Celebrating physics: physics in May

We take a peek at some wonderful Australian physicists and their work in this bulletin, as well as congratulating several AIP Fellows and members whose work has been recognised.

I’d particularly like to congratulate Amanda Barnard (winning the Nobel of nanotech, the Feynman Prize), Claire-Elise Green (CSIRO Scholarship in Physics) and Michelle Simmons (Honorary Bragg Membership of RiAus).

I’m pleased to announce that this year’s AIP Women in Physics Lectureship has been awarded to Jodie Bradby from ANU. A/Prof Bradbury, who is a leader in nano-deformation research at ANU, will be delivering a national tour of physics lectures later this year. More details will follow in another newsletter.

The AIP Exec has started to plan next year’s massive, joint Asia-Pacific Physics Conference and AIP Congress in Brisbane. Our next meeting to discuss the 2016 Congress will be at Griffith University in mid-May.

Nominations are still open for four AIP awards, so if you know of anyone doing great physics and deserving of recognition, please consider nominating.

Thanks to Marc Duldig, Sophie Hollitt, Michael Murphy and Stephen Newbery, who are busy reworking our Constitution to meet the latest legal requirements and modernising its language. They expect to finish by the end of the year.

And there’s plenty more in this bulletin, with events from our state branches and a few interesting tidbits of Australian physics research and discoveries.


Warrick Couch
President, Australian Institute of Physics


Can you help move a mountain in Perth?

A small mountain of historical files documenting the history of the AIP WA will be archived in the J.S. Battye Library of West Australian History, which is part of the State Library of Western Australia. AIP member Chris Creagh is asking for assistance to physically catalogue the documents on Friday 8 May at Murdoch University (in the Engineering & Energy building). If you’re in Perth and have a couple of hours free that day or the following Sunday, please email Chris.

Pick your top ten physics books

Science Book a Day is an Australian website featuring a different science book each day as well as lists such as ‘10 Great Books on Medicine’ or 10 ‘Great Books on Zombie Science’. It’s a great site, but so far lacking a physics top ten. Science Book a Day guy George Aranda, who’s also President of the Victorian branch of the Australian Science Communicators, would love to post such a list if any AIP members would like to take on the task of drawing one up.

So, check out the site, read some of the Top Ten lists, and if you’d like to put together a list of the best physics books,contact George. (And we’ll share the list in the next bulletin.)<

International Year of Light

The AIP is supporting the International Year of Light in Australia. We encourage you to stay in touch with the Year of Light in Australia by following @LightYearAU and the #IYL2015 hashtag on Twitter.

If you are organising an event to celebrate the International Year of Light, be sure to submit it to the Light2015 calendarand spread the word on Twitter.

More AIP awards and prizes

Do you know an Australian physicist deserving national recognition? We are still encouraging nominations for:

  • Walter Boas Medal for contributions to physics research by a member of the AIP.
  • Bragg Gold Medal for the most outstanding physics PhD thesis at an Australian university.
  • Outstanding Service to Physics for exceptional contribution to furthering physics as a discipline.

Nominations close on 1 July 2015. More information online.

The NSW community outreach award recognises notable contribution to physics education or community engagement and a demonstrated passion for the study of physics. Nominations close 9 October 2015. For more details see the NSW AIP website.


Teeny tiny diamonds and big data

Amanda Barnard imageIn prize-winning physicist news, CSIRO researcher and AIP Fellow Amanda Barnard has become the first Australian to win the Nobel of nanotech, the Feynman Prize. The Prize recognises Amanda’s work with diamond nanoparticles, including the discovery that they self-align in useful, easily-customised structures, with implications for potentially life-saving chemotherapy treatments.

Amanda’s work has depended on Australia’s powerful supercomputer assets, crunching the numbers to mine decades of big data.

Nanocentre leadership team

The University of Sydney’s recently opened nanotech hub, the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST) will be led by Thomas Maschmeyer.

The multidisciplinary centre’s leadership team also includes AIP Fellow Zdenka Kuncic as Director, Community and Research. Zdenka said she considered nanoscale science and technology to be a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the University to realise interdisciplinary research.

Heated up leftovers confounding the search for intergalactic life

Amanda Barnard imageA nice bit of Australian detective work has discovered the source of interesting wave traces found in the data archives of several radio-telescopes around the world.

Known as perytons, the radiowave (RF) bursts closely resemble Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) – brief, extremely intense bursts of RF thought to originate outside our galaxy. However, unlike FRBs, peryton waves are known to come from terrestrial sources.

Swinburne University’s Emily Petroff and other researchers also saw that perytons appeared in the data most often around lunchtime on workdays. Last month they revealed the source: microwave ovens in nearby kitchens being opened during operation.

Read the paper.

Challenges for photonics researchers and industry

The XPhoton Open Innovation Challenge aims to bridge the gap between science and market needs. Companies are invited to post a photonics challenge in a number of fields from solar energy to medical imaging. Small, discrete, practical challenges are sought as well as larger industry or corporate obstacles. Researchers, engineers, universities and scientific organisations are invited to pick up any challenge in return for monetary reward. It is a formula for bringing together companies’ problems and researchers’ solutions.

Call for a quantum future

The Director of the Engineered Quantum Systems Centre, Gerard Milburn, has called for Australia to develop a national quantum technology strategy. Dr Milburn says a national strategy would build on the scientific base of two ARC Centres of Excellence and many Australian laboratories, to keep Australia at the forefront of quantum research.

Uranium scholarship

Two $10,000 ANSTO scholarships are available to promising young Australian nuclear scientists who want to extend their research in nuclear science and technology. Applicants must work in a science-related discipline in the nuclear industry or be engaged in advanced nuclear studies in the field of nuclear energy.  Closing date: 12 May 2015

Recognition of quantum computing

Amanda Barnard imageAIP member and Director of the Quantum Computing and Communications Centre, Michelle Simmons, has added another feather to her cap. Prof Simmons was presented with Honorary Bragg Membership of RiAus, in recognition of her achievements in quantum computing.

Bragg membership is the highest category of membership awarded by RiAus, and celebrates Adelaide’s Nobel-winning Father and son team William and Lawrence Bragg.

Physicists in the news

CSIRO ‘s first Scholarship in Physics winner Claire-Elise Green has been profiled at CSIRO News blogand in a recorded interview discusses the science of blob-ology – how stars form within ancient molecular clouds deep in space.

South Australian photonics researcher Tanya Monro was profiled in Cosmos magazine in April. Founder of a number of photonics research centres and now Deputy Vice Chancellor Research at the University of Adelaide, she describes how her first taste of physics saw her smitten by “the beautiful clarity of how everything links together”. Prof Monro has a string of scientific prizes to her name. Her discovery that photosensitivity within fibre-optic cables could be used guide its own path won her the AIP Bragg Gold Medal for outstanding work by a PhD student in 1998.