Hear Elisabetta Barberio speak about Higgs boson at the AGM in Melbourne; AIP Congress highlights; and the world’s thinnest hologram

The AGM is a great opportunity for members to give feedback on the future direction of the AIP. It will be held at The University of Melbourne on February 11th and 12th 2019. Everyone is welcome to attend and particle physicist Elisabetta Barberio will give a public lecture about the Higgs boson and the search for physics beyond the standard model.

On Australia Day four physicists were appointed to the Australian Honour Roll. Congratulations to Elaine Sadler, Ron Ekers, David Malin and Albert Pittock. Saturday also marked the end to quantum physicist Michelle Simmons’ tenure as 2018 Australian of the Year. Congratulations Michelle on a wonderful year.

Congratulations to the remarkable Tanya Monro on her new appointment as Chief Scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Group. It’s 20 years since Tanya won the Bragg Gold Medal for the best physics PhD thesis. We wish you all the best in the new role.

We had a fantastic conclusion to 2018 with 789 attendees at our Congress in Perth, including a dozen excellent plenary speakers from around the world. Read more below about the plenary talks about gravitational wave detection, metamaterials that can act as invisibility cloaks, and holographic optical tweezers. Our next Congress will be in 2020 in Adelaide—thank you to Andre Luiten and his team for hosting.

Congratulations to the six 2018 AIP medallists: including particle physicist Elisabetta Barberio, optical and quantum physicist Jacqui Romero, Michael Johnston for his significant contributions to applied science, Andre Luiten for his leadership in commercialising breakthrough research to support industry needs, Yevgeny Stadnik for their thesis on dark matter and fundamental constants, and Maria Parappilly for significant contributions to physics education in Australia. More on those awards below and a story about how Maria is making physics more accessible to students.

There’s another chance to have your say on the future of physics following the meeting about the Physics Decadal Plan at the 2018 AIP Congress. The National Committee for Physics will be meeting in Canberra in the coming weeks to conduct the mid-term plan review, so please have your say in the survey online.

RMIT’s Min Gu has been recognised by the International Society of Optics and Photonics for his work designing the world’s thinnest hologram. More below.

We’re also helping circulate the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies’ bulletin to raise their profile. You can subscribe to their bi-monthly bulletin online, which aims to promote the research developments and activities in the field of physics in the Asia Pacific region.

This is my last bulletin as President of the AIP. Next month you will be hearing from Jodie Bradby, who will be taking over the reins.
It has been a busy and enjoyable two years where I think we have continued the good work of previous committees in communicating the vital importance of physics for all Australians. My profound thanks and respect goes to my fellow executive committee members, to our branch and other committees around the country, and to you—our active and innovative physics community!

Kind regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this introduction stated that it was 11 years ago since Tanya Monro won the Bragg Gold Medal. This online newsletter has been corrected to say 20 years ago.

AIP News

The AIP will hold its national AGM on February 11 in Melbourne

The 2019 AIP Council Meeting and Annual General Meeting will be held at The University of Melbourne on February 11th and 12th 2019.

Everyone is welcome to attend the AIP AGM which will be held on Monday 11th February at 4.30pm in the Hercus Theatre, in the Physics South Building (L105) next to the David Caro Building (192). You can find an online map on The University of Melbourne website.

Elisabetta Barberio will be presenting a public lecture at The University of Melbourne following the AGM at 5.30pm. Elisabetta won the 2018 AIP Walter Boas Medal for fundamental contributions to the experiments and analysis that led to the discovery and characterisation of the Higgs boson at CERN, and the search for physics beyond the standard model.

Highlights from the AIP Congress 2018

A recap of the AIP Congress from Jodie Bradby IMG_0567

It was an absolute pleasure to be part of the very successful 2018 AIP Congress in Perth in December.

For those of you who may have wondered why we refer to this meeting as a ‘congress’, instead of the more usual ‘conference’, apparently a congress is used to refer to a collection of conferences. Indeed the 2018 congress lived up to its name!

The AIP was honoured to host and bring together friends and colleagues from the Australian Optical Society, the Australian Conference on Optical Fibre Technology (ACOFT), and the Conference on Optoelectronic and Microelectronic Materials and Devices (COMMAD). The meetings were all seamlessly integrated to form one of Australia’s foremost science forums of the year under very capable organisation lead by Gerd Schröder-Turk who was Chair of the Organising Committee.

We enjoyed the many excellent talks (see below for the summary of the plenaries) and a fun social program that captured the relaxed summer vibe of the stunning University of Western Australia campus. The casual Congress dinner held outdoors on the lawns was widely praised as a fun and effective networking event where the winners of the society prizes were announced.

Congratulations to all the AIP award winners:

  • 2018 Boas Medal: Elisabetta Barberio, “For her world-leading research in particle physics and her fundamental contributions to the experiments and analysis which led to the discovery and characterisation of the Higgs boson at CERN, and the search for physics beyond the standard model.”
  • 2018 Ruby Payne-Scott Medal: Jacqui Romero, “For her outstanding contribution to the fields of optics and quantum physics, in particular for establishing the shape of light as a degree of freedom for encoding quantum information.”
  • 2018 Massey Medal (presented by the IoP): Michael Johnston, “For his significant and distinctive contributions, over several years, in the important region of applied science where fundamental semiconductor physics, together with materials design, growth and characterisation combine with the fields of optoelectronics, spectroscopy and photonics. More specifically for his contributions in the fields of terahertz (THz) science and technology, semiconductor nanostructures and metal halide perovskite optoelectronics.”
  • 2018 Alan Walsh Medal: Andre Luiten, “For his outstanding contribution to the fields of Optics and Photonics, in particular for his leadership in commercialising breakthrough research to support industry needs.”
  • 2018 Bragg Gold Medal: Yevgeny Stadnik, For his thesis titled, “Manifestations of Dark Matter and Variations of the Fundamental Constants of Nature in Atoms and Astrophysical Phenomena.”
  • 2018 Education Medal: Maria Parappilly, “For her significant contributions across diverse areas of physics education in Australia and support to the wider community, as demonstrated by service over many years.”

Finally, congratulations and thanks go to Andre Luiten and his team from South Australia—we are excited to announce that beautiful Adelaide will be the host city for the next Congress. We all look forward to another chance to gather our diverse Australian Physics community under the banner of AIP Congress 2020.

Need a recap of the plenaries from the AIP Congress? We’ve put together a summary for you.

Here’s a summary of the plenaries and you can read more highlights on Twitter and Facebook (direct links to #AIPCongress2018).

  • Active-matter expert Julia Yeomans from Oxford University, who is using theoretical and computational methods to study the physics of soft matter and biological systems
  • Jian-wei Pan, one of the pioneers in experimental quantum information science from the University of Science and Technology of China. Thanks to Pan’s work, quantum information science has become one of the most rapidly developing fields of physical science in China in recent years
  • Teri Odom from Northwestern University in the US is controlling materials at the 100-nanometer scale to investigate their size and shape-dependent properties
  • Metamaterials expert Wille Padilla from Duke University – metamaterials can act like invisibility cloaks—they can ‘cloak’ an object to make it seem like it’s not there. Some metamaterials can bend light around an object, making it ‘disappear’
  • Markus Aspelmeyer from the University of Vienna on understanding what a photon is
  • David Shoemaker from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2017 Spokesperson for the 1000+ members of LIGO, on gravitational wave detection
  • Polymer scientist Julia Higgins, from Imperial College London, and President of the Institute of Physics
  • Thomas Krauss from the University of York on the phoenix of photonics
  • Philippa Browning from the University of Manchester on the plasma physics of solar and fusion plasmas
  • Monika Ritsch-Marte of Medical University of Innsbruck, working on holographic optical tweezers and imaging with shaped lightwaves
  • Garth Illingworth of UC Santa Cruz and Lick Observatory, on the hunt for galaxies in the early universe using the NASA Hubble Space Telescope
  • Susan Scott (ANU) and Paul Lasky (Monash University) on new discoveries by LIGO during its first and second observing runs.

Physics Decadal Plan: We need your views about the future of physics in Australia

Please have your say in the Physics Decadal Plan—we need to hear your views about the future of physics in Australia.

The Physics Decadal Plan was launched in December 2012 at the Australian Academy of Science and we are currently conducting a mid-term review.

The Plan aims to ensure that the process of strategic investment in teaching and research in physics in Australia continues over the next 10 years, so that Australia remains a strong member of the world’s physics community and reaps the associated intellectual, economic and social rewards.

A town hall meeting about the Physics Decadal Plan was held as part of the 2018 AIP Congress.

It was great to see a packed room for the town hall meeting with much debate on the list of priorities. The National Committee for Physics (NCP) of the Australian Academy of Science has been charged with conducting this review.

Even if you were not at the meeting you can still have your say via the survey onlinePlease complete the survey by Friday 8 February ahead of when the committee will meet in Canberra to conduct the mid-term plan review.

Tanya Monro appointed as the new Chief Defence Scientist

In 1998 Tanya Monro won the Bragg Gold Medal for the best physics PhD thesis for proving that light can self-write a wave guide in a material. Twenty years later, Tanya has been appointed as the new Chief Defence Scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Group.

Tanya will replace Alex Zelinsky, the outgoing Chief Defence Scientist who was appointed as Head of the DST Group in 2012. The Minister for Defence, Christopher Pyne, thanked Alex for his leadership that led to new partnerships with industry, academia and international allies.

With experience in senior levels in both industry and educational institutions, Tanya will lead and develop the Defence science organisation, whilst collaborating with research agencies, industry and international partners.

For an invention of a new kind of ‘holey’ optical fibre with thousands of applications, Tanya was awarded the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year at the Prime Minister’s Prizes in 2008. Then in 2015 Tanya, along with Dayong Jin and Bradley Walsh, won the UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research for their work on Super Dots—the world’s smallest flashlights. These are useful for single molecule detection in applications such as non-invasive cancer diagnosis and invisible coding for authentication of pharmaceuticals, passports and banknotes.

Listen to Tanya’s interview on ABC radio here: www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/tanya-monro-australias-first-female-chief-defence-scientist/10755098

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that it was 11 years ago since Tanya Monro won the Bragg Gold Medal. This online newsletter has been corrected to say 20 years ago.

International optics award goes to RMIT’s Min Gu

Advances in how data is stored, displayed and transmitted are some of the outcomes of AIP Fellow Min Gu’s work.

Min has been announced as the 2019 recipient of the Dennis Gabor Award in Diffractive Optics awarded by the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). The award recognises accomplishments in diffractive wavefront technologies, especially those that further the development of holography and metrology applications.

Min and his team’s research in 2017 led to the design of the world’s thinnest hologram, which is simple to make, can be seen without 3D goggles, and is 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. This breakthrough is paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday electronics like smart phones, computers and TVs.

The breakthrough meant that we are one step closer to skyping someone across the world and seeing a hologram of their whole body pop up on your phone (like Princess Leia’s hologram in Star Wars). In order to do this Min says that two technology milestones must be achieved.

“One is a glass free display or floating display and the other is the dynamic nature to make sure the moving feature can be captured in the image,” Min said.

“A number of mobile display manufacturers have expressed their interest in this direction,” he said.

Min’s next aim is to integrate artificial intelligence in nanophotonics.

“I’d like to be able to create holograms that have artificial neural networks that can be used for machine learning.”

“For example, you could use holograms to teach people how to quickly recognise the complex features in medical diagnostics that lead to optical machine learning surgery.”

Min’s other recent breakthroughs include:

  • new technology that allows super-fast internet by harnessing twisted light beams to carry more data and to process data faster
  • a new type of high-capacity optical disk that could hold data securely for more than 600 years, offering a cost-efficient and sustainable solution to the global data storage problem
  • a prototype electrode inspired by an American fern that could boost the capacity of existing storage technologies by 3,000 per cent.

Min is the Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Director of the Laboratory of Artificial Intelligence Nanophotonics at RMIT.

Read more about Min’s award on the RMIT website: www.rmit.edu.au/news/all-news/2019/jan/optics-award-pioneering-physicist 

Making physics more accessible to students

We need to make physics more accessible, creative, real, inclusive and exciting. That’s the message that Marisa Parappilly gave at her talk at the AIP Congress on innovation in physics education.

Maria Parappilly received the 2018 Education Medal during the 23rd AIP Congress Dinner in Perth in December.

Maria believes that we can do more to reverse the decline of enrolments and the increased dropout rates in physics.

“This is particularly important to the students at the intro level as many undergrads come to introductory physics courses without basic science skills or any prior exposure to physics at high school level.”

Maria first began educating in physics when she tutored first year physics courses while doing a PhD in Theoretical Particle Physics at the University of Adelaide.

Now she is the Research Section Head for STEM Education at Flinders University.

“I use strategies that encourage students to investigate problems through open-ended inquiry, in teams, and with Lego race cars where students can develop a conceptual understanding of uncertainty.”

Though traditional approaches have some merit in allowing full control of students, and the material and concepts delivered, there is a great risk that students become bored and disengaged, which results in them missing key facts or concepts.

This latest award is a string of recent state, national and international awards honouring Maria’s innovative, creative and research-led approaches to teaching physics (including improving students’ understanding of uncertainty through Lego race cars).

What can you do to improve education in physics? 

Maria suggests joining the AIP physics education group (PEG) which you can do in your online membership form. The group sends out newsletters about useful activities such as physics education workshops to share ideas, network and collaborate.

Other Physics News & Opportunities

Physicists appointed to the Australian Honour Roll

This year’s Australia Day honours reflected how far-reaching physics is—from discovering the formation of galaxies to understanding the energetics of climate change.

Officer in the General Division (AO)
  • Elaine Margaret Sadlerfor distinguished service to science as an astrophysicist, in the field of galaxy evolution, and to gender equality
    Where did the stars come from? Astrophysicist and CSIRO Australian Telescope National Facility Chief Scientist Elaine Sadler was awarded the AO in the Australia Day Honours. Elaine studies galaxy evolution and is a passionate advocate for women in science.
  • Ronald David Ekersfor distinguished service to science as a radio astronomer, to scientific education, and to international astronomical organisations
    Astronomer and Square Kilometre Array (SKA) legend Ron Ekers has an interest in the evolution of the very early Universe. A hallmark of Ron’s career has been wide-ranging, innovative experiments involving the sun, moon, planets, stars, galaxies, quasars and the cosmic microwave background.
Member of the Order of Australia (AM)
  • David Frederick Malinfor significant service to science as an astronomer and astrophotographer
    “The man who coloured stars” has shared his love for the cosmos by always generously allowing the use of his images to celebrate Australian skies and astronomy. David has always had a fascination with light and colour and the interface between art and science.
Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)
  • Albert Barrie Pittock—for service to the Indigenous community

What do you get when you add extra energy (heat) to the atmosphere? Climate change. Barrie Pittock started his career with a PhD in physics and has spent his career applying a physicist’s understanding to the study of how humanity is affecting the weather. In the ‘70s and ‘80s he studied the potential climatic effects of nuclear war. More recently, he’s made a huge contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of climate change.

Get involved in the International Year of the Periodic Table

Stories from the Periodic Table—a science communication projectStories_from_the_Periodic_Table_Zinc

In celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table in 2019, the RACI is launching a science communication project entitled Stories from the Periodic Table. Whether it’s from your work, studies or just everyday life, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) wants to hear of your personal connection to an element. Is there an element you love above all others, or one that you hate? Do you have a medical story associated with an element? Can you connect an important event in your life to an element?

Over the course of the International Year of the Periodic Table in 2019, the RACI will publish your stories online to highlight the personal connections that people have to science, and to chemistry.

Submissions will be accepted in text (up to 500 words) or video (up to four minutes) and should be sent to communications@raci.org.au. The winners will attend the RACI National Awards Dinner in November 2019.

Collaborate with RACI for the International Year of the Periodic Table expo

‘Where the Periodic Table comes to life’ is an expo that will be held in Melbourne during National Science Week (10–18 August) that will include real-life experiments using chemical elements.

Each experiment will be themed to an element and the audience will be invited to take to the stand and undertake the experiment themselves. One experiment will explore how consumers can tackle the issue of non-renewable elements in our iPhones. This is considering that, of the 75 elements required to make an iPhone, a large number are non-renewable.

RACI are still in planning stages and are calling for collaborators. Please contact Jane O’Keefe (jane.okeefe@raci.org.au) for more information or if you’d like to get involved.

Register for the VCE Physics Teachers’ Conference—February 15 and 16 in Melbourne

From precision cosmology and the next generation of telescopes, to helping students generate reliable first-hand data in school experiments and investigations, the VCE Physics Teachers’ Conference will be held over two days on Friday 15 February and Saturday 16 February.

The Friday program will be held at La Trobe University in Bundoora. Highlights include:

  • Precision cosmology with the next generation of telescopes—with Laura Wolz, ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award Fellow in Theoretical Astrophysics from the University of Melbourne
  • How can we help physics students prepare for short answer questions in VCE Units 3 & 4? —with Chief Assessor of the VCE Physics Exam 2019

On Saturday there are free optional extras of a program including excursions at:

  • 9am – 10am at the Australian Synchrotron in Clayton
  • 30am – 1.30pm at the Medical Physics In-Service at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Parkville
  • 30pm – 4pm at the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) in Strathmore

Check the Vicphysics website for more details about the excursions.

Conference prices (all including morning tea and lunch): 

  • $188 for an individual member of the Science Teachers’ Association of Victoria (STAV)
  • $305 for a STAV School subscriber
  • $330 for a non-STAV member
  • $78 for a retired teacher

Register for the conference or look at the full program details on the VCE Science Conference Series website. Registrations close Friday 8 February.

Subscribe to the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies bulletin

The bi-monthly bulletin for the Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies has been running since 1991, to reflect and promote research developments and activities in physics in the Asia Pacific region.

The December bulletin featured articles about primordial black holes and the first telescope on a Cherenkov Telescope Array that will look at the sky at higher energy resolution than ever measured before. ‘Cherenkov light’ refers to the blue flash lasting a few billionths of a second that occurs when ultra-high energy particles travel faster than light in air.

For more physics stories from the Asia Pacific, subscribe to the AAPPS bulletin.

Aussie physics in the news

Adelaide, Or Radelaide To Its Friends, Becomes Home To Australia’s Space Agency https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2018/12/adelaide-or-radelaide-to-its-friends-becomes-home-of-australias-space-agency/

Algorithm predicts the next shot in tennis https://www.qut.edu.au/research/article?id=139429

ANU welcomes investment in critical research infrastructure https://science.anu.edu.au/news-events/news/anu-welcomes-investment-critical-research-infrastructure

Australian inventor Henry Sutton remembered https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/australian-inventor-henry-sutton-remembered/10594524

Bright blue light appears over Queens after transformer explosion at power plant https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-28/blue-light-sky-queens-new-york-city-transformer-explosion/10672026

From humble farm girl to triple Olympian and ASIO profile – The story of Shirley Strickland http://olympics.com.au/news/from-humble-farm-girl-to-triple-olympian-and-asio-profile-the-story-of-shirley-strickland

Harnessing the power of ‘spin orbit’ coupling in silicon: Scaling up quantum computation https://phys.org/news/2018-12-harnessing-power-orbit-coupling-silicon.html

New optical device brings quantum computing a step closer https://phys.org/news/2018-12-optical-device-quantum-closer.html

The end of airport queues? Device promises security without the wait https://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/act/the-end-of-airport-queues-device-promises-security-without-the-wait-20181218-p50mw7.html

Think big, celebrated scientist tells new home Down Under https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/think-big-celebrated-scientist-tells-new-home-down-under

Top optics award for pioneering physicist https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-01/ru-toa010619.php

Scientists detect biggest known black-hole collision https://science.anu.edu.au/news-events/news/scientists-detect-biggest-known-black-hole-collision

Science without sight: bringing medical discovery to low vision community https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/science-without-sight-bringing-medical-discovery-low-vision-community

Synopsis: Controlling Light with Trembling Nanoparticles https://physics.aps.org/synopsis-for/10.1103/PhysRevX.9.011008

Books for review

  • 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)


[NSW] 43rd Condensed Matter & Materials Meeting (“Wagga 2019”)
5 – 8 February 2019
Wagga Wagga, NSW

[SINGAPORE] 4th International Conference on Atomic and Molecular Physics
25 – 26 February 2019

[NEW ZEALAND] 2nd International Conference on Astronomy, Astrophysics & Astrobiology
4 – 6 April 2019
Auckland, New Zealand

[JAPAN] International Conference on Optics, Lasers & Photonics
13 – 14 May 2019
Tokyo, Japan

[USA] International Summit on Optics, Photonics and Laser Technologies
3 – 5 June 2019
Crowne Plaza Hotel San Francisco Airport
San Francisco, USA

[ITALY] International Conference on Materials Research and Nanotechnology
10 – 12 June 2019
Rome, Italy

[SPAIN] World Congress on Lasers, Optics and Photonics
23-25 September 2019
Barcelona, Spain