Eureka-winning physics & Science Week wrapup: physics in September

Congratulations to all the physicists whose hard work was recognised in the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes last week. Covering particle physics, nanocrystals, phase-change energy-storage and quantum science, the winners highlight some of the best work in Australian physics.

National Science Week ran last month and was terrifically succesful in getting physics into the public mind. In particular, thousands came to hear astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and astronaut Chris Hadfield speak, and 18,000 people helped classify over 200,000 galaxies. More detail on that below.

Professor Jodie Bradby from ANU continues the AIP’s annual Women in Physics Lecture Tour. Having visited Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, she still has Western Australia, Queensland and the ACT to go. More details below.


Warrick Couch
President, Australian Institute of Physics

The NSW AIP community outreach award is looking for nominations until 9 October. The Award recognises notable contribution to physics education or community engagement and a demonstrated passion for the study of physics.

NSW universities are invited to nominate one student for the $500 AIP NSW Postgraduate Award, and for the Royal Society of NSW Jak Kelly Scholarship prize, also $500. These awards have been created to encourage excellence in postgraduate work. For more information, email Frederick Osman by Friday 9 October.

Women in Physics Lecture Tour

The 2015 Women in Physics Lecture Tour carries on through Western Australia, Queensland and the ACT this month and in October.

Jodie Bradby (pictured) has already spoken at 16 school and public events in Victoria, Tasmania, SA and NSW.

Upcoming talks are in:

  • Western Australia 16 September at the Ross Lecture Theature, University of WA, Perth (details)
  • Queensland 14–15 October in Brisbane and Toowoomba

For more details contact Elizabeth Chelkowska.


Eureka-winning physicists

Congratulations to all the physicists coming up trumps at the Australian Museum’s Eureka Prizes last month:

  • For leadership on the Belle II particle-accelerator experiment, including collaboration with 99 organisations from 23 different countries, Philip Urquijo (University of Melbourne) won the 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science.
  • For developing nanocrystals to detect hidden, diseased cells within the body,Tanya Monro (University of SA) and the ‘Super Dots’ team won the UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research.
  • For developing a low-cost energy-storage system, Martin Belusko, Frank Bruno and Steven Tay(University of South Australia) won the ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology.
  • For achievements in quantum science, specifically error loss in quantum computing, Michael Biercuk (University of Sydney) won the Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher.
  • For her leadership, passion, commitment and energy devoted to advancing the field of quantum computing in Australia, Michelle Simmons (UNSW) won the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science.
  • For developing the Secure Communications System suite of tools, Northrop Grumman M5 Network Security won the DSTG Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science for Safeguarding Australia.

And congratulations as well as to Lee Spitler (Macquarie University) and Lisa Harvey-Smith (CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science) who were finalists for the Emerging Career Researcher and Promoting Science Understanding Eureka Prizes respectively.

Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence in Research and Innovation, Leadership, Science Communication and Journalism, and School Science.

CSIRO astronomy fellowship

CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS) is seeking applications for the 2015 Bolton Fellowship.

Based at the CASS office in Perth, the Bolton Fellow will develop wide-field radio astronomy research using the 36-dish Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) being commissioned at Murchison WA.

Applications close 6 November 2015. More details.

National Science Week wrap-up

This year’s National Science Week saw over 1,600 events around the country.

Hundreds of schools enjoyed activities with a focus on physics, using the International Year of Light-themed educational materials produced by the Australian Science Teachers Association.

Physics highlights included:

  • Thousands coming to listen to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and astronaut Chris Hadfield
  • Hundreds of schools enjoyed activities with a focus on physics
  • Uluru Astronomy Weekend with Karl Kruszelnicki
  • Australian stargazers broke two world records: the most people stargazing at one site and the most stargazers at multiple sites. Canberra stargazers smashed the single-site record, with the Guiness Book of Records confirming 1869 stargazers at ANU. The multiple-site record is still being confirmed, with 8366 people having been recorded at 38 sites around the country.
  • Powering Sydney into the Future: the science of alternative energy forum
  • An oval full of telescopes, plus talks and activities at the Astronomy and Light Festival at ScienceWorks
  • The Red Earth Night Sky Astro-Fest in the Pilbara
  • Physicists Chris Lassig and Katie Mack—telling the stories of their heroes in The Laborastory
  • 200,000 galaxies classified in the national Galaxy Explorer experiment (see below)
  • And our own 2015 Women in Physics touring lecturer Jodie Bradby, explaining how diamonds are a scientist’s best friend (see more above).

For more highlights and fun pictures, see the National Science Week facebook page.

Mark your diaries: National Science Week in 2016 will run from 13–21 August.

Citizen science classifies over 200,000 galaxies

ABC’s ‘Galaxy Explorer’, the National Science Week national experiment, classified almost 215,000 galaxies in the month of August, helping researchers understand how galaxies grow and change.

Almost 18,000 citizen scientists contributed to the classification.

More information at

Star stuff

Congratulations to CSIRO astronomer Shari Breen, who has been recognised today with a fellowship from L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science.

Shari is using the Parkes radio telescope and an international network of other telescopes to understand the life cycle and evolution of high-mass stars. She will use the Fellowship to develop her use of masers (laser-like beams of intense radio waves) to investigate these stars.

Read more about Shari’s use of masers to reveal the timelines for the formation and evolution of stars in dusty, hard-to-view parts of the galaxy.

Aus physics shorts

Spooky action and superconductivity Harvard physicist Subir Sachdev was awarded the Dirac Medal at UNSW and delivered the annual Dirac Lecture – this year, on quantum entanglement and superconductivity.

Diamonds with grunt Macquarie University photonics researchers have demonstrated a diamond laser 20 times more powerful than previous diamond lasers, with potential for any applications requiring beaming power over long distances, such as optical communications in space, laser ranging, and the tracking and removal of space debris.

Planetary launch at Macquarie The Macquarie University Planetary Research Centre was launched last month, to investigate planetary formation and evolution, and remote planetary monitoring.

Top physicist joining Health team at Uni SA Radiation oncology researcher Professor Eva Bezak has joined the University of South Australia, with her research focusing on the effects and impacts of radiotherapy in treating cancer.

Searching for crashing stars Monash physicists are searching the skies for optical flashes, the electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational waves, that could be produced by colliding neutron stars in the early universe.

ANU physicists on the ITER fusion project Six ANU PhD graduates are among physicists working on the ITER nuclear fusion demonstration project in Europe. The ANU hosts Australia’s plasma fusion research facility, where the country’s five-year strategic fusion plan was revealed in July.

Radiationless revolution. ANU physicist Andrey Miroshnichenko and German/Singaporean collagues may have found the key to a long-standing atomic-theory mystery about the lack of radiation from orbiting electrons. The concept could be developed to prevent energy loss in future technologies such as quantum computers.

Explosive new silicon phases Two new phases (crystal arrangements) of silicon created by ANU physicists setting off microexplosions within the crystal structure could revolutionise silicon semiconductors, with other applications from superconductors to solar panels. ANU laser physicist Andrei Rode led the team.

40 years of solar power recognised For his contribution to the field of silicon solar cell physics, the ANU’s Andrés Cuevas has been awarded the 2015 Becquerel Prize for Outstanding Merits in Photovoltaics

Chip-sized entanglement The Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) at the University of Sydney has developed a photonic entanglement chip small enough to fit a computer – considered the holy grail of long-distance, secure communication.

Ancient star clusters not quite so ancient Swinburne and US astronomers recently determined that ancient star clusters formed in two distinct epochs – around 1.2 and 2.2 billion years after the Big Bang. It’s now thought the clusters formed alongside galaxies rather than significantly before them.

Universe awaits Curtin astronomy post-grad Thomas Russell was named ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year at WA science awards. He is studying how black holes extract and recycle energy from in-falling matter.

Listen: Maths not for TV? Stephanie Pradier says universities need to reinstate maths in science degrees.