Canadian reciprocal rights for AIP members; Australian Academy of Science Awardees, the unravelling Great Red Spot; and more physics in June

I’m excited to announce that Nanotechnologist Tim Van der Laan will be joining the AIP team as our new Special Projects Officer for Outreach, focusing on digital content creation. Follow the new Instagram account at @aus_physics and send through your interesting and engaging physics pictures to Tim for posting on the account. Tim is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Queensland University of Technology, and he will work on ways to connect physicists with students and the broader community. Read about his plans below.

As well as our new Jobs Corner, this month we are introducing our ‘Hidden Physicists’ section, which profiles a physicist in the workforce. Our first profile is on ANU and UWA physics graduate Stuart Midgley, who now builds supercomputers at DownUnder GeoSolutions to process seismic data for mining companies.

In other good news we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Canadian Association of Physics (CAP) in May. This is a fantastic achievement and allows AIP members to attend CAP Congresses at member rates, subscribe to CAP’s magazine and be invited to speak at CAP Congress. Congratulations to our hard-working secretary Kirrily Rule who is working to set up MOUs and reciprocity agreements with other physics societies around the world. The response has been very positive, so watch this space!

In May I had the pleasure of attending the Asian Physics Olympiad in Adelaide—the first time the event was held in Australia. Congratulations to the young physicists on the Australian team who competed in two five-hour exams – one experimental and the other theory-based. I also had the pleasure of speaking on ABC RN Breakfast Radio with Siobhan Tobin about the Olympiad, women in STEM and optics. Have a listen here and read more below

If you’re in WA, come along to the WA Branch AIP General Meeting on Thursday 11th July. Medical physicist Pejman Rowshanfarzad will be guest lecturer, speaking about the latest advances in radiotherapy machines. More below.

Also this month: Australian Academy of Science Honorific Awards, attend the last Girls in Physics Breakfast for the year, apply for a graduate position at the Bureau of Meteorology, Jupiter’s shrinking Great Red Spot, and the last chance to be a presenter at Physics in the Pub in Melbourne.

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics

AIP News

More reciprocal rights for AIP members—Memorandum of Understanding signing between the Australian Institute of Physics and the Canadian Association of Physics

In mid-May the Australian Institute of Physics and the Canadian Association of Physics (CAP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU was arranged by former AIP president Andrew Peele to foster international collaborations with like-minded physics communities.

The Canadian Association of Physics contacted Andrew last year to start discussions. 

Though Canada and Australia are geographically distant, our nations have much in common and our physics societies face similar challenges in terms of advocacy of physics to our respective governments and the wider community. 

What does this mean for AIP members?
Full members of AIP may:

  1. Attend Canadian Association of Physics (CAP) conferences at CAP member rates
  2. Subscribe to CAP’s magazine, Physics in Canada, at the rate offered to members of other Canadian scientific societies with whom the CAP has joint memberships.
  3. Be invited as a speaker to the CAP Congress (held every year).

Find out more about future CAP Congresses or subscribe to the Physics in Canada magazine.

WA Branch AIP General Meeting and learn about medical physics

Catch up with your fellow physicists and learn about advances in performance of radiotherapy machines at the WA Branch AIP General Meeting in July.

Have your say about the future of the WA Branch at AIP, and upcoming physics events in WA. 

Medical physicist Pejman Rowshanfarzad from the University of Western Australia is the guest lecturer, speaking about advances in radiotherapy machines for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Back in 2012, Pejman published ten peer-reviewed papers as first author from his PhD, and his methods have since been commercialised for use in hospitals. Today Pejman has more than 65 refereed publications and collaborates with hospitals and research centres.

The event will be held on Thursday 11th July at 6pm, 5th floor, UWA Physics building tea-room. 

Register for the event by emailing WA Branch Chair Dean Leggo at

Awards to physics students at Macquarie

Nabomita Roy Mukty received the Australian Institute of Physics (NSW) Prize for the best performance in the first year of the Master of Research (BPhil) program in Physics at the Macquarie University Faculty of Science and Engineering Awards Ceremony in May.

Nabomita’s research is looking at superradiance and superabsorption in colour centres in nanodiamonds.

At the same ceremony Jemy Geordy received the Dean’s Prize for Masters Research (MRes) Thesis 2018 for her work on blinking in nanodiamond quantum emitters.

In the picture at right, Nabomita (left) and Jemy (right) receive their awards from the Macquarie University Executive Dean of Science and Engineering, Professor Barbara Messerle. 

Read more here:

Introducing Dr Tim Van der Laan, Special Projects Officer for Outreach

Tim is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and a Visiting Research Scientist at CSIRO Manufacturing in Lindfield. He completed a PhD in Plasma Nanoscience at the University of Sydney in 2016 and is also the newest member of the AIP national team. As the Special Projects Officer for Outreach Tim will be focusing on digital content creation and would love to work on ways to connect students and the broader community with physicists.

To kick things off Tim has started an AIP Instagram account at @aus_physics and is calling for engaging physics pictures, ideally from our undergrad and PhD student community. Pictures and hashtags can be sent to All pictures will be credited so please let us know your name, your institution, and your project.

How neutrons can save the world—last chance to join a Girls in Physics breakfast this year in Melbourne

Victorians: don’t miss the last Girls in Physics Breakfast for 2019, on 28th August at Monash University in Clayton. The AIP 2019 Women in Physics Lecturer, Dr Helen Maynard-Casely from ANSTO will be talking about how neutrons can save the world, and bookings close on 19th August.

Now in their fourth year, the Girls in Physics Breakfasts show girls in Years 10 to 12 the wide range of careers studying physics can lead to, the satisfaction that comes from a challenging career in science, and the success that women have achieved in the physical sciences.

At each breakfast, students share a table with two or three women in physics or engineering, both workers and undergraduate and postgraduate students. At the table, discussion ensues about what the women do, what they like about, and their training and future prospects.  

There is also a guest speaker who presents a talk on her area of expertise. After the talk there are activities on Careers in STEM and Q&A panel with three of the guests.

Find out more and book your seats at

Other Physics News & Opportunities

Australian Academy of Science Honorific Awards 

New electron microscopy techniques, direct detection of gravitational waves and the investigation of the atomic & electronic structure of solids were among the outstanding contributions to science and scientific research recognised this year by the Australian Academy of Science Honorific Awards. Physicists were well represented across the board.

2019 Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science

Joanne Etheridge from Monash University, David McClelland from ANU and Catherine Stampfl from the University of Sydney are the physicists among the 2019 Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science.

Joanne Etheridge, Director of the Centre for Electron Microscopy at Monash University 
Joanne was instrumental in establishing ultra-high-resolution microscopy in Australia to build theoretical and experimental expertise. Joanne’s research was critical in solving a diverse range of functional material problems in superconductors, ion-conductors, plasmonic materials and more. 

David McClelland, Director of the Australian National University’s Centre for Gravitational Physics
Playing a vital part in the first detection of gravitational waves, David and his team at ANU worked within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and designed, installed and commissioned the acquisition system used by interferometers to measure movements of 1/10000 the width of the proton. David’s own quantum science experiments were also critical in improving the sensitivity of gravitational wave detection.

Catherine Stampfl, theoretical condensed matter physicist and member of the University of Sydney’s Nano Institute
Catherine combines first-principles calculations and high-performance computing to predict, understand and improve materials. Her work on the structure and properties of solids has earned her international acclaim and her current research focuses on finding new catalysts that could convert carbon dioxide into fuels and other chemicals. 

Career honorifics

David Craig Medal and Lecture—Peter Gill, Quantum Chemist at the Australian National University
Peter Gill has made fundamental and applied contributions to the progress of quantum chemistry. 

Jaeger Medal—Dietmar Müller, Geophysicist at the University of Sydney
The award recognises Dietmar’s work in building a deep time travel machine, a virtual laboratory to see deep into Earth in four dimensions, through space and time. 

Matthew Flinders Medal and Lecture—Richard Manchester, Astrophysicist at CSIRO
Richard Manchester from CSIRO has led the teams that discovered more than half all known pulsars (rapidly spinning neutron stars), including the only known double pulsar. 

Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal—Chennupati Jagadish, physicist from ANU
The 2019 Thomas Ranken Lyle Medallist was awarded to Chennupati in recognition of a career of pioneering contributions to semiconductor physics.

Early career honorifics

Pawsey Medal—Steven Flammia, quantum physicist at the University of Sydney
The Pawsey Medal was awarded to Steven for his work in compressed sensing and quantum technologies, leading to practical improvements in quantum computing research.

Read more about the 2019 Australian Academy of Science Fellows, career honorifics, mid-career honorifics and early-career honorifics on the Australian Academy of Science website

Teenagers take top honours at Asian Physics Olympiad

Learning the first two years of university-level physics in 16 days—that’s how Australia’s team members spent their summer in preparation for the Asian Physics Olympiad (APhO) held in Adelaide last month.

Learning the first two years of university-level physics in 16 days—that’s how Australia’s team members spent their summer in preparation for the Asian Physics Olympiad (APhO) held in Adelaide last month.

Asia’s toughest physics competition for high school students brought together 200 of the region’s best and brightest teenagers for nine days of academic competitions and cultural activities. 

The competition consisted of two five-hour exams – one experimental and the other theory-based. 

Team Australia took out several awards. Special mentions to the award-winning students: Stephen Catsamas (Bronze Medal and a Special Prize), Rosemary Zielinski (President’s Award), and Simon Yung (President’s Award).

When they weren’t completing exams, the students visited schools and universities and competed in a cross-international team challenge to find a solution to carbon-neutral heating for Adelaide’s Bicentennial Conservatory.

The 21st Asian Physics Olympiad will be held in Taiwan, 10-18 May 2020. But, before then, five of the eight-member Australian team will represent Australia at the 2019 International Physics Olympiad in Israel in July. Good luck team Australia!

Read the full media release:
Watch the event highlight video:   
Try some of the exam questions:

Apply for a graduate position at Bureau of Meteorology—positions close Thursday 13 June 11.30pm 

Are you an undergraduate or postgraduate graduate in physical sciences or mathematics? Ready to join the work force?

Apply for one of the multiple Graduate Meteorology roles at the Bureau of Meteorology today.

You’ll be contributing to improving the Bureau’s services to all Australians, including a challenging program aimed at achieving zero lives lost through natural hazards, and delivering $2 billion of added social and economic impact and value to the Australian community by 2022. 

Closing date to apply is 11.30pm AEST/AEDT Thursday, 13 June 2019. Apply today.

Physics in the Pub: Melbourne

Share your passion for physics and help an enthusiastic audience discover the intoxicating field of physics at Physics in the Pub this June!

This informal and light-hearted night brings physicists, astronomers, theoreticians, engineers and educators together to present entertaining physics-related performances ranging from stand-up and poems, to songs and fun-physics talks. Plus, with MC Dr Phil Dooley at the helm to warm up the crowd, you can’t go wrong!

The call for presenters is now open and if you want to get involved or find out more, email Phil Dooley or call him on 0414 94 55 77. 

When: Thursday, 20 June 2019
Where: Beer Deluxe Hawthorn, Melbourne, VIC, 3122
Cost: Free 
For more visit: 

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot might be ‘unravelling’

Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley captured this image on 19 May, showing a plume of gas stretching more than 10,000 km from the centre of the  storm we know as Jupiter’s Great Red Spot to a nearby jet stream that appears to be carrying it away. Similar images have been taken by astronomers all over the world this past month. 

“I haven’t seen this before in my 17-or-so years of imaging Jupiter,” Wesley said. NASA JPL scientist Glenn Orton echoed his sentiments, calling it “uncharted territory”. 

The storm was once large enough to hold the equivalent of three Earths, but in the past few decades the spot has shrunk to just 1.3 times the diameter of the Earth.

The Great Red Spot has been continuously observed since 1830, and it may well be even older. If, as astronomers suspect, it’s the same storm as one observed from 1665 to 1713 by Giovanni Cassini and his successors, the spot has been raging for over 350 years. 

Jupiter reached its closest approach to Earth on June 10th. Anyone with a small telescope should be able to see the planet for the next two weeks, and if you want to get a good look at the Great Red Spot, experts recommend a 6-inch telescope or larger.

The way we define the kilogram changed on 20th May 2019

For the past 154 years, the kilogram was based on a platinum alloy cylinder kept in Paris called Le Grand K. However, defining the mass by reference to a specific physical object left the measurement open to uncertainties. Even the slightest touch could alter the weight.

So on the May 20th 2019, the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures—the custodians of the International System of Units (SI)—moved to a new definition of the kilogram. The new definition is based on the Planck constant—a fundamental constant of nature that is inherently stable. 

Along with the kilogram, definitions of several other units were changed. 

  • The ampere, the unit of electric current, will now be based on the charge of an electron
  • The kelvin, which measures temperature, will be based on the Boltzmann constant, and
  • The mole, which measures the amount of a substance, will be based on the Avogadro constant. 

Read more about the way we define kilograms, metres and seconds in Analytical Chemist David Brynn’s Conversation article. Or read the original media release by the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures.

Hidden Physicists – featuring Dr Stuart Midgley

Introducing our new section: Hidden Physicists! This section highlights the surprising places you can find physics graduates, and will feature a different physics graduate each month.

Our first physicist to meet in our new Hidden Physicists section is Dr Stuart Midgley. 

Employer: DownUnder GeoSolutions

Job title and description: Systems Architect—I build supercomputers, invent cooling systems, write high-performance computing applications and solve problems. My work allows the world’s most reputable mining companies to process seismic data quickly, to make sure earth tremors or earthquakes don’t delay mining projects.

Career pathway: Honours in Physics at the ANU; PhD in Theoretical Physics at UWA; academic consultant at the ANU Super computer Facility; returned to WA joining iVEC to encourage industry uptake of HPC; finally ending up at DownUnder GeoSolutions building and managing their growing supercomputers.

Jobs Corner

The AIP is happy to provide a link to your physics-related job for free. Please send your links to If you would like to feature more details and a picture, please contact us for more information. 

Aussie Physics in the News

Moondust could cloud our lunar ambitions

Unique 3D Habitat Map of the Great Barrier Reef

How the invention of ‘sound ranging’ during World War One enabled Britain to detect artillery movements and track weapons to within 30 feet

Collaboration to provide sensing tech for Australia’s defence

Giant Telescope on Sea Floor Will Study Neutrinos from Space

Spinning Black Hole Sprays Light-Speed Plasma Clouds Into Space 

Quantum world-first: researchers can now tell how accurate two-qubit calculations in silicon really are

Books for review

If you are interested in reviewing any of these books for publication in Australian Physics, please contact the Australian Physics editors Peter Kappen and David Hoxley at

  • Diffusive Spreading in Nature, Technology and Society by Armin Bunde, Jurgen Caro, Jorg Karger, Gero Vogl
  • Lectures on General Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Black Holes by Badis Ydri
  • The Quantum Labyrinth—How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Relativity by Paul Halpern
  • Gravity, Magnetic and Electromagnetic Gradiometry by Alexey V Veryaskin (ebook)
  • Thermal Properties of Matter by Joe Khachan (ebook)
  • Semiconductor Integrated Optics for Switching Light by Charlie ironside (ebook)
  • The Black Book of Quantum Chromodynamics by John Campbell, Joey Huston, and Frank Krauss (printed copy)