All posts by ScienceInPublic

New Fellows, old lacrosse teams and how to get to Mars

The humanitarian crisis in India and the current lockdown in Melbourne continue to highlight the need for accessible vaccines around the world — and a large uptake across the population where they are available. Australia is fortunate to be in the latter situation and it is positive to see that future mRNA therapeutics development has been identified as a priority.
Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist and past AIP president, will chair the 7th International Union of Pure and Applied Physics International Conference on Women in Physics, to be held virtually between 11 and 15 July. The AIP delegation will be led by Pegah Maasoumi from Swinburne University. It was great seeing the recent coverage by the ABC on the participation of women in physics in different countries, featuring Prof Mahananda Dasgupta from ANU.
The AIP Summer Meeting (6-12 December) will feature 11 streams covering the broad spectrum of academic and industrial physics activities in Australia. In parallel to the regular Scientific Program, members are invited to send submissions for focused streams on cutting edge research themes. Cut-off date is 14 June.
In 2022, the AIP Congress will be held in Adelaide at the Convention Centre from 11 to 15 December. A COVID-related shift of the event meant it was not possible to secure the first week in December, as originally planned.  
Congratulations to our colleagues Susan Coppersmith FAA, John Sader FAA, and Gregory Clark AC FAA FTSE for their election to the Australian Academy of Science. Read on for more.
If you know a student who has demonstrated ‘excellence in physics’, consider nominating them for the Bragg or Laby medal. There is also a winter vacation internship, and the Science Olympiad is open for registration.
We profile John Innis from EPA Tasmania who co-ordinates the ambient air pollution measurement program. He tells us how #PhysicsGotMeHere.
This month, back in 1980, our magazine Australian Physics had a story about William Bragg in Adelaide and a photo of him and his lacrosse team. Back in 2021, our next edition magazine includes a feature on the toroidal analyser end-station at the Australian Synchrotron.
We’re on the look-out for a co-editor for the magazine so if that sounds like you, please get in touch.
And finally, a big thanks to Zurich Instruments, who develop and sell measurement instruments, for sponsoring the AIP.

Kind regards,
Sven Rogge
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading New Fellows, old lacrosse teams and how to get to Mars

Return to campus, Women in Physics, Science meets Parliament, and lots more in May

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.

Kind regards,
Sven Rogge
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading Return to campus, Women in Physics, Science meets Parliament, and lots more in May

Nanotech, patents, time travel and April physics fun

There is still time to have your say on the AIP’s submission to the Federal Government’s consultation on commercialising university research.

In February this year the Department of Education, Skills and Employment released a paper on the topic, inviting input.

Our Special Project Officer for Policy, Associate Professor Gerd Schröder-Turk, organised a member poll to seek responses. You’ll find our draft submission here . We will submit it at midday AEST on Friday, April 9.

The AIP Council and AGM were held virtually this year, and attracted such a good turn-up that we have decided to use virtual formats for all future AGMs.

At the Council meeting the idea of an advisory board was developed. Its purpose will be to advise the AIP executive on how to engage with, initially, potential industry partners. We’re seeking nominations for this project from industry and government, so if you’re interested please get in touch with me.

Speaking of meetings, from this year on, the AIP Congress and Summer Meeting will now be held in the first week of December. The two events are biennial and will alternate with each other. Read on for details of the next Summer Meeting , which will be held in Brisbane 6-9 December.

It was good to hear Dr Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist and former AIP President, specify physics as one of the country’s four foundational issues in her recent National Press Club address. The way science is practised, she noted, will be transformed by artificial intelligence and quantum technologies. You can read her speech here.

Dr Foley also took the time to acknowledge ANU physicist Professor Ken Baldwin for his leading role in establishing Science Meets Parliament, the annual series of encounters between researchers and MPs. This year’s event concludes April 1.

Professor Baldwin was the 2019 winner of the AIP’s Award for Outstanding Service to Physics in Australia. Nominations for this year’s award are now open. We’ll have more details in next month’s bulletin.

On the subject of awards, congratulations to Professors Cathryn Trott and David McClelland, who have both been honoured by the Australian Academy of Science. See below for details for those and other awards.

In this edition we feature patent attorney Phil Burns in #Physicsgotmehere; nanotech in optics is the next livestreamed event; you have the chance to access a free copy of Physics World; and, of course, material both old and new from our own magazine, Australian Physics.

Kind regards,

Sven Rogge
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading Nanotech, patents, time travel and April physics fun

Physics in a pandemic, South Korea ties; send your science selfies

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and state leaders have depended on the expert advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. One of its members include a physicist.

You can meet him in this month’s #PhysicsGotMeHere profile below.

The AIP extends hearty congratulations to University of Queensland physicist Professor Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop – who last month became the first woman to be awarded the US Optical Society’s C.E.K. Mees Medal.

Make a note in your diary to join Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley and a star-studded physics cast for the 2021 Frontiers of Science Forum, on next week. Read on for details.

Read on, too, for news of our forthcoming Summer Meeting, committee opportunities, a prize nomination and new collaborations with colleagues in southeast Asia.

The next issue of the AIP’s print magazine, Australian Physics, will be available soon. While you wait for your copy to arrive, check out this month’s ‘From the Vault’ story’ below.

You may have noticed that the AIP’s Facebook page became a victim of the tech giant’s purge of Australian news sites last month. We’re happy to report that it’s now back online and urge you, if you haven’t already, to check it out and follow us. You can find it here.

Sloshing quantum fluids and puffy galaxies were just two of the Australian physics research stories to make the news last month. Read on for these and more.

And, of course, in this issue you’ll find news of interesting jobs, interesting meetings and many other matters that make up the physics ecosystem in this country. Enjoy!

Kind regards,

Sven Rogge
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading Physics in a pandemic, South Korea ties; send your science selfies

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

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

New Chief Scientist appointed, Dirac Medal awarded, and Hidden Physicist discovered

Welcome to the final bulletin for 2020 and my final bulletin as AIP president. At our council meeting in February 2021 I will step aside as we welcome Professor Sven Rogge (UNSW Physics) as incoming president, and Professor Nicole Bell (UniMelb Physics) as vice president.

I wish them all the very best. I’m thrilled that the AIP has such a solid leadership team moving forward. Also, can I say what an honour and privilege it was to serve in this role. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard over the past few years to make the AIP so strong.

Last month saw some significant awards and appointments, not the least of which was the welcome news that former AIP president Dr Cathy Foley is set to become Australia’s next Chief Scientist. See our story below.

The AIP was also proud to be co-sponsor of this year’s Dirac Medal, which was presented to Professor Susan Scott from ANU’s Department of Quantum Science.

ANSTO’s new Centre for Accelerator Science has a new leader, Dr Ceri Brenner.

You’ll find more about her, Professor Scott and a slew of other physicists doing marvellous things in this issue.

You’ll also get to meet this month’s Hidden Physicist – Tasmania’s Nicola Ramm – and catch up on the latest physics research happening around the country.

Plus, there are some jobs to be found, and another story from the Australian Physicist vaults.

And a reminder that it’s time to renew your AIP membership. For a quick and easy way to do so, please go here.

Finally, this month’s picture was taken for a media release on making diamonds at room temperature. You’ll find the story below.

I wish you a relaxed and enjoyable holiday period, and sincerely hope that 2021 will be a calmer year for us all.   

Kind regards,
Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading New Chief Scientist appointed, Dirac Medal awarded, and Hidden Physicist discovered

The PM’s Prizes, online gigs galore, new links with Korea and more physics news for November

Since our last bulletin we had the announcement of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics which was of course awarded to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for work on Black Holes. I was delighted to see Andrea Ghez being honoured as the fourth women to win a Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, announced last week, saw physics very well represented. Congratulations to David Blair, Susan Scott, David McClelland, Peter Veitch and Xiaojing Hao. I was especially thrilled to hear this news given David and Susan joined us online last month to discuss the result of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics. You’ll find a link to a recording below if you missed it.

Coming up this week there are several online AIP talks and panels around the country, including three Zoom events and talks organised by the NSW branch. This replaces the regular AIP Industry Day at CSIRO and there is a strong career development theme in the first event Three Faces of Physics on Tuesday 3 November. Register here. We are also hosting an online discussion with Dietmar Dommenget from ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes on November 6, at 11am AEST. See below.

Read on, too, to meet this month’s latest Hidden Physicist, Leon Smith.

For physics film buffs, we have five double passes to give away to the new movie, Radioactive, which charts the life of Marie Curie.

We are also looking for an eye-catching physics picture for our 2021 letterhead – please send in your physics pics now! In 2020 we featured ANU Physicist Cormac Corr and a pretty purple plasma. What physics will feature in the AIP’s 2021 communications? See below for details.

On more serious matters, the AIP is proud to announce a new working relationship with a prestigious physics institution in Korea, and our colleagues over at Science & Technology Australia have just released an important survey of the fears and plans of Australian scientists. Details below.

Teachers and researchers might like to note that we’ve added a new section to our website, which is chock full of teaching tools, information packages and handy contacts. Check it out at

Finally, I was delighted to celebrate ‘double donut day’ (zero COVID cases, zero COVID deaths) in Victoria last week and the resulting relaxing of lockdown. Thus, this month’s image is of the Australian Synchrotron – Melbourne’s biggest double donut (as pointed out in this tweet by Jessica Hamilton). Well done Victorians and let’s keep up the physical distancing, handing washing, and mask wearing!

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading The PM’s Prizes, online gigs galore, new links with Korea and more physics news for November

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for Black Holes

ONLINE EVENT: Wed 21 Oct 11am AEDT

Presented by Susan Scott and David Blair

Register here:

In the first half of the talk Susan will outline the development of the concept of singularities and the related notion of a black hole in General Relativity theory. She will describe Roger Penrose’s spectacular theoretical breakthrough in this field for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize. David will briefly touch on Penrose’s other work, and then present an overview of the quest to explore the centre of the Milky Way, and why it was of special interest to gravitational wave physicists. He will review the seminal contributions by Australian radio astronomy pioneers, and then outline the discoveries made by Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for which they were also co-recipients of the Nobel Prize.

Continue reading The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for Black Holes

The Nobel approaches, the Ig Nobels pass, Eureka Prize finalists, physics poetry, ET and more in October

With the Nobel Prizes to be announced shortly here is a fun Nobel Physics trivia question for you. Who is the only person to win the Physics Prize twice? When the 2020 Prize is announced we will be staging an online event to celebrate and discuss the science behind it so watch out for that announcement.

As usual the Ig Nobel’s were a stellar list of “achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Congratulations to Swinburne University’s Ivan Maksymov and Andrey Pototsky, a physicist and mathematician, for their award on their work on vibrating worms! See more below.

The AIP has been active in defence of research and teaching, and is quoted twice in the recent report of the Senate Inquiry into the Federal Government’s proposed job-ready graduates legislation. Read on for details.

I was pleased to see that physics features heavily in the finalists for this year’s Eureka Prizes. You’ll find several examples below. Good luck to all involved! And don’t forget the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, coming up at the end of the month.

In this month’s bulletin you’ll meet our latest Hidden Physicist, Shermiyah Rienecker. I was particularly fascinated to hear how Shermiyah is working on culturally appropriate approaches for BreastScreen Australia with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women as part of the Closing the Gap initiative. One more amazing #PhysicsGotMeHere story!

You’ll also find a rundown of what’s in the current issue of the AIP’s Australian Physics magazine, along with an excellent contribution to the little-known literary genre of physics poetry.

Find out, too, what was making headlines in the magazine four decades ago.

Australian physics in the news includes impossible black holes, no signs of ET, and vibrating worms.

And keep scrolling to discover news from Science & Technology Australia, and some really interesting jobs open in the sector.

The answer to my Nobel Prize trivia question, by the way, is John Bardeen. He won in 1956 for the discovery (with William Shockley and Walter Brattain) of the transistor effect. He won again in 1972 (with Leon Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer) for the theory of superconductivity.

Finally, this very challenging year has entered its final quarter. We are all thinking about our fellow Australians in Victoria and it is really great to see the COVID numbers coming right down. I hope the warmer weather is a pleasant it can be, given the circumstances.

Kind regards,
Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading The Nobel approaches, the Ig Nobels pass, Eureka Prize finalists, physics poetry, ET and more in October

AIP fights physics education cuts, photovoltaics and machine-learning, Hidden Physicists, and physics springs into September

Over the past month, the AIP has been lobbying against proposed proposed Federal Government legislation set to significantly cut funding for science degrees in Australia. We believe this will impoverish both teaching and research  ultimately damaging Australia’s ability to produce top-quality physics graduates.

We are grateful to all the members who responded to our call for feedback during the government’s short consultation period. I wish to acknowledge the hard work of A/Prof Gerd Schröder-Turk, the AIP Policy officer who pulled together the AIP submission under difficult circumstances.  It was great to see our submission picked up by many news outlets, including the ABC and Campus Morning Mail. This month’s picture is a screen shot of the story in the Financial Review. See more on this issue below.

This month’s AIP live-streamed event is from Exciton Science and focusses on machine learning to predict the properties of photovoltaic material. Read on for details. And if you missed the 2020 Einstein Lecture ‘The World According to Physics’, co-organised by the AIP NSW branch, you can catch it here.

Read on to meet this month’s Hidden Physicist – communicator and comedian Phil Dooley.

Check out our new regular feature – From the Vault, from the AIP’s magazine, Australian Physics. Our Australian Physics editors, Peter Kappen and David Hoxley, are also seeking articles, poems, cartoons, book reviews – and an editorial assistant! Read on for details.

As always, in this edition of the bulletin you’ll find lots of physics news, physics awards and some excellent physics jobs.

Finally, I am sure many of you will join me in rejoicing that winter 2020 is officially over. Happy Wattle Day!

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Continue reading AIP fights physics education cuts, photovoltaics and machine-learning, Hidden Physicists, and physics springs into September