies. The discovery is reported in the journal Nature.

Lead author Associate Professor Jean-Pierre Macquart, from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), said astronomers have been searching for the missing matter for almost thirty years.

“We know from measurements of the Big Bang how much matter there was in the beginning of the Universe,” he said.

“But when we looked out into the present Universe, we couldn’t find half of what should be there. It was a bit of an embarrassment.”

“Intergalactic space is very sparse,” he said. “The missing matter was equivalent to only one or two atoms in a room the size of an average office.”

“So it was very hard to detect this matter using traditional techniques and telescopes.”

The researchers were able to directly detect the missing matter using the phenomenon known as fast radio bursts—brief flashes of energy that appear to come from random directions in the sky and last for just milliseconds.

Scientists don’t yet know what causes them, but it must involve incredible energy, equivalent to the amount released by the Sun in 80 years. They have been difficult to detect as astronomers don’t know when and where to look for them.

Read the full story here:

Astronomers see ‘cosmic ring of fire’, 11 billion years ago

Astronomers have captured an image of a super-rare type of galaxy – described as a “cosmic ring of fire” – as it existed 11 billion years ago.

The galaxy, which has roughly the mass of the Milky Way, is circular with a hole in the middle, rather like a titanic doughnut.

Its discovery, announced in the journal Nature Astronomy, is set to shake up theories about the earliest formation of galactic structures and how they evolve.

Lead researcher Dr Tiantian Yuan, from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) said, “It is a very curious object that we’ve never seen before, it looks strange and familiar at the same time.”

The galaxy, named R5519, is 11 billion light-years from our Solar System.

And the hole at its centre is truly gigantic, with a diameter two billion times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. To put it another way, it is three million times bigger than the diameter of the supermassive black hole in the galaxy Messier 87, which in 2019 became the first ever to be directly imaged.

“It is making stars at a rate 50 times greater than the Milky Way. Most of that activity is taking place on its ring – so it truly is a ring of fire,” said Dr Yuan.

Read the full story here:

In brief

Splitting quasiparticles with temperature: the fate of an impurity in a BEC
Op-Ed: Focus and scale key to delivering game-changing impact
Australia to make quantum leap in quantum tech research
‘Atmospheric river’ 2000km long wallops Western Australia, heads east
A laser that could really make waves
Light, sound, action: extending the life of acoustic waves on microchips
No, NASA didn’t find a parallel universe where time runs backward

Jobs Corner – physics employment opportunities

The AIP is happy to provide a free link to your physics-related job or PhD opportunity. Please send them to If you would like to feature more details and a picture, please email Kirrily Rule for more information and pricing. 

Postdoctoral Research Associate – Physics (UNSW, Sydney)
Field Service Engineer
Data Scientist
Science Curriculum Writer – Stile
Australian Correspondence Schools – Academic or Trainee -Physics, IT or Engineering
Technical Intelligence Assessment Analyst (multiple positions) Department of Defence
Medical Physics Specialist
Teacher – Science/Physics
Beamline Scientist – Advanced Diffraction & Scattering Beamline, Australian Synchrotron
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Transient Astronomy  (Swinburne University)
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Molecular Tribology (Swinburne University)
Student scholarships/top-ups/internships
2021 Graduate Institute Industry Foundations Scholarship ANSTO
Development Internship – Python, Summer 2020/2021

PhD scholarship: ANSTO/Uni Syd/ANU

Industry project & PhD scholarship for a student with materials science/engineering background, interest in residual stress & neutron scattering.