AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

There were physicists galore at the “Oscars of Australian Science” – the Eureka Prizes – hosted by the Australian Museum in August.

Physicists and applied physics researchers featured in at least five Prizes, you can read more about them below. Through both the winners, and all the finalists, it was great to see the impact physics can have on people’s lives.

Another way you as a physicist can have a big impact is through becoming our AIP Special Project Officer for outreach. This is a voluntary position and is a great way to become part of the AIP Executive team. The role will also give you experience and help broaden your skills in science communication. See the information below on how to apply.

Hot off the back of the great 2017 Women in Physics lecture series featuring Katie Mack, we’re putting the call out for nominations for the next Women in Physics Lecturer – and we’re seeking an international speaker for 2018. More below on how you can nominate. 

Finally, the AIP Summer meeting is proceeding with the call for submission of abstracts well and truly open – and closing on 29 September. Make sure to get your in and I look forward to seeing you there.

All this plus information and links to the solar eclipse, teaching physics and even more are in this month’s Bulletin – enjoy!

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

Diamond lasers, unbreakable electronics, and lifesaving O2: national science prizes honour our physicists

A medical oxygen canister fuelled by creek water. A nano bed-of-nails that busts bacteria. A diamond laser that could revolutionise defence. Out of 16 prizes announced at last week’s Eureka Prize gala, almost a third went to Australian physics and applied physics researchers:

  • 2017 ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology
    FREO2, University of Melbourne.
    The FREO2 Siphon concentrator produces, stores, and delivers life-saving medical oxygen to critically ill babies, powered by nothing but the flow of a small creek.
  • 2017 Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
    Associate Professor Madhu Bhaskaran, RMIT University
    By combining brittle circuit components with rubbery membranes, Assoc. Prof Bhaskaran’s work is paving the way for affordable and biocompatible electronic devices.
  • 2017 Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
    Associate Professor Richard Mildren, Macquarie University
    Assoc. Prof Mildren’s new diamond laser promises radically increased power and spectral range compared to conventional tech, with applications both civilian and military.
  • 2017 UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research
    Bacteria Busters, Swinburne University of Technology
    Killing germs with chemicals may become a thing of the past thanks to new materials developed by the ‘Bacteria Busters’, who took inspiration from the nanostructure of butterfly wings.
  • 2017 University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
    Professor Justin Gooding, UNSW
    Professor Gooding is training the future leaders in bio-nanotechnology and nanomedicine. His dedication has nurtured a generation of innovative, entrepreneurial, and passionate researchers.

Last but not least, we should spare some adulation for this year’s victors in the Sleek Geeks category, primary school students Amelia Lai and Caitlyn Walker, whose heart-warming presentation on the physics of penguin plumage brought out the little science nerd in us all.

You can see the full roster of winners, with videos explaining their achievements, here:

To all those recognised – congratulations!

AIP News

Submissions open for AIP Summer Meeting

Conference hits UNSW 3-8 December 2017

Submissions are now open for abstracts to present at the inaugural AIP Summer Meeting, covering the following topics and more:

  • Astronomy and space sciences
  • Quantum physics
  • Atomic, molecular, and optical physics
  • Women in physics
  • Nuclear, particle, and plasma physics
  • Physics education
  • Condensed matter physics

The Summer Meeting was conceived of as a mirror of our popular biennial national congresses. Held in alternate years, the Meeting will deliver the same robust physics program with greater affordability and accessibility, particularly for students and early career researchers. It’s an opportunity for the Australian physics community to get together, forge new bonds, and share our accomplishments, challenges, and ambitions for the year ahead.

Learn all about the meeting at the conference website here. Abstract submissions are open until 29 September, and don’t forget to register (registrations to open soon).

We look forward to seeing you all in sunny Sydney this December.

Position available: AIP Special Projects Officer for Outreach

The Australian Institute of Physics exists to strengthen and support the discipline and its application for the benefit of society. An integral part of activities and initiatives supported by the AIP is communication and outreach, which help to broaden knowledge about physics and its benefits.

The executive of the AIP is seeking expressions of interest from people interested in filling the role of special projects officer for outreach. The outreach officer will be part of the AIP executive and will be responsible for delivering an agreed program of outreach activity.


  • Develop an outreach plan for the AIP
  • Prepare and coordinate content promoting physics and the role of the AIP
  • Disseminate information through agreed channels, including maintenance of content and presentation of the AIP website
  • Conduct outreach activities including supporting state branch activities

Desirable Skills/attributes

  • Imagination, passion and enthusiasm about physics
  • Self-motivated
  • High level of scientific understanding
  • Skills in various communications channels including social media platforms
  • Strong writing and presentation skills
  • Knowledge of website design and presentation

Expressions of Interest
Please send a resume and a statement describing your experience and ability to meet the expectations of, and your skills/attributes for, the role to Andrew Peele – aip_president@aip.org.au

Nominate the 2018 Women in Physics lecturer

The AIP are seeking a passionate; high-achieving, public speaking physicist to be our 2018 Women in Physics lecturer.

We are seeking a woman working overseas who:

  • has made a significant contribution in a field of physics research
  • has demonstrated public speaking ability
  • is available in 2018 to visit Canberra and each of the six Australian State capital cities and surrounding regions.

The Australian Institute of Physics Women in Physics Lecture Tour celebrates the contribution of women to advances in physics. Under this scheme, a woman who has made a significant contribution in a field of physics will be selected to present lectures in venues arranged by each participating branch of the AIP.

Presentations will include school lectures, public lectures and research colloquia, and will be of general interest and help to increase awareness among students and their families of the possibilities offered by continuing to study physics. University lectures will be presented at a level suitable for the individual audience (professional or graduate).

Nominations are open until 1 December 2017, details at http://aip.org.au/women-in-physics-lecturer.

Teaching university physics? Share your experiences

The AIP Physics Education Group is putting the call out to educators and education researchers to fill in a short survey about their experiences, concerns, and innovations in teaching physics:

Responses are sought by Friday 15 September. Anyone with experience in the field is warmly invited to complete the survey and share it freely around your department. Your participation will help the team research how best to share and support effective methods for physics education at a university level.

Dwarf galaxies and dark matter: the 2017 Walter Boas lecture

Melburnian physicists and physics lovers, make a date next Thursday 6:30pm to hear 2016’s Walter Boas Medallist speak on his award-winning work. Professor Geraint Lewis from the University of Sydney will be talking about dwarf galaxies in the galactic halo – how to see them, where to find them, and the conundrum of figuring out what put them there.

21 September, Hercus Theatre, School of Physics, University of Melbourne
Refreshments from 5:30, lecture at 6:30 – 7:30, and an invitation to dinner afterward.

Please RSVP:

Rigour or context? The dilemma of secondary school physics

Classroom veteran and chairman of the Tasmanian AIP Branch, Jason Dicker has completed his survey of Australia’s approach to secondary school physics education. His report boils down the issue to a fundamental dilemma in education. Should state curricula emphasise ‘context’ – what physics does – or should we take a more rigorous approach, focussing on how physics actually works?

Mr Dicker’s report unearths some interesting quirks. Electrostatics, for instance, was until recently omitted entirely from New South Wales’ HSC physics course, with Coulomb’s Law only approached in passing in the context of household electricity. The concept of energy itself is an even larger omission in the national curriculum, leaving students at a loss in later years. Calculator use at a high level is also becoming more widespread, although such rigour-busting shortcuts remain forbidden in Tasmania.

Read the full report here.

Physics news & opportunities

Big boost for Australian Synchrotron: ANSTO secures $80m in new funding

The number of beamlines at the Australian Synchrotron is set to jump from 10 to as many as 18, thanks to over $80 million in new funding sourced from governments, universities, and research institutions across Australia and New Zealand. The funding augments the Australian government’s prior $520 million commitment to the landmark national facility.

The upgrade will help the Synchrotron keep up with increased demand from researchers. The first stage will see the construction of new Micro-Computed Tomography and Medium Energy XAS beamlines, invaluable tools for medical imaging and cancer treatment respectively. These will be followed by a Small Angle X-ray Scattering beamline, funded by the New Zealand government to support improved drug design and validation.

Australian Synchrotron Director, Professor Andrew Peele said the expansion will alleviate demand issues and enable new research opportunities.

“This expansion will give Australian and New Zealand industry and our best and brightest scientific minds access to even more specialised tools and techniques needed for important research,” said Professor Peele.

“This will enable them to continue to compete on the world-stage and deliver real-life benefits to the community.”

Read the ANSTO release, including all funding contributors, here: www.ansto.gov.au/AboutANSTO/MediaCentre/News/ACS162783

Abstracts called for the Condensed Matter & Materials Meeting 2018

Abstracts are sought for ‘Wagga 2018’, to be hosted at the Wagga Wagga campus of Charles Sturt University 30 January – 2 February. The conference’s themes will cover the full scope of condensed matter and materials research, including:

  • Novel multifunctional properties
  • Solid-state magnetism and superconductivity
  • 2D quantum materials
  • Advanced characterisation methods
  • And much more

Abstract submission and registration will be through the conference website. Students are particularly encouraged to attend. The organising team is based at the Queensland University of Technology and chaired by Jennifer MacLeod:

More at: http://wagga2018.com

Theoretical physicist sought for $95K CSIRO superconductivity role

3-year tenure at the Lindfield NSW lab

Are you a researcher with an interest in superconductivity, applied physics, and industrial innovation? Are you highly skilled team player who is interested in applying your knowledge to real world problems and applications?

This is your chance to join a high-performing team of multi-disciplinary scientists in CSIRO’s Superconductivity team.

Prospective team members will need a strong background in theoretical physics, in particular superconductivity and condensed matter physics, as well as an aptitude for low-temperature electrical transport measurements. Successful candidates will be tasked with developing theoretical models of large HTS Josephson junction arrays, which are expected to permit much greater array sensitivity. They will be motivated and independent, boast excellent communication skills, and be comfortable working in a team.

Learn more about the job and apply here.

Join the gravitational wave hunters: two positions open at OzGrav

Want to peer through a whole new window into the cosmos?

OzGrav’s University of Melbourne partners are looking for two talented and aspiring postdocs to join the gravitational wave team. The research fellowships, paying between $69,148 – $93,830 each, will put the successful candidate on the frontiers of astronomy, exploring the potential of last year’s historic first detections to help us understand the extreme physics of black holes and warped space-time. The appointees will be encouraged to conduct their own independent research while also collaborating with OzGrav colleagues on joint projects across the country.

Applications should include a CV, research statement (3 pages), and three letters of recommendation. Applications close 5 November 2017.

More information and how to apply here.

Women in Physics Careers Night at University of Melbourne

Are you interested in physics, or science in general, but unsure what benefits doing a physics degree can offer? Not sure about the minutia of approaching a physics degree, or where it can ultimately take you?

The Physics Student’s Society at Melbourne Uni is hosting its annual Women in Physics night on Wednesday 13 September. The night includes a panel discussion, Q and A, and opportunities for networking as you learn about the details, complexities, and benefits of studying physics at university, with emphasis on a female perspective. All are welcome to attend.

Our exciting roster of speakers includes:

  • Dr Catherine de Burgh-Day, University of Melbourne astrophysicist and Bureau of Meteorology oceanographer
  • Dr Sarah Sweet, Swinburne astrophysicist specialising in galaxy formation and evolution
  • Dr Felicity Splatt, globe-trotting Unimelb maths and physics graduate now working for professional services giant PwC
  • Innes Bigaran, University of Melbourne physics graduate and tutor

Find out more and register here.

Total eclipse sweeps across America

The long-anticipated and much-hyped Great American Eclipse occurred right on schedule on August 21. Those lucky enough or determined enough to be in the path of totality – and out of the path of clouds – were treated to an awesome spectacle as the sun’s corona was revealed for roughly two and a half minutes.

A Google collaboration with the University of California produced the Eclipse Megamovie, stitching together amateur images of totality from coast to coast. You can see it here: https://eclipsemega.movie/

Any Australians nursing a little bitterness over America’s good fortune can take heart. Sydney is due for a lengthy total eclipse in 2028 while South Australia and Queensland get one in 2030, with the good folks of Yantabulla smack-bang in the path of both. Victorians, sadly, will miss out.

Aussie physics in the news

UNSW joins with government and business to keep quantum computing technology in Australia (AFR)

CSIRO’s world-class research ship becomes a floating classroom (ABC)

Australian Scientists Just Found 400 Million Year Old Fish With Human-Like Jaws (Gizmodo)

Quantum physics meets rock and roll, with Australia’s rockstar scientist (Xinhua)

New sky survey shows that dark energy may one day tear us apart (New Scientist)

Funding boost for Australian Synchrotron (World Nuclear News)

Australian Scientists Just Made A Quantum Internet Breakthrough (Gizmodo)

Books for review

If you are interested in reviewing one of these books for publication in Australian Physics, please contact the editor Brian James at aip_editor@aip.org.au.

  • Quantum Optomechanics by W P Bowen & G J Milburn
  • Materials Aspect of Thermoelectricity edited by Ctirad Uher
  • Blackbody Radiation: A History of Thermal Radiation Computational Aids and Numerical Methods by Sean M. Stewart, R. Barry Johnson
  • Complex Light by Jeff Secor, Robert Alfano and Solyman Ashrafi
  • The Physics of Thermoelectric Energy Conversion by H Julian Goldsmid


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.


[ACT] How Old is the Sphinx? What the Evidence Reveals
Thu, 21 Sep 2017, 6pm
Finkel Lecture Theatre, Australian National University, Canberra ACT.

[ACT] Journeying to the centres of the planets (Dawn of the new space age talk series)
Tue, 17 Oct 2017, 5:30pm

[ACT] Australia’s role in looking for life on Mars (Dawn of the new space age talk series)
Tue, 5 Dec 2017, 11am


[NSW] Public Talk: Making the most of your presentation | Speaker: Jean-luc Doumont
Mon, 25 Sep 2017, 2pm
Sydney Nanoscience Hub, University of Sydney

[NSW] CAASTRO Galaxy Convention
Mon, 4 Dec – Tue, 5 Dec 2017
Sydney Nanoscience Hub, The University of Sydney

AIP event[NSW] AIP Annual Scientific Meeting
Sun, 3 Dec 2017
UNSW, Sydney, Australia

[NSW] NSW secondary science teacher professional development day (December)
Fri, 8 Dec 2017, 9:25am
ANSTO Discovery Centre, New Illawarra Rd, Lucas Heights, NSW


There are no upcoming events.


There are no upcoming events.


[Tas] Giant icebergs and the future of the Antarctic Ice Sheet
Wed, 20 Sep 2017, 8pm
Physics Lecture Theatre 1, Sandy Bay Campus, University of Tasmania


[VIC] Women in Mathematics and Physics
Wed, 13 Sep 2017, 2:30pm
Monash University, Rainforest Walk, Clayton, Victoria

[VIC] ANSTO PD for teachers (November)
Thu, 16 Nov 2017, 9am
Australian Synchrotron, 800 Blackburn Rd, Clayton, Victoria

AIP event[VIC] 2017 Walter Boas Medal Lecture
Thu, 21 Sep 2017, 5:30pm
Hercus Theatre, School of Physics, University of Melbourne

[Vic] Physics Discipline day
Fri 29 Sep – Sat 30 Sep 2017
ACSME conference, Monash University, Clayton Campus

[VIC] ANSTO PD for teachers (November)
Thur, 16 Nov 2017, 9am – 3pm
Australian Synchrotron, 800 Blackburn Rd, Clayton, Victoria

[VIC] ANSTO User Meeting 2017
Wed, 22 Nov – Fri, 24 Nov 2017
Australian Synchrotron, Clayton, Victoria


There are no upcoming events.

AIP event denotes AIP events


[Int’l] Optics Congress 2017 Conference Canada
Wed, 20 Sep 2017, 9am
Park Inn by Radisson Toronto Airport West, ON

[QLD] NanoS-E3 2017 Brisbane: Nanostructures for Sensors, Electronics, Energy and Environment
Tue, 26 Sep – Fri, 29 Sep 2017
QUT Gardens Point Campus, Brisbane, Queensland

[Int’l] 2nd International Conference on Neuroimaging and Interventional Radiology
Mon, 30 Oct 2017, 9am – 6pm
Hilton San Antonio Airport 611 NW Loop 410 San Antonio TX 78216 USA

[NSW] 3rd Conference and Workshop on Spin-Based Quantum Information Processing (Spin Qubit 3)
Mon, 6 Nov – Fri, 10 Nov 2017
Art Gallery NSW, Sydney, Australia

[QLD] Conference on Optics, Atoms and Laser Applications (KOALA)
Sun, 26 Nov – Fri, 1 Dec 2017
St Lucia Campus, University of Queensland

AIP event[NSW] AIP Annual Scientific Meeting
Sun, 3 Dec 2017
UNSW, Sydney, Australia

[NSW] International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
Mon, 29 Jan 2018
University of Wollongong

[NSW] The 42nd Annual Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting
Tue, 30 Jan 2018, 2pm
Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia

[VIC] 5th Asian and Oceanic Congress on Radiation Protection – AOCRP5
Sun, 20 May 2018
Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre

AIP event denotes AIP events