Big finish to 2018; AIP Congress; how new stars are formed in galaxies

As the 2018 Congress approaches and the year draws to a close, I’d like to reflect on the last 12 months as we gather our energy for 2019.

It’s been a stellar year for Australian physicists, with several of our own recognised with prestigious awards throughout the year.


Top billing of course goes to Michelle Simmons, Australian of the Year 2018. Michelle has been a wonderful advocate of our discipline, bringing public awareness of quantum physics to the fore. Her team recently overcame yet another hurdle on the path to silicon quantum computing with the demonstration of a compact sensor for qubit readout (see Aussie Physics in the News).

Other notable mentions include:

  • Geophysicist Kurt Lambeck, recipient of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his research on understanding the changing shape of planet Earth;
  • The award of four Eureka prizes to physicists – the optical physics in neuroscience team at UQ, Mohsen Rahmani at ANU, the sapphire clock team at the University of Adelaide and Cryoclock Pty Ltd, and Alan Duffy from Swinburne University and the Royal Institute of Australia;
  • Early career researcher Liam Hall from the University of Melbourne, who was awarded a 2018 Veski Innovation Fellowship for his work on applying quantum sensing to chemical reaction systems;
  • Professor Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop AO (UQ) and Professor Jai Singh AM (Charles Darwin University), who were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday 2018 Honours list
  • The six physicists appointed to the Australian Honour roll.

This year the 2018 AIP Women in Physics Lecturer, plasma physicist Ceri Brenner, has done a tremendous job in advocating for physics and female physicists. She spoke at 30 events across Australia during National Science Week and was featured on ABC’s The World for her work in developing powerful lasers. Nominations for the 2019 Women in Physics Lecturer close on December 14, so if you know an Australian female physicist who has made significant contributions to the field, nominate today. More below.

In 2019 we must continue striving to ensure that the Australian public and government are well-informed of the benefits of physics research.

I hope to see you at the AIP Congress next week. And an announcement yesterday spread internationally about physicists who detected a gravitational wave signal that was produced by the biggest black hole collision seen so far. A huge congratulations to all involved and particularly to Susan Scott from the Australian National University, who will be presenting new results from the first two observing runs of Advanced LIGO and Virgo at the Congress.

The highlight-packed program can be read on the AIP Congress website.

AIP News

The AIP Congress is almost here

The AIP Congress is happening in Perth from the 9th to 13th of December. Plenary and keynote speakers include:

  • Professor Julia Yeomans FRS (Oxford University, UK), renowned for her studies of complex fluids and so-called “active matter” systems which can extract energy from their surroundings to perform mechanical work
  • Nobel Laureate Professor Rainer Weiss (MIT, USA), a pioneer of gravitational wave astronomy and the study of the cosmic microwave background
  • An exciting announcement from OzGrav to be presented on the last day.

For the full program, head to 

AIP Women in Physics Lecture nominations open

Do you know a woman in Australia who has made a significant contribution in a field of physics research? Nominate them today for the 2019 Women in Physics Lecture Tour. 

The 2018 Women in Physics Lecturer was Ceri Brenner (pictured), a UK plasma physicist who works on the most powerful lasers in the world. Ceri’s lecture tour took in more than a dozen sites around Australia. Astrophysicist Katie Mack toured in 2017, sharing her research about studying the Universe from the big bang to the end of everything.

The AIP is seeking a woman working in Australia who:

  • has made a significant contribution in a field of physics research
  • has demonstrated public speaking ability
  • is available in 2019 to visit Canberra and each of the six Australian State capital cities and surrounding regions.

The tour includes presenting school lectures, public lectures and research colloquia. It’s a fantastic opportunity to practice science communication skills to non-specialist audiences around Australia.

If you, or if you know someone who would fit the role, self-nominate or nominate them today.

Nomination details are online on the AIP Women in Physics Lecture Tour website. Nominations close Friday 14 December 2018. 

Have your say on the Physics Decadal Plan

The Physics Decadal Plan was launched in December 2012 at the Australian Academy of Science and is due for a mid-term review. While nearly all the original recommendations are still valid, the landscape has changed in some areas in the intervening five years, and one purpose of the mid-term review will be to identify new opportunities for physics in Australia as a result of these changes. The National Committee for Physics (NCP) of the Australian Academy of Science has been charged with conducting this review.

The NCP is asking for input on the Decadal Plan through a survey. You can fill it out here.

New South Wales Postgraduate Awards Day

The fifth annual NSW Postgraduate Awards Day was held recently to acknowledge notable work in outreach or physics education in NSW.

For the presentation Encoding Light: Digital Interferometry for High Precision Optical Metrology, about high-speed digital signal processing techniques and commercialising them in engineering, Chathura Bandutunga from the Australian National University won the NSW Australian Institute of Physics Postgraduate Presentation for 2018.

Anita Petzler from Macquarie University is researching a new ‘tracer’ called hydroxl that can be used to more accurately observe how new stars are formed in galaxies. Anita was the winner of the Jak Kelly Award and $500 Scholarship prize from the Royal Society of New South Wales.

Dr Scott Martin won the 2018 NSW Community Outreach to Physics Award for contributions to physics education, collaboration with Australian industry and a passion for physics. Scott is Group Leader in Applied Physics at CSIRO and has volunteered with the Australian Institute of Physics for 15 years at both the federal and branch levels.

And the AIP will hold its national AGM in February

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

If you wish to provide a report or comments to be tabled at the meeting, please contact the AIP Honorary Secretary, Kirrily Rule ( for more details.

Other Physics News & Opportunities

Aussie ties to InSight on Mars

Jubilations resounded worldwide when NASA’s Insight survived the notorious ‘7 minutes of terror’ to safely land on Mars’ surface just before 7am AEDT on November 27 2018.

We on Earth watched InSight’s burning entry into Mars’ atmosphere before it used a large parachute, multiple descent engines and shock-absorbing legs to touchdown on the plains of Elysium Planitia.

During this time, several messages were sent between InSight and Earth through the Deep Space Network, the communications link between Earth and spacecraft throughout the solar system partly operated by Australians.

One such Aussie is Glen Nagle at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, which is one of three stations involved in relaying messages to InSight. His team received the first images of Mars’ surface.

The InSight mission is the first to study the deep interior of Mars. The two-year mission will collect scientific data on Mars’ core, its temperature and seismic activity. In the next several weeks, InSight will place three precious scientific instruments on carefully chosen spots on the surface.

Hardcore data collection from the mission is due to begin in early March.

Katarina Milijkovic from the Space Science and Technology Centre at Curtin University will be one of several scientists involved in analysing the Mars data. She and her PhD students will look for evidence of seismic activity, dubbed ‘marsquakes’.

When speaking about the opportunity, Dr Milijkovic told 10 Daily: “We live in an amazing time to be working in space exploration”.

Read more about Mars’ InSight Mission on the NASA website.

Bee-ing inspired to make drones that turn perfectly

Bees precisely adjust their turns to keep centrifugal forces under control, researchers at the University of Queensland have found.

If you’ve ever felt your car sideslip when you’ve taken a corner too fast, you’ve experienced centrifugal force getting out of hand. How to avoid that situation is precisely what PhD student Mahadeeswara Mandiyam hoped to find out by studying bees avoiding mid-air collisions.

A high-speed, multi-camera system was used to film bees loitering around their hive after Mahadeeswara and his collaborators temporarily blocked the hive entrance.

“The sharper a turn is and the faster the bee is going, the greater the centrifugal force that the bee will experience; the bee deals with this problem by slowing down when it makes sharper turns,” says Mahadeeswara.

“We can apply our knowledge of how bees perform coordinated turns to these situations to avoid sideslips in aerial and ground vehicles.”

The research follows the recent development of mighty micro-drones that were inspired by the tugging ability of wasps.

The bee study was recently published in Scientific Reports.

ANSTO physicist awarded 2019 Rhodes scholarship

Siobhan Tobin has been named as a recipient of the 2019 Rhodes Scholarship, which will enable her to pursue postgraduate studies in physics at the University of Oxford.

The prestigious scholarship is awarded to only nine Australians each year.

Originally from Buninyong, Victoria, Siobhan is a passionate advocate for science, particularly physics.

Siobhan is currently working at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and is involved in developing measurement standards for radioactivity and constructing extreme experimental conditions for samples in neutron scattering. She is also an avid ultramarathon trail-runner and enjoys navigation challenges in her downtime.

Read more about Siobhan’s profile, or find out more information on how to apply for the Australian Rhodes Scholarship next year.

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?Join the Royal Australian Chemical Institute to take part in Stories from the Periodic Table—a project that will showcase the personal connections people have to science.

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

The first round of submissions closes on 15 December 2018. For more information on submissions and criteria, click here

Aussie Physics in the News

UWA scientists claim turbulence not responsible for creation of life after Big Bang

Silicon quantum computing closer with demonstration of compact sensor for qubit readout by UNSW scientists,-sensitive-qubit-readout

UQ and USYD researchers develop AI tech that can diagnose some skin cancers as well as doctors

American and Aussie biophysicists team up to solve mystery of cube-shaped wombat poo

AUS-Dutch collab warns of rare gamma-ray burst during imminent supernova of nearby star system

Griffith researchers develop ultrasensitive measurement device approaching limit of quantum physics

Monash astrophysicist involved in discovery of one of the Universe’s oldest stars

USYD researchers propose biphoton states as base for qubits

Biggest black hole collision yet detected by new gravitational wave discovery:

Books for review

If you are interested in reviewing any of these books 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.

There are no upcoming events

UNSW Second Summer School on Ferroelectrics
December 10 – December 14
University of New South Wales

There are no upcoming events.

There are no upcoming events.

There are no upcoming events.

There are no upcoming events.

AIP eventAIP Congress: New discoveries by LIGO during its first and second observing runs
December 13 @ 5.30pm – 6.30pm
University of Western Australia

AIP event denotes AIP events


[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

[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

Contributions and contact details

Please get in contact if you have any queries about physics in Australia:

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Our mailing address is:
Australian Institute of Physics
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East Melbourne, Vic 3002