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

AIP News

PhysicsGotMeHere: Meet John Innis

Name: John Innis

Employer: EPA Tasmania
Job title and description: Senior Scientific Officer, Air Monitoring
I co-ordinate Tasmania’s ambient air pollution measurement programs. This includes working with instruments and data analysis, reporting and interacting with a range of stakeholders (including the public), contributing to national work programs through various committees, and some strategic planning.
My career story so far: I initially completed a B.Ed.(Sci) in 1981 – a four year science teacher training degree at what was then called Melbourne State College (now part of the University of Melbourne). Then decided I wanted to keep studying. I was fortunate to be accepted into the honours year in physics at Monash University and then completed a PhD there – both with a speciality in observational astrophysics.  I had two really good supervisors: Keith Thompson and Denis Coates. Any problems that Keith couldn’t solve on the back of an envelope or with a graph pad (and sometimes a slide rule!) Denis would logically ‘nut out’ in an overnight mental batch-process. I gained great insights into how to tackle physics problems from Denis and Keith. I had access to the Monash Observatory near Emerald, and travelled to Siding Spring and Mount Stromlo.
After my PhD I did a term of teaching back at Melbourne State College then had a short stint at CSIRO Radiophysics in Sydney (and got to use ‘the dish’ for a week). Then I started a post doc in stellar seismology and exo-planets (in the days before any had been discovered) at the University of Birmingham, UK with a remarkable physicist and wonderful gentleman named George Isaak. That was a lot of fun (and hard work). I stayed on for a second post doc, and learnt an enormous amount from George and the group there. We used telescopes in South Africa, the Canary Islands, and even back in Australia. We didn’t have any clear detections of acoustic oscillations in stars (except for Arcturus) nor find any exo-planets, but I think we really explored the limits of technology and contributed a bit to the field in the early days. It’s also been fascinating to watch the transition of this field from ‘fringe’ to ‘mainstream’ astronomy. A few years after I left Birmingham, George received both the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society and the Herschel Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.
I decided I wanted to return to Australia. Luck was with me as I managed to fulfil a long-standing hope and was selected by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) to be the upper atmosphere physicist at Mawson station, Antarctica, for 1993. As it turned out, that was the last year there was a wintering physicist position there and also the last year there were dogs on station. It was a remarkable year with a remarkable group of people. I had a research program studying the thermodynamics of the high-latitude thermosphere, as well as running instruments for other projects. I found I could transfer a lot of the experience I had from measuring stellar atmospheres to the work on the earth’s atmosphere – but also I had a lot to learn in the new field. Again, it was my colleagues, Pene Greet at the AAD, and Peter Dyson at Latrobe, who led me along the way. The Antarctic bug had then completely bitten – my wife, Petra (a glaciologist) and I wintered Davis station in 1999. We then moved to Alaksa for two years as Petra had work there.
In 2002 we both found employment in Hobart. I rejoined the AAD in the atmospheric LIDAR project. I called on my astronomy background to design the optical receivers for two commercial telescopes and spent two further summers at Davis station. At the expiration of that contract in 2007 I counted myself very fortunate to obtain a fixed-term one with what became EPA Tasmania, working on the measurement of air pollution. 
I’m still there. Our main air pollutant is smoke – mostly from residential heating in winter but also from bushfires and planned burns. With my team, we’ve substantially increased the measurement-base of air pollution data by going from two ambient air monitoring stations in 2007 to 35. Our real-time air network now extends over a significant part of the state, and is an important information source for the public, and for public health responses. We’ve also developed new analysis tools and new ways to understand and communicate the data. Underlying this has been a very strong physical-science base and a scientific approach. Other Australian jurisdictions have directly adopted some aspects we pioneered in Tasmania. This contributed to their ability to respond to the Black Summer bushfires.
Bringing a strong physics background and experience in measurement and data analysis to air quality work has significantly reshaped the way we view air pollution in Tasmania. There are still knowledge gaps and other issues to be addressed, but the ability we have now to provide hard data and comprehensive analysis to these problems has been almost revolutionary. I am hoping the approach we have taken will have influence for some years to come.
In 2019 John received the Clean Air Medal, the highest award of the Clean Air Society of Australia and New Zealand (CASANZ), which is the peak body for Air Quality professionals in Australia and New Zealand.
Click here to read about all previous hidden physicists.

Meet the sponsors: Zurich Instruments

Zurich Instruments makes cutting-edge instrumentation for scientists and technologists in advanced laboratories who are passionate about phenomena that are notoriously difficult to measure. The company’s hardware offering includes lock-in amplifiers, quantum computing control systems, impedance analyzers, and arbitrary waveform generators.
Zurich Instruments employs PhD-level professionals with different scientific backgrounds in its teams of application scientists and technical sales representatives. In a company environment where there is freedom to take responsibility and space to create, every product launched or solution delivered comes from innovation-driven teamwork.

For more information, please see: 

2021 Women in Physics Lectures: WA dates announced

Keeping astronauts safe from radiation damage on the long haul to Mars is the focus of Associate Professor Susanna Guatelli’s research.
Nuclear physicist Susanna, based at The University of Wollongong, is this year’s AIP Women in Physics Lecturer.
Her Australian tour kicked off in late April, and continues for much of the year. Dates in Western Australia have just been announced. They are:

  • Tuesday, August 31: A virtual event for high school students, 9.15 am to 10.15am.
  • Tuesday, August 31: A talk for physicists and engineers at the University of Western Australia, 6.30pm to 7.30pm.
  • Wednesday, September 1: A talk for high school students, held at the John Curtin College of the Arts, 11.47 am to 12.45 pm.
  • Wednesday, September 1: A talk for the general public, held at Curtin University, 6 pm to 8 pm.
  • Thursday, September 2: Morning tea with academics and students at the University of WA, 10.30 am to 11.30 am.
  • Thursday, September 2: Afternoon tea with academics and students at Curtin University, between 3.30 pm and 4.30 pm.

Dates in Tasmania and South Australia fall in August. Exact times and locations were still being finalised as this bulletin went to press, but please check here for updated details.
By the way, the search is already underway for our 2022 Women In Physics lecturer. If you have suggestions for outstanding and inspiring scientists who might relish the role – especially if they are based overseas – please drop us a line at

Everything you’ve always wanted to know about nuclear medicine but were afraid to ask!

Nuclear medicines play an important role in diagnosing and treating diseases.
Australia is among the best in the world in researching, developing and manufacturing these important tools and is playing a significant part in the global fight against cancer.
Find out more on Tuesday, 22 June in a 90-minute free online event during which scientists and medical experts will share and show the latest research. The event is a collaboration between the Australian Institute of Physics, ANSTO & Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the Royal Society NSW.
Kick-off is at 7pm AEST. Register now here.

Power! Energy! Philosophy!

Join an experimentalist, a theorist and a philosopher online as they explore the concepts of power and energy from three very different perspectives. Topics will include: renewables, fission, fusion, hydrogen – even tapping into dark energy (no, not coal, though we can’t ignore reliance on fossil fuels in the discussion!).
The event – on 23 June – is the latest in the fun and entertaining ‘Zoom into Physics!’ series. Join in the jollity with Dr Scott Martin, chair of the AIP NSW branch, and panelists Dr Kirrily Rule (the Experimentalist), Professor Geraint Lewis (the Theorist) and Tibor Molnar (the Science Philosopher).
The event runs between 8 pm and 9.30 pm, AEST. Hit the link here.

Pundits wanted for Physics in the Pub

Ever had a yearning to hold forth in pub on your favourite physics project? Well, now’s your chance, at least if you live in NSW.

The AIP is looking for enthusiasts to present eight-minute routines during this year’s Physics in the Pub night, slated for Friday, 20 August, at the Ashfield Hotel, Ashfield.

The presentations can be comedy, quizzes, demonstrations, music – whatever works.

Prospective performers should submit a 200-word description to the organisers by 18 June. For more details, email

More physics awards and opportunities

Physicists among newly elected Australian Academy of Science Fellows

Outstanding work in the fields of condensed matter physics, nanoscale systems and space technology have earned three physicists Fellowships from the Australian Academy of Science. They are:

Professor Susan Coppersmith FAA—Condensed matter physicist, University of New South Wales

AIP member Susan Coppersmith has made outstanding contributions to several subjects in condensed matter, focusing on the fundamental nature of systems that are far from thermal equilibrium. She has developed theories unifying phenomena that are observed in areas as diverse as population biology, biomineralization, granular materials, and superfluidity. Working closely with experimentalists, she has also made important contributions to the development of quantum dot qubits in silicon/silicon-germanium heterostructures. See here for more details.

Professor John Sader FAA—Applied mathematician (nanoscale systems), University of Melbourne

John Sader’s development of pioneering measurement techniques has revolutionised the characterisation of materials using the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). His scientific contributions are widely used and have enabled breakthrough discoveries in materials science at the molecular and atomic scale. The Sader Method is an international standard for AFM force calibration as is the Sader-Jarvis Method for atomically resolved AFM force measurements. These methods appear in textbooks and are used in commercial instruments. He has also made important contributions across an array of fields, including nanomechanics, plasmonics, rarefied gas dynamics and fluid-structure interactions ranging from nano- to macro-scales. See more here.

Dr Gregory Clark AC FAA FTSE—Non-Executive Director, NextDC (Special Election)

Gregory Clark is a renowned scientist, technologist and businessman with an outstanding career both in Australia and internationally across a spectrum of industries from IT and communications to media, space and finance. His scientific contributions have been in the areas of solid-state physics, chip technology, neutrino physics, space technology, media digitization and cyber analysis. Clark has also continually supported student education and involvement. More details here.

Nominations for Laby, Bragg medals close at the end of month

Nominations for the TH Laby Medal for Excellence in Physics close on 1 July.
The prize recognises outstanding work done by an Australian Honours or Masters student in Australia. More here.  
Nominations for the Bragg Gold Medal for Excellence in Physics also closes on 1 July. This prize recognises outstanding work done by an Australian PhD student.
More here. (And check out our From The Vaults item below about the lacrosse skills of the medal’s eponymous inspiration, William Bragg.)
Note that nominations for both must be supported by the nominee’s governing institution.

Winter Vacation Internships at University of Melbourne closing soon

The University of Melbourne’s Laby Research Scholarships provide outstanding students with a supervised introduction to research in physics.
The program is aimed at second or third years who are considering enrolment in postgraduate studies, and wish to gain research experience.
Applications close on June 4. For details, see here.

Calling all school kids: sign up now for the Australian Science Olympiad

Time is running out for high school students to register for the 2021 Australian Science Olympiad Exams. The exams, which opened for registrations on Monday 31 May, are the ultimate challenge for science students and are the first steps towards representing Australia at the International Physics Olympiad. They are highly regarded by employers and universities.

Australian Science Innovations also coordinate the Junior Science Olympiad, now in its second year. The Junior Science Olympiad is open to students in Year 7 – 10 and focuses on general science. Students who perform well may be invited to future enrichment programs and may go on to represent Australia at the International Junior Science Olympiad.

Registrations close 21 July. Schools and teachers can learn more by contacting

News from Australian Physics magazine

The toroidal analyser, plasmonics and structural colour, and more: Australian Physics coming soon

The next issue of Australian Physics is in preparation and will be out soon.
It will include a special feature on the toroidal analyser end-station at the Australian Synchrotron. Look out too for a story by Anne Roberts, winner of the AIP’s Alan Walsh Medal, on her research into plasmonics and structural colour.
And, of course, you can enjoy all the regular features, such as #Physicsgotmehere, reflections from the AIP President and Executive, the Young Physicists’ page, and physics news from around the world.
More details in the next bulletin.

Join the editorial team: Australian Physics looking for a co-editor

Current co-editors David Hoxley and Peter Kappen, and editorial assistant Rosie Mulray, write:
Australian Physics
magazine thrives, among other things, on content and change.
As the editorial team we love content that is not only interesting to readers across the physics-related spectrum, but also challenges thinking, broadens horizons, points towards the future, and inspires others. It provides the space and opportunity to use more substantial articles and pieces to explore topics in some depth. Ultimately, content for Australian Physics is an expression of the community and how we engage with one another.
Change has to do with improving things around the magazine and implementing new ideas. Over time, we added the Young Physicists’ Page and #PhysicsGotMeHere as regular columns, and we continue to look for new opportunities to add interesting content.
Change also means increasing diversity. As you can tell from the editors’ photos, they are both the same gender, ethnic background, and around the same age. We are thus looking to for a new co-editor to join the team and help lead the magazine.
If you would like to be part of the editorial team, please reach out – there are many ways to be involved, and no previous experience in publishing or encyclopaedic knowledge of physics is required. Email us at

Calling all physics writers …

The Australian Physicist, now Australian Physics, has been produced by the AIP since 1964. It is the oldest science magazine in Australia.
Current editors Peter Kappen and David Hoxley are always on the hunt for material to include in forthcoming issues.
To that end, they also invite members to submit:  

  • Pitches for articles describing current research;
  • Physics-themed cartoons;
  • Reviews of physics-themed books (they might even be able to get the book for you!);
  • Physics poetry;
  • Obituaries of recently passed members.

Proposals and finished items can be sent to

FROM THE VAULT: William Bragg and Lacrosse in Adelaide The Australian Physicist, May 1980

On January 12, 1886 at 2 p.m. the RMS ROME slipped away from her berth at Gravesend (London) and began the first of three journeys she would make that year to Australia. After a voyage of fresh winds and fine skies she arrived off Glenelg, near Adelaide, on February 27. One of the passengers to disembark was 23-year-old Professor-elect William Henry Bragg |Observer*, 1886a |. Shortly after completing Part III of the Cambridge Mathematics Tripos he had been chosen to fill the Chair of Mathematics at The University of Adelaide recently vacated by Horace Lamb; and, with this change, the University had taken the opportunity to acknowledge the enlarged responsibilities of the position, for the 1887 University Calendar speaks of “the Elder Professor of Pure and Applied Mathematics who shall also give instruction in Physics”.
The story of the young Bragg growing up in England; of his introduction to and maturation in Physics at Adelaide (where he also married and where his three children were born); and of his successful X-ray crystallographic studies after his return to England in 1909, his Nobel Prize with his eldest son, and his later period at the Royal Institution, has been told on several occasions |Andrade, 1942; Bragg and Caroe, 1962; Grant, 1952 and Forman, 1970|, although a full and adequate scientific biography has not been written.
Recently Dr S. G. Tomlin (1976) has given an absorbing account of Bragg’s time in Adelaide in this journal, and Bragg’s daughter |Caroe, 1978| has published a fascinating personal document. In 1978-79, in re-examining Bragg’s physics research in Adelaide for an analysis of the early history of angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy /Jenkin et al., 1979|, I was reminded by Dr Tomlin of a photograph which had never (to my knowledge) been published or discussed publicly.
It shows Bragg as a member of a lacrosse team (Fig 1). The State Library of South Australia records it as the Adelaide team of 1885; but, as Dr Tomlin pointed out to me and as The Adelaide Observer _1886a) confirms Bragg did not arrive until early 1866. The library copy also states that the photo was taken on the Victoria Park Racecourse and lists the names given here, It has been suggested to me that the photo is of the North Adelaide team of 1887, the foundation year of that club. While me family and I were in Adelaide over the last Christmas-New Year period I determined to find out what I could about this photo and its background. The following paragraphs contain my findings.

Read the full story here.

Australian physics in the news

Nanophotonics enhanced coverslip for phase imaging in biology

 The ability to visualize transparent objects such as biological cells is of fundamental importance in biology and medical diagnostics. Conventional approaches to achieve this include phase-contrast microscopy and techniques that rely on chemical staining of biological cells. These techniques, however, rely on expensive and bulky optical components or require changing, and in some cases damaging, the cell by introducing chemical contrast agents. Significant recent advances in nanofabrication technology permit structuring materials on the nanoscale with unprecedented precision. This has given rise to the revolutionary field of meta-optics that aims to develop ultra-compact optical components that replace their bulk-optical counterparts as for example lenses and optical filters. Such meta-optical devices exhibit unusual properties for which they have recently drawn significant scientific interest as novel platforms for imaging applications.
Read more here.

Field Array telescope opens door to study “extreme physics”

Astronomers using the Murchison Wide Field Array telescope have discovered a dense and rapidly spinning neutron star sending radio waves into the cosmos.
Known as a pulsar, the star spins more than once each second.
Curtin University scientist Nick Swainston made the discovery while processing data collected as part of an ongoing pulsar survey.
“Pulsars are born as a result of supernovae — when a massive star explodes and dies, it can leave behind a collapsed core known as a neutron star,” he said. “They’re about one and a half times the mass of the Sun, but all squeezed within only 20 kilometres, and they have ultra-strong magnetic fields.”
Read more here.

Stellar secrets of a distant galaxy suggest our Milky Way isn’t so special after all

It’s no surprise the Milky Way is the most-studied galaxy in the universe, given it’s where we live.

But studying just one galaxy can only tell us so much about the complex processes by which galaxies form and evolve.

One crucial question that can’t be solved without looking farther afield is whether the Milky Way is a run-of-the-mill galaxy, or whether it’s unusual or even unique.

Our research, published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, suggests the former is true. Key details of our galaxy’s structure are shared by other nearby galaxies, suggesting our home isn’t all that special.

Read more here.

In brief

Scientists Find Extraterrestrial Isotopes on Ocean Floor

Vibrating drumheads are entangled quantum mechanically

Helping symmetric quantum systems survive in an imperfect world

This quantum paradox will make you question reality

Sydney Nano delivers high-speed smart sensing for Australian Defence

Jobs corner – physics employment opportunities

Postdoctoral Research Associate positions: Computational Astrophysics for the Sun, University of Newcastle

Work with Associate Professor David Pontin to solve problems in computational astrophysics and related fields.
Build your international presence and collaborations in a global research environment.
Experience a 3-year contract and the beautiful beach and café lifestyle of Newcastle, Australia.
Closing date: 4/6/2021
More details here:

PhD opportunities in quantum nanoscience and precision measurement

The Queensland Quantum Optics Laboratory is looking for enthusiastic, talented and highly motivated students to join us for PhDs in quantum nanoscience and precision measurement.
They have PhD positions open in a range of areas including:

  • quantum microscopy,
  • superfluid quantum devices and dynamics,
  • nanomechanical computing,
  • imaging motor molecules and their living dynamics within cells, and
  • precision magnetometry, ultrasound and inertial sensing.

If this sounds interesting to you, and you have a strong background in physics, nanotechnology, photonics, the biosciences, or engineering, get in touch with Prof Warwick Bowen,
More details here:

Flinders University: Lecturer in Electromagnetic Systems and Security

The Lecturer will, under routine to general supervision, produce quality research and deliver undergraduate and/or postgraduate teaching in areas of physics and engineering with particular emphasis on areas related to electromagnetic systems and security.

The teaching component includes the development of innovative teaching materials, multi-mode teaching delivery, including face to face and online, and other innovative and contemporary teaching and learning strategies, appropriate for the discipline.

The incumbent will make independent high-quality contributions to research and/or creative activity, through activities such as quality publications, external grant acquisition and research student supervision.

For more details and application, see here

The AIP is happy to provide a free link to your physics-related job or PhD opportunity. Please send them to If you would like to feature more details and a picture, please email Kirrily Rule for more information and pricing. 

Senior Battery R&D Scientist – Sydney

Radionuclide Metrology Scientist, Physics ANSTO

Energy Data Scientist CSIRO

Postdoctoral Fellow in Photovoltaics UNSW

Lecturer – Material Studies with Artificial Intelligence UNSW

Data Science KPMG -Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne

Teaching Fellow – Physics (UNSW)

Data Scientist (Grad) Cochlear (Sydney)

Physics Teacher (one of many such positions advertised)

Junior Acoustic Consultants (All over Australia)

Calibrator (Adelaide)

Patent Attorney, Engineering (Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney)

Lead Atomic Physicist (Canberra)

Medical Physics Specialist (Perth)

Postdoctoral Fellow Experimental quantum optics & diamond photonics (Macquarie University Sydney)

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Advanced Nuclear Science

PhD/MSc opportunities:

CSIRO/RMIT Masters by Research

QUT PhD Scholarship in Physics-informed Lattice Boltzmann Modelling

ANU-ITER research training scheme

PhD Scholarship Available at Macquarie University – Diamond lasers for space adaptive optics applications.

New postdoc and PhD students at The University of Queensland in the areas of quantum fundamentals, and quantum/nano/photonic technologies wanted. If interested contact Prof Warwick Bowen