Australia Day honours and awards, and women in physics: physics in February

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics, Bulletins
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Posted on behalf of Rob Robinson, President of the Australian Institute of Physics

Already, 2014 is shaping up to be an interesting year, in terms of both discoveries and the political and funding environment in which we operate.

But it’s great to start with a triumph, so we congratulate Professor Bruce McKellar who was named a Companion of the Order of Australia in the 2014 Australia Day honours. With his achievements in theoretical physics and his continuing contributions to scientific organisations here and overseas, this is an honour richly deserved.

For the AIP, this year we want to reinvigorate our Women in Physics programs. Physics has traditionally been a field dominated by men, and we must work to redress the deeply-rooted gender imbalances that prevent career advancement.

We’re also building connections with women working in physics overseas. Former AIP president Cathy Foley regularly attends the International Conference on Women in Physics. We’d like to support other women to join her this year in Waterloo, Canada.

We can nominate up to three delegates, and hope to find funding for at least one.

Speaking of opportunities, we’re also seeking early-career researchers – this time of any gender – to take part in Science and Technology Australia’s Science Meets Parliament event in Canberra from 17-18 March.

If you’re interested in this event, the conference, or the AIP Women in Physics committee, please email me at with your name, contact details and a short biographical statement.

Finally, more congratulations to Cathy and her fellow AIP member Prof Min Gu, who both received awards from the Australian Academy of Science.

Please note that replies to this email go to Science in Public, who send the bulletin out for me. You can contact me directly on, and there is a comprehensive list of contact details at the end of the bulletin.



Rob Robinson
President, Australian Institute of Physics

In this issue…

AIP member news

Top honour for service to physics

Theoretical physicist and AIP Fellow Bruce Mackellar has received the country’s highest civic honour, being named a Companion of the Order of Australia for his services to science, scientific organisations and as an author and mentor.

A specialist in high energy physics, one of his most famous research achievements is the co-discovery of the “He-McKellar-Wilkens” phase of electric dipoles moving in a magnetic field.

Although now retired, Bruce is still an Honorary Professor at the University of Melbourne, and from October 2014 he will become president of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.

The last physicist to be named Companion of the Order of Australia was Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt, which indicates the level of Bruce’s achievements.

Two other physicists were also honoured on Australia Day 2014, with David Roy Mills and Graham Lindsay Morrison becoming Members of the Order Australia for their contributions to applied physics and solar energy technology.

You can find the full list of honours at

Physicists win Academy awards

AIP past-president Cathy Foley has gathered further recognition by being named to deliver the Lloyd Rees Lecture in chemical physics, as announced at the 2014 Australian Academy of Science (AAS) awards for scientific excellence.

Also rewarded was AIP member Min Gu, who received the Ian Wark Medal and Lecture for research that contributes to Australia’s prosperity, in this case with his work on nanophotonics at Swinburne University.

The AAS’s headline physics award, the Pawsey Medal, went to Geoff Pryde from Griffith University, for his work on quantum measurement and quantum computation. And materials physicist Ullrich Steiner received the Selby Travelling Fellowship.

Congratulations to all recipients – you can find the full list at

Fill in the famous faces

Were you at the University of Queensland in 1992? Director of the UQ Physics Museum, Norman Heckenberg, has sent us the following photo of physics staff and students at the time.

Most of the faces have been identified, but there are still a few blanks. If you can help, please email

See a bigger version online at

Other physics news

Astronomical events in 2014

Astronomy this year is looking up, with two lunar eclipses – including a total eclipse on 8 October – and a partial solar eclipse on 29 April.

The website has a pinhole viewer you can download and printout to observe the solar eclipse safely, as well as a calendar of astronomy events for the year.

Meanwhile, the Stargazers Club WA has compiled their own top 5 highlights for 2014, as seen from the west side of the continent.

And don’t forget this year will also see the first landing on a comet, with the recently revived Rosetta spacecraft due to despatch its robotic lander in November 2014.

AIP events

‘Work it Out’ website launch

Wed 12 Feb 2014, 5.30pm
Kim E. Beasley Lecture Theatre, Murdoch University, WA
AIP member Chris Creagh is launching the website she built as part of her fellowship from the Australian Government’s Office of Learning and Teaching. All are welcome, but please RSVP

VCE Physics at Luna Park Days

Tue 4 Mar – Thu 6 Mar 2014
18 Lower Esplanade, St Kilda, Vic
Bookings are now open for the Physics Days at Luna Park, including an aerobatic display by one of the RAAF Roulette Team and an optional excursion at the Australian Synchrotron.

Graphene: deep physics from the all-surface material

Tue 18 Mar 2014, 6.30pm
Macquarie University, Building E6B, Herring Road, North Ryde
In this public lecture, Michael S. Fuhrer from Monash University I will try to give a sense of why graphene, a single atom-thick plane of graphite, has sparked, and continues to generate, such excitement in the condensed matter physics community.

More events below

News in brief

2015 Year of Light

On 20 December the United Nations proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light. Stay tuned as the AIP and our cognate the Australian Optical Society plan to promote the importance of light in society.

Biophysics tale wins prize

A story on the possible role of electricity in human regeneration, written by Cynthia Graber and published in MATTER, has won the 2013 IOP-STFC Physics Journalism Prize.

Entries for 2014 are now open—see the IOP website.

Read about Higgs hunting

AIP’s Women in Physics lecturer Elisabetta Barberio discusses her role in the international hunt for the Higgs boson, in this month’sAustralasian Science(subscriber link).

Books for review

John Macfarlane, the book review editor for Australian Physics, is seeking volunteers write a short review (300-500 words) of one of the following books:

Nothing: from absolute zero to cosmic oblivion

New Scientist, Profile Books Ltd 2013

Particle Physics – a graphic guide

Tom Whyntie and Oliver Pugh, Icon Books 2013

40 Years of Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless Theory

Edited by Jorge V Jose, 2013, World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd

If your review is accepted for publication you may keep the book for your own use.

If you are interested or want to suggest another book to review, contact John


AIP event denotes AIP events


Bryan Gaensler: Magnets in the sky
Tue, 4 Feb 2014, 5:30pm
Shine Dome, Gordon Street, Canberra
Public lecture and livestream as part of the AAS Science Stars of Tomorrow series.

Thu, 13 Feb 2014, 6pm
Finkel Theatre, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Building 131, Cnr Garran Rd & Ward Rd, Australian National University
Public lecture

Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Fri, 24 Oct 2014, 7pm
Royal Theatre, NCCC
Public lecture



Tue, 18 Mar 2014, 6.30pm
Macquarie University, Building E6B, Herring Road, North Ryde
Public lecture

Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Wed, 22 Oct 2014, 7pm
State Theatre, Sydney
Public lecture


Journey Through the Cosmos with Brian Cox and the QSO
Thu, 6 Nov 2014
QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane
Public lectures and music


Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Tue, 14 Oct 2014, 7pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Public lecture


No upcoming events are currently listed.


Tue, 4 Mar – Thu 6 Mar 2014
18 Lower Esplanade, St Kilda
For students and teachers


Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Sat, 18 Oct 2014, 7pm
The Plenary, MCEC
Public lecture


Wed, 12 Feb 2014, 5.30 pm
Kim E. Beasley Lecture Theatre, Murdoch University
Open to those interested – please RSVP

Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Thu, 16 Oct 2014, 7pm
Riverside Theatre, PCEC
Public lecture


23rd Australian Conference on Microscopy and Microanalysis (ACMM23) and the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICONN 2014)
2 – 6 Feb 2014, Adelaide, SA

38th Annual Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting
4 – 7 Feb 2014, Auckland, New Zealand

NEW 39th Lorne Conference on Protein Structure and Function
9 – 13 Feb 2014, Lorne, Vic

2014 VCE Physics Teachers Conference
14 Feb 2014, Melbourne, Vic

International Conference on Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology (ICNN-2014)
3 – 5 March 2014. Karachi, Pakistan

NEW SIEA 2014 – Workshop on Strain/Stress Scanning and Imaging for Engineering Applications
1 – 2 April 2014, ANSTO, Lucas Heights, NSW

Solar 2014 Conference and Expo
8 – 9 May 2014, Melbourne, Vic

NEW Powerful AGN and Their Host Galaxies Across Cosmic Time
16 – 20 June 2014, Port Douglas, Qld

19th OptoElectronics and Communications Conference/39th Australian Conference on Optical Fibre Technology (OECC/ACOFT 2014)
6 – 10 July 2014, Melbourne, Vic

6th Pacific Rim Conference on Rheology
20–25 Jul 2014, The University of Melbourne, Vic

Joint International Conference on Hyperfine Interactions and Symposium on Nuclear Quadrupole Interactions 2014
21 – 26 Sep 2014, Academy of Sciences, Canberra, ACT

NEW XRM2014 — 12th International Conference on X-ray Microscopy
26 – 31 Oct 2014, Melbourne, Vic

Contributions and contact details

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

  • Rob Robinson, AIP President
  • the AIP website is
  • membership enquiries to the Secretariat or 03 9646 9515
  • ideas for articles for Australian Physics to the Chair of the Editorial Board and Acting Editor Brian James, on, or the editorial board, which is listed in your latest copy of the magazine
  • contributions to the bulletin (e.g. activities, conferences and announcements) to Chris Lassig from Science in Public on or call (03) 9398 1416, by the 23rd of the month prior
  • the AIP Events Calendar to check what’s on, and also to submit your own physics-related events (any queries to Chris, as above)
  • to receive these bulletins, please email Chris, as above (you don’t need to be a member of the Institute).

(Sent by Niall Byrne, Science in Public, on behalf of the Australian Institute of Physics,