Physics cleaning up at the Eurekas; physicist named CSIRO Chief Scientist; awards and opportunities; and more

It’s been a busy month for physics with hundreds of events taking place around the country as part of National Science Week. About 30 of those were presented by UK plasma physicist Ceri Brenner, AIP’s 2018 Women in Physics lecturer. Ceri spoke about Igniting stars with super intense lasers, and shared her passion for physics with hundreds of people around Australia at school lectures, public lectures and meetings. Ceri was also featured in a segment on ABC’s The World talking about developing the world’s most powerful lasers. More below on Ceri’s tour.

I was personally delighted to hear that Past AIP President Cathy Foley is CSIRO’s new Chief Scientist. Cathy has played an integral part in the direction of the Australian Institute of Physics—she was the 2007-2008 AIP President and is currently on the Women in Physics Committee. She will step into the new role at the end of September to help champion science, and its impact on, and contribution to, the world. We wish Cathy all the best in her new role.

Four of this year’s Eureka prizes were won by physicists. Congratulations to the following individuals and teams:

  • The Optical Physics in Neuroscience team from the University of Queensland for the 2018 UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
  • Mohsen Rahmani from Australian National University for the 2018 Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
  • The Sapphire Clock Team from The Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, University of Adelaide and Cryoclock Pty Ltd for the 2018 Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
  • Alan Duffy from Swinburne University and The Royal Institute of Australia for the 2018 Celestino Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science.

Congratulations to quantum computing scientist Rose Ahlefeldt who is the 2018 ACT Scientist of the Year—an award that celebrates Canberra’s emerging scientists. Rose will spend the next 12 months inspiring young people to pursue careers in STEM, while promoting the ACT as a centre of excellence for science and research.

Also in this bulletin, the Asian Physics Olympiad want you to submit your toughest physics questions and Phil Dooley is looking for presenters for Physics in the Pub in Brisbane. Nominations are now open for NSW AIP’s Annual Postgraduate Awards Day.

Our last two bulletins have included surveys about AIP activities and your preferred time of the year for Congress. We haven’t got enough responses yet to share the results, so would love you to complete the surveys before the end of September. Your feedback will help to shape the future direction of the AIP.

Kind regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

AIP News

New Chief Scientist for CSIRO: Physicist Cathy Foley

AIP Past-President Cathy Foley, was announced as CSIRO’s Chief Scientist on August 14, 2018. She will step into the role at the end of September to help champion science, and its impact on, and contribution to, the world.

Cathy is a world-renowned physicist and science leader and has made distinguished contributions to the understanding of superconductor materials. She has also helped to advance the development of devices using superconductors to detect magnetic fields, as well as locating valuable deposits of minerals.

Cathy has played an integral part in the direction of the AIP. She was the 2007 to 2008 AIP President and is currently on the Women in Physics Committee. An advocate for women in science, science communication, and science education, Cathy describes her priorities in the new role as promoting science, STEM and women in science.

The 2016 Outstanding Service to Physics in Australia Award was awarded to Cathy for outstanding service to the discipline of physics over many years, including leadership, outreach and research.

Read the CSIRO media release here:

Physicists cleaning up at Eureka Prizes

The 2018 Eureka Prizes were announced at the Award Dinner last week. Four Eureka prizes went to physics. Read on for a short run-down on each winner.

The Optical Physics in Neuroscience team, University of Queensland 
2018 UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
Understanding how the active brain processes movement is a difficult thing to observe. But why not trick an animal into thinking it’s moving? The Optical Physics in Neuroscience team used optical trapping and novel microscopes to successfully image the functioning brain circuits of zebrafish that process gravity and motion.

Mohsen Rahmani, Australian National University
2018 Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher 
Mohsen has developed a new class of nanoscale surfaces that have transformed the capabilities of today’s miniaturised consumer devices. This technology has led to night-vision technology, adjustable lenses and ultra-sensitive biochemical detectors. Mohsen was also the recipient of the 2017 International Union of Pure and Applied Physics Young Scientist Prize in Laser Physics and Photonics (Fundamental Aspects).

The Sapphire Clock Team, The Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, University of Adelaide and Cryoclock Pty Ltd 
2018 Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
Timing precision is critical in fields like radar technology, radio astronomy and quantum computing. The ‘Sapphire Clock’ produces extremely pure signals that are 10 to 1,000 times more accurate than any competing technology. Their research is improving timing precision to help Australian defence agencies identify threats to the nation.

Alan Duffy, Swinburne University and The Royal Institute of Australia
2018 Celestino Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science
Alan Duffy regularly appears in Australian media and demonstrates that astrophysics can stand alongside sport or business as a news segment. He says that “science communication is about reminding the public of the incredible world that lies beyond their everyday experiences, but is intimately connected with their everyday lives.”

Read up on all the Eureka Prize winners:

Rose Ahlefeldt is the 2018 ACT Scientist of the Year

Australian National University’s quantum computing scientist and AIP member Rose Ahlefeldt has been announced as the 2018 ACT Scientist of the Year. The award celebrates Canberra’s emerging scientists and aims to inspire young people to consider a career in STEM.

Rose’s research into quantum computing earned her the accolade and she hopes her achievement will encourage more young women to pursue a career in science.

Her research is focussed on studying the rare earth ions in crystals to develop quantum information devices. She hopes the earth ions will unlock the secrets to efficiently storing quantum information.

“One day we’re going to be able to build quantum computers and quantum networks and these are going to open a lot of opportunities—like enhancing artificial intelligence, or searching for new drugs,” says Rose.

“Quantum networks allow us secure communications and eventually a quantum internet.”

Rose will spend the next 12 months inspiring young people to pursue careers in STEM, while promoting the ACT as a centre of excellence for science and research.

Learn more about Rose’s research here:

Five minutes with 2018 Australian Women in Physics Lecturer Ceri Brenner

Ceri Brenner, UK plasma physicist, has wrapped up her AIP Women in Physics lecture tour after visiting 14 sites around Australia: Sydney, Hobart, Devonport, Launceston, Perth, Wollongong, Adelaide, Canberra, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Brisbane, Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo.

We asked Ceri a few questions.

What was your highlight while in Australia?
All the people I met across universities and research organisations was a real highlight. It was a real joy to meet folks who are so enthusiastic and passionate about their subject areas. I also had the chance to meet a bunch of people who are role models to me—group leaders, directors, CEOs and innovators. 

What about your research do you think catches people’s attention the most? 
After wowing everyone with the extremity of the conditions that petawatt lasers can drive, I think people are fascinated by how much of an impact these machines can have on society. I set out to spread the word that physicists don’t just answer the big questions about how the Universe works, but that we also use our knowledge to design solutions for some of the biggest challenges that we face. Oriented discovery research undertaken with a vision or goal is halfway between blue-sky science and applied science and is a great place to be in physics.

I also feel that my message—borrowed from Einstein—”imagination is more important than knowledge” stuck in people’s minds and I hope it raises discussions about the role of creativity and imagination in science.

What was the most memorable piece of research you saw during your tour?
I really enjoyed the naming system of the neutron beams at ANSTO Lucas Heights– it’s an Australian Zoo! I was also excited to hear all about the medical and nuclear physics activity happening across the country as this is a subject I’m passionate about.

What advice do you have for future female physicists?
Find something you’re passionate about. Go to lots of talks and find a subject that leaves you with that warm fuzzy feeling of interest and excitement. Seek out champions and mentors and use networks for support and opportunities. Take opportunities for growth by putting yourself forward for positions of responsibility. Imposter syndrome is real, and everyone experiences it, especially in physics. 

What would you say to people who are interested in applying for the Australian Women in Physics tour?
It’s a busy tour so prepare yourself for a whirlwind ride but it’s a fantastic journey and opportunity. I am so thankful for the chance to meet and speak with so many students and to reach an academic audience I wouldn’t have got to otherwise. 

Ceri appeared on ABC’s The World on August 8 and spoke about developing the world’s most powerful lasers.

For more information about Ceri: 

Complete the surveys to have your say on the future of AIP

Back in June we asked you to have your say on the future direction of the Australian Institute of Physics.

We’ve received responses from less than one per cent of our membership base so far and need more responses in order to get a representative sample. If you haven’t already, have your say about AIP activities or your preferred time of year for the Congress before the end of September. Click on the hyperlinks to take the surveys.

Other Physics News & Opportunities

Submit your toughest question ideas in the Asian Physics Olympiad

In last years’ Asian Physics Olympiad in Russia, the experimental exam on photonic crystals went for five hours (have a go for yourself here). Now Australian Science Innovations want you to submit your questions for the World’s toughest physics competition, held in Australia for the first time next year.

The Asian Physics Olympiad will be held in Adelaide in 2019 and will host 200 of the world’s best and brightest teenagers from 25 countries. They’ll be in Australia for nine days of academic competitions and cultural activities, from 5 – 13 May 2019.

Why contribute a question idea?

  • Write a tactical question that will test (and be tested by) hundreds of exceptional students.
  • Receive international acknowledgement from fellow physicists and educators.
  • Showcase your research in a question.
  • Enjoy a creative outlet for physics problem construction where the sky is the limit (quirky questions that package physics in a unique way can become quite well known, and the students don’t forget the questions in a hurry).
  • If your question is chosen you may be asked to work with the committee on its development and you will be acknowledged by the APhO International Board and its publications. You will also be invited to attend events and celebrations during APhO 2019 in Adelaide.

Email Australian Science Innovations to submit a tough physics question by 22 September 2018.

For more information, visit or follow APhO 2019 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Call for presenters at Physics in the Pub—11 October in Brisbane

Phil Dooley is looking for presenters at Physics in the Pub in Brisbane. The event is a perfect chance for local researchers to speak about their science in an informal setting to the public.

Presenters have eight minutes to have fun with physics in any medium. It could be a quiz, poem, reggae song or stand-up comedy. The night will be start at 6.30pm and run until 9pm in Fortitude Valley.

To get involved or to discuss ideas, contact Dr Phil now on or 0414 945 577.

Or to register your interest in attending, head to Eventbrite: 

NSW AIP Branch: Annual Postgraduate Awards Day in November

The NSW AIP Branch is inviting NSW universities to nominate one student to compete at its Annual Postgraduate Awards Day on Tuesday 13 November 2018.

To compete, students need to prepare a 20-minute presentation about their postgraduate research in physics. They have a chance of winning $500 and the postgraduate medal at the event. The Jak Kelly Scholarship prize of $500 will be awarded as a separate award category on the day.

Participants presentations’ will be judged on their:

  • content and scientific quality
  • clarity
  • presentation skills.

Students nominated for the awards will also be invited as guests to the annual dinner following the awards, hosted by the NSW AIP Branch.

Event schedule:

  • 2pm – 5pm: Student presentations at the University of New South Wales, School of Physics, Room G59/60, Level G Old Main Building, Kensington Campus
  • 5.30pm – 6pm: Refreshments
  • 6pm – 6.20pm: AGM
  • 6.20pm – 6.35pm: Presentation of Awards and Prizes
  • 6.35pm – 8pm: Guest speaker (Tibor G Molnar)
  • 8pm – 10pm: Annual dinner at Giovanna Restaurant, 285 Anzac Parade, Kingsford.

To nominate a student, please email the title and abstract of your nominated student presentation to Dr Frederick Osman by Friday 5th October 2018 via

For more information on how to apply, visit: 

AIP members enjoy 25% discount for World Scientific books

World Scientific Publishing is a leading international independent publisher of books and journals for the scholarly, research and professional communities. And now AIP members can enjoy 25 per cent off World Scientific books with the promo code ‘WSAIPMEM25’ at check out.

World Scientific collaborates with prestigious organisations such as the Nobel Foundation and US National Academies Press to bring high quality academic and professional content to researchers and academics worldwide.

Physics-related books include:

  • Facts and Mysteries in Elementary Particle Physics—Nobel Laureate M Veltman
  • An Introduction to Black Holes, Information and the String Theory Revolution—Leonard Susskind
  • Classical Mechanics 5th edition—Tom W B Kibble & Frank H Berkshire
  • BCS: 50 Years edited—Leon N Cooper
  • Advanced Quantum Mechanics—Freeman Dyson.

To find out more about World Scientific, visit

Superstars of STEM: Apply today!

Applications for Science & Technology Australia’s (STA) Superstars of STEM are now open.

Superstars of STEM is a two-year program that supports women who are employed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles at any career stage in any sector.

Over the last five years, 150 female scientists and technologists have been trained to communicate in front of the media, on stage or to decision makers. The program aims to build participants’ public profiles and make them ambassadors for science.

Workshops will run in cities across Australia that teach participants how to communicate their research to the public and news media.
This year’s program will be made up of 60 participants—40 fee paying places ($2,500+GST) and 20 scholarship places, available to participants who are able to demonstrate financial need and meet strict eligibility criteria.

The value of the program is estimated to be more than $24,000 per participant, which includes personal development workshops, training, travel, accommodation as well as media coverage following completion of the course.

For more information and to apply: 

Applications close Sunday 23 September 2018.

Nominations for the 2019 ATSE Clunies Ross Awards now open

The Clunies Ross Awards is continuing its 27-year tradition of celebrating Australian scientists, entrepreneurs and visionaries by recognising the technological innovations that have helped Australia to remain a strong competitor in the global technology industry.

The awards are split into three categories with a single winner in each category. Read below about the three awards, and examples of this year’s winners.

  1. Clunies Ross Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Awarded to an individual whose technological advancement has led to significant financial success and has demonstrated a positive impact for Australia.This year’s winner:
    Scientist, educator and entrepreneur Erol Harvey won the 2018 Clunies Ross Entrepreneur of the Year Award, for translating Micro and Nano technology in Australia as CEO of world-leading microfluidic engineering company MiniFAB.
  2. Clunies Ross Knowledge Commercialisation Award: Awarded to an individual or small team for the discovery, development and adoption of a technology and for sharing their knowledge leading to commercialisation.This year’s winner:
    The Commercialisation award went to a team from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for their development of a lifesaving leukaemia drug, which was undergoing clinical trials in June this year.
  3. Clunies Ross Innovation Award: Awarded to an individual or small team who are responsible for the development of a technology that has had measurable broad community or industry impact.This year’s winner:
    James Aylward won the Clunies Ross Innovation Award for developing an anti-skin cancer drug developed from a folklore remedy that has been used to treat more than one million patients. The drug was discovered after observing how sap from a weed successfully treated sunspots.

Nominations close at 2pm AEDT Friday 26 October 2018. You can nominate here: 

Encourage others to apply even if they weren’t successful last year. And for more information about previous award winners, head to the Information and Nomination Guide.

The awards ceremony will take place at the Academy of Technology and Engineering Innovation Dinner held in Sydney on 13 June 2019.

CSIRO Indigenous STEM Awards now open

Nominations are now open for CSIRO’s Indigenous STEM Awards to recognise the contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, scientists, educators and role models in the field of STEM. 

There are 12 awards across seven categories covering high school and undergraduate students, STEM professionals, schools, teachers and mentors. The winners will receive a cash prize to support their work or studies in STEM.

Some of the 2017 winners included:

  • Misty Jenkins—winner of the STEM Professional Career Achievement Award: For her research investigating the cell biology behind killer lymphocytes for tailored immune responses to kill cancer
  • Dean Foley—winner of the STEM Professional Early Career Award: For inspiring and empowering Indigenous Youth with coding skills
  • Shailyn Isaac—winner of the Tertiary/Undergraduate Student Award: For being an ambassador at the School of Indigenous Students at the University of Western Australia, and for mentoring high school students who reside in Aboriginal hostels around Perth.

If you know someone who is doing inspiring work and identifies as an Indigenous person in STEM, encourage them to apply here:

Applications close 28 September 2018. 

Opportunities for school physicists

STEM: Women Branching Out—Cochlear Aurora photo contest 2018 now open

If you know a female student enrolled in Years 8 to 12 at a South Australian secondary school, encourage them to enter their ‘Science is Everywhere’ photograph today.

STEM: Women Branching Out is offering two $500 prizes to the top photographs, and two $500 rewards to the winning school and science teachers to support women in STEM.

The submitted photo should be creative, unique and eye-catching and convey the theme ‘Science is everywhere!’. The photo must be taken by the student, and only one photo per student is allowed.

Celestine Cherupallil’s “Precision” (pictured right), won the 2017 Aurora Photo Contest for Years 11 and 12. Celestine took this image to replicate the view of a person with myopia (short sightedness) as a part of last year’s theme of ‘Science is everywhere!’. You can read Celestine’s full explanation here.

Entries will be judged on the:

  • quality of the photo
  • creativity of the concept
  • clear communication
  • explanation of the photo.

Submissions close 5pm Friday 19 October. Apply here: 

Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in December 2018 at Flinders University, Bedford Park.

Commonwealth and NSW funding available for high school students to participate in STEM

The Commonwealth and NSW Governments are offering funding for Australian school students aged 18 and under to participate in STEM related events, activities or competitions. The funding can be used for programs in Australia or overseas to foster students’ STEM education and improve Australia’s standing in STEM related fields.

Supporting Young Scientists Program
The NSW Government’s Supporting Young Scientists Program provides grants to NSW high school students participating in STEM competitions, events or courses between July 2018 and June 2019. Funding is available for individual students for up to $5,000, or $10,000 for teams.

For more information, visit

Sponsorship Grants for Student Science Engagement and International Competitions
The Commonwealth’s Sponsorship Grants for Student Science Engagement and International Competitions provide primary and high school students with financial support to participate in STEM competitions. Grants are available for up to $5,000 per student and $20,000 per school.

For more information, visit

Aussie Physics in the News

Armidale’s Rose Ahlefeldt named ACT Scientist of the Year

Australian physicists show ‘bystander effect’ could be used to improve cancer treatment

Australian scientists have found a way to turbocharge the internet by changing the colour of light

Aussie student wins gold at International Physics Olympiad

CSIRAC, Australia’s first computer

Gaming for the environment, nanotech and a super-accurate clock: Australian science at the 2018 Eureka Prizes

‘Get the culture right, and women will join’ : Cathy Foley to lead CSIRO scientists

Gilmour and Fleet lead Australia’s foray into the space business

Golden anniversary marks stellar career for lauded WA physicist

Overlooked No More: Ruby Payne-Scott, Who Explored Space With Radio Waves

Books for review

If you are interested in reviewing this book 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 Labryrinth—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)


Reach a bigger audience. The Australian physics events calendar is the definitive source for physics events around the country. If your physics event isn’t listed here, ask us about adding it, having it included in these regular bulletins and tweeted from the AusPhysics account. Alternatively, feel free to submit your event to the AIP calendar for members to access.

Interstellar Journeys Within a Human Lifetime: Possibilities and Practicalities 
September 20 @ 6:00pm – 7:00pm
Finkel Lecture Theatre, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University

19th International Microscopy Congress (IMC19)
September 9 @ 8:00am – September 14 @ 5:00pm
Sydney International Convention Centre

There are no upcoming events

AIP eventThe Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education (Physics Discipline Day)
September 28
Flinders University

There are no upcoming events

There are no upcoming events

There are no upcoming events

AIP event denotes AIP events


[NSW] 9th International Microscopy Congress (IMC19)
9 – 14 September 2018
Sydney International Convention Centre, NSW

[SA] The Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education
28 September 2018
Flinders University, SA

[SA] Engineering and Physical Sciences in Medicine Conference 2018
28 – 31 October 2018
Adelaide Convention Centre, SA

[WA] South Pacific Environmental Radioactivity Association Conference 2018
6 – 9 November 2018
University of Western Australia
Perth, WA

[NSW] 17th Australian Space Research Conference 2018
13 – 15 November 2018
University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW

[WA] 2018 AIP Congress
9 -14 December 2018
University of Western Australia
Perth, WA

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

[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