Three Australian physicists with exciting research; Australian Space Agency partners with NASA; and more physics in October

I hope you have been enjoying the diversity of careers highlighted in our Hidden Physicist column. This month we meet Mark Turner, an Australian physicist who recently launched a start-up on laser micro-machining in Silicon Valley in the US.

The call for abstracts for the second AIP Summer Meeting is has been extended a few more days, and the early-bird registration is now open. We are excited to offer this conference, which aims to showcase upcoming talent in physics. I hope to see you at RMIT in Melbourne in December!

Nominations for the 2019 NSW Community Outreach to Physics Award will close on Friday 11th October. More below.

Congratulations to the three physics projects among the 2019 Australian Laureate Fellows announced in September, and to the Atom Trap Trace Analysis (ATTA) team at the University of Adelaide for creating the first ATTA facility in the Southern Hemisphere. Read more below.

An opportunity has arisen to help deliver the Australian Science Olympiads physics program as the Deputy Program Director of the event. Details below.

Also this month: The Australian Space agency partners with NASA, apply for the CSIRO Alumni 2020 Scholarship in Physics, and find an opportunity in our Jobs Corner.

Kind regards,

Jodie Bradby
President, Australian Institute of Physics

AIP News

Second AIP Summer Meeting

To be held Wednesday 4 to Friday 6 December at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

Confirmed plenary and keynote speakers include:

  • Prof. Allan MacDonald (University of Texas at Austin)
  • Prof. Virginia Kilborn (Swinburne University)
  • Prof. Sven Rogge (UNSW)
  • Prof. Christine Charles (ANU)
  • Prof. Deb Kane (Macquarie University)

Important dates:
Early-bird registration deadline – October 18.
Registration closure – November 6.

AIP WA General Meeting Wednesday October 9

Join your fellow physicists for A Kinetic Solution for Space Debris, presented by Michael Le Page, founder and lead designer for Exodus Space Systems. Michael will discuss how we’re making space safer for current and future generations with the latest technologies and what’s in store for the future.

This event is being held on Wednesday October 9 at the University of Western Australia, in the fifth floor Physics Building tea-room, from 6pm to 7.30pm. Remember to bring colleagues, students and friends.

Please RSVP here.

2019 NSW Community Outreach to Physics Award

The AIP in New South Wales has instituted this annual award to recognise the work of individuals in popularising physics. It seeks to acknowledge someone with a notable record in physics education.

The award will be presented each year, with the winner selected from a shortlist. It comprises $500 and a really handsome certificate.

Nominations close on Friday October 11. The nomination form (2019 Community Outreach to Physics Award) should be lodged by mail or email to:
Dr Frederick Osman
NSW Branch Chair Australian Institute of Physics
PO Box 649, Moorebank NSW 1875

It will be presented at the AIP NSW Postgraduate Awards and Annual Dinner on Tuesday November 12 at the University of Technology Sydney.

AIP Western Australia Student Conference in November

The AIP WA Conference brings together Honours, Masters and PhD students studying at WA institutions. Early stage physics researchers are invited to present their projects in a supportive environment to a tight-knit community of their peers.

Enjoy a day of networking and 10-to-15-minute presentations in a formal setting. Details are still being confirmed.

Preliminary details
Date: November 14, 9am to 5pm.
Venue: Ross Lecture Theatre, UWA Physics Building

Further details will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information, contact Mitchell Chiew:

The WA AIP branch 2019 AGM and dinner

As usual this year’s event will include inspiring speakers, excellent food and good cheer. Please consider nominating for a committee or a position such as as Secretary, Treasurer, Vice Chair or Chair.

Date: Thursday, November 14, from 6pm.
Venue: The University Club of Western Australia.

Enquiries here.
Facebook link here.

Seeking content – AIP Instagram account

Our AIP Instagram account @aus_physics needs content! Please send pictures that depict all things physics in Australia to for posting. And if you would like to be a guest host for a week or so to show people your work let Tim know!

Other physics news and opportunities

Three physicists among the 2019 Australian Laureate Fellows announced in September

Last month the Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, announced 17 Australian Laureate Fellows who will share $53.8 million to lead research projects over five years.

Among them were three physics researchers.

Marcela Bilek is a Professor of Applied Physics and Surface Engineering at the University of Sydney. She is looking to create new processes, known as plasma surface modification, to resolve challenges with porous and dispersed materials. This research will have potential benefits for diagnostic and therapeutic biomedical applications.

Andrew Dzurak is a Scientia Professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications at the University of New South Wales. He is also a chief investigator and executive member of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, and is director of ANFF-NSW, the state node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility. Professor Dzurak plans to develop a quantum computer processor, resolving critical issues to take the technology to a commercial-ready stage, which will have important applications in pharmaceutical design, finance and national security.

Debra Bernhardt is a professor at the University of Queensland School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, and deputy director of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. Her project will predict the dynamic behaviour and properties of physical matter at a molecular level using statistical physics and developing state-of-the art simulation models. This knowledge will have important applications for technologies such as robotics, batteries, and fluids at a microscopic level — and will lead to the development of new clean energy sources and storage technologies.

Applications for the CSIRO Alumni 2020 Scholarship in Physics are now open

The CSIRO Alumni Scholarship in Physics aims to connect the brightest young physicists or mathematicians to a leading research centre overseas or in Australia. Research in physics and mathematics is fundamental for Australia’s future, and early experience in leading overseas laboratories results in significant benefits.

This is a postgraduate scholarship, which will be used to fund travel costs to visit or conduct research in an overseas or interstate institution such as a university or research establishment of international standing.

This year’s award has been increased to $6000. All applications must be received before November 29.

For more information visit:

Australian government commits to join NASA in lunar exploration and beyond

The Australian Space Agency and NASA have launched a new partnership in space cooperation. This includes the opportunity for Australia to join the US moon to Mars exploration approach, including NASA’s Artemis lunar program.

The Australian Government is investing $150 million over five years for businesses and researchers to join NASA’s endeavour, and deliver key capabilities for the mission.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the investment would benefit all Australians through more jobs, new technologies and more investment in businesses.

“We’re backing Australian businesses to the moon, and even Mars, and back,” he said.

“We’re getting behind Australian businesses so they can take advantage of the pipeline of work NASA has committed to.”

Dr Megan Clark AC, head of the Australian Space Agency, said the announcement marks an important step for Australia, and its growing space industry.

Although the agency is relatively new, established a little over a year ago, Australia has a long tradition of working closely with the US in space activities.

Unique new facility will help protect Australia’s groundwater from overuse and contamination, while contributing to understanding climate change

The Atom Trap Trace Analysis (ATTA) facility, a collaboration between CSIRO and the University of Adelaide, uses advanced laser physics to count individual atoms in noble gases such as argon and krypton, found in groundwater and ice cores.

Measuring the ultra-low concentrations of these radioactive gases allows researchers to determine the age, origin and interconnectivity of the water.

This is the first ATTA facility in the Southern Hemisphere and, combined with CSIRO’s complementary Noble Gas Facility at the Waite campus in Adelaide, comprises one of the most comprehensive analysis capabilities in the world.

“Australia relies on its groundwater for 30 per cent of its water supply for human consumption, stock watering, irrigation and mining,” says Professor Andre Luiten, Director of the University’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing.

“With climate change and periods of prolonged drought, surface water is becoming increasingly more unreliable and the use of groundwater is rising.”

The facility is partially funded under the Australian Research Council’s Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities scheme.

Australian Science Olympiad – Physics Deputy Program Director

An opportunity has arisen to help deliver the Australian Science Olympiad’s Physics program as the Deputy Program Director.

The role is critical in delivering the Olympiad Summer School, a residential program held at ANU in Canberra from January 2 to 25, 2020. It also involves travelling with and supporting the eight-member team competing at the Asian Physics Olympiad from May 10 to 18 in Taiwan next year.

This is a casual part-time position available for one year, with the possibility of extension.

For further information or to discuss the position please email or call Ruth Carr on 02 6125 6275

Hidden Physicists – featuring Mark Turner

This section features a different physics graduate each month and highlights the surprising places they’ve ended up.

Name: Mark Turner, PhD

Employer: Turner Laser Systems LLC (, a silicon valley start-up founded in 2018 that provides laser micro-machining solutions to high-tech manufacturing companies.

“Our philosophy is to educate customers in laser technology and work with them to find the best process solution for their manufacturing needs. We then translate this knowledge, confidence and experience into robust industrial manufacturing systems, enabling our customers to bridge the gap between product concept and manufacturing success.”

What does your work involve?

“As the CEO of a small technology start-up I have to perform many tasks, including technical sales, marketing, business development, engineering, laser process development and leadership. It is a fun and rewarding experience but also requires huge dedication and commitment, taking a lot of time and energy.

“I often spend a part of my day in our laser laboratory that is set up to perform R&D experiments for our customers who are looking to evaluate laser processing for their manufacturing needs. Each month we have new projects, new lasers and new customer products we are working on.

“My most valuable role however is to build relationships with equipment suppliers, manufacturing partners and our customers. I spend half my time visiting customers, learning about their products and understanding their manufacturing challenges.”

How does physics come into it?

“Physics is absolutely essential to success in this industry in more than one way.

“Firstly, to achieve quality results requires a deep understanding on laser physics, and the fundamental light-matter interaction. Secondly, to provide robust and trusting solutions one must follow a methodological and systematic approach, combined with a curiosity that challenges pre-existing assumptions, which is a trait I learnt from my years as a student of experimental physics.
“This work philosophy has become my greatest asset and gives my customers as well as my team great confidence in a technology that otherwise they would fear from a lack of understanding.”

Describe your career pathway.

“I obtained my PhD in experimental physics at Swinburne University in 2012, then moved to Silicon Valley in 2013 to gain industry and business experience in the laser world. I joined a well-established laser company, IMRA America, as a laser applications engineer for three years.

“After that I joined a small laser start-up company, Prosint, in 2016 to get experience in how to run a business. While technically successful, the company failed to be profitable after two years of operation, and in 2018 joined an automation company, Nexus Automation. Soon after I founded Turner Laser Systems in partnership with Owens Design Inc.”

Please email if you’d like to nominate a ‘hidden’ physicist for us to profile.

Jobs Corner – physics employment opportunities

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

Aussie physics in the news

Endangered elements

Global VC bets on Australian quantum computing start-up Q-CTRL in US$15m Series A funding round

Hunt for dark matter: Sydney joins ARC Centre of Excellence

Einstein’s Theory Predicts a Weird State of Matter. Could It Be Lurking in the World’s Largest Atom Smasher?

I’m A Dark Matter Detective Solving The Universe’s Biggest Mystery From 1km Below Ground

Ig nobel ways to answer humanity’s big questions

National quantum-themed competition for game designers