A medical physics tour of Qld and finding Rutherford in Canada: physics in July

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics, Bulletins
A medical physics tour of Qld and finding Rutherford in Canada: physics in July post image

From Rob Robinson, President of the Australian Institute of Physics

I’m pleased to announce today that the 2013 Bragg Gold Medal for Excellence in Physics has been awarded to Dr Martin Fuechsle from the University of New South Wales for his thesis titled “Precision Few-Electron Silicon Quantum Dots”. The Bragg Gold Medal recognises the student who is judged to have completed the most outstanding PhD thesis in physics at an Australian university in the past year. And this is also a timely reminder that nominations for the 2014 Bragg Gold Medal should get to your state AIP branch today.

Nominations for the AIP’s Walter Boas Medal for research excellence and the AIP Award for Outstanding Service to Physics in Australia are also now open. Please consider nominating yourself or a colleague for one of these AIP’s awards. It’s important to recognise the good work being done by physicists in Australia.

On other matters, I’m just back from North America, where I visited colleagues at the Canadian Light Source, the Chalk River Laboratories, McGill and McMaster Universities and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

A highlight of my trip was the Ernest Rutherford Museum at McGill University. It tells the story of the famous New Zealander’s work with Frederick Soddy to understand radiation and measure the energy released by nuclear reactions.

I also saw Rutherford’s one-page hand-written CV, and heard a recording of a lecture given in Gottingen in the early 1930s – his New Zealand accent comes through well.

Rutherford once said that “scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid”. Outreach is a big part of the work of the AIP, and I’m pleased to see some major speaking tours coming up.

Medical physicist Christian Langton will be speaking to secondary school children in Queensland, showing them the importance of physics in medical imaging for diagnosis and treatment.

Tickets are selling fast for physics superstar Brian Cox’s Australian tour next month – which is no surprise. And Australia’s own physics superstar, Brian Schmidt, is giving a public talk exploring Australia’s pioneering work in astronomy in Sydney on Thursday 11 July.

I was also interested to see that leading research organisations have come together to call for a strategic national research policy – including Science and Technology Australia, of which the AIP is member. The alliance called for non-partisan support of science and all forms of research and the development of a long-term vision.

You’ll find details of all these below, plus more news, events and opportunities for obtaining support for international collaboration, travel, overseas residencies and conferences.

If you have a physics event coming up, please submit it to the AIP calendar, and we’ll list it in future bulletins.

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 aip_president@aip.org.au, and there is a comprehensive list of contact details for the AIP at the end of the bulletin.



Rob Robinson

President, Australian Institute of Physics

Follow the AIP on: Facebook   ∣   Twitter @ausphysics   ∣    LinkedIn (AIP members only)

In this bulletin:

Australian Institute of Physics news and events

AIP events

NSW:  Einstein lecture at the Powerhouse Museum
Benjamin J. Eggleton: Photonics in the new information age – Faster, smaller and greener
Tuesday 17 September, 6.30pm
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Pollock Memorial Joint Lecture with the Royal Society of NSW
Michelle Simmons: The Future of Computing – Manipulating Atoms
Wednesday 23 October, 6.00-8.30pm
Eastern Ave Auditorium, University of Sydney (TBC)

Physics in Industry Day
Thursday 7 November, from 8.30am
CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering, Lindfield

Martin Green: The physics of high-efficiency photovoltaic solar energy conversion
Tuesday 19 November, 2pm – NSW AIP Branch 2013 Postgraduate Awards, AGM, guest speaker and Annual Dinner, University of Sydney and Buon Gusto

QLD:   The Queensland Youth Physics Tour
Christian Langton, Professor of Medical Physics at Queensland University of Technology, is giving this year’s tour—a series of talks to year 10-12 students and science teachers across Queensland in July and August. Christian will be talking about how QUIC (quantitative ultrasound imaging and characterisation) is enhancing medical diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and cancer.

Talks are planned for:

Monday 15 July, 1.30pm – University of Southern Queensland, Hervey Bay
Tuesday 16 July, 1.30pm – University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba
Wednesday 17 July, 1pm – Central Queensland University, Rockhampton
Thursday 18 July, 9am and 12pm – Trinity Bay High School, Cairns
Friday 19th July, 9.30am – St Margaret Mary’s College, Townsville
Monday 22 July, 2.15pm – Spinifex College, Mt Isa
Friday 30 August, 9am – Immanuel Lutheran College, Sunshine Coast
Friday 30 August, 2pm – Chancellor State College secondary campus, Sunshine Coast

Some extra talks may still be added to the itinerary. Contact Christian Langton on christian.langton@qut.edu.au for more information.

WA:     Short talks with long drinks wine and cheese
Wednesday 18 September (to be confirmed)

Postgraduate conference
Thursday 26–Friday 27 September (to be confirmed)

2013 AIP AGM, Dinner and Guest Speaker
Wednesday 20 November (to be confirmed)

2013 AIP medals open for nomination

First, a reminder that nominations for the 2014 Bragg Gold Medal for excellence in physics, which recognises the student who is judged to have completed the most outstanding PhD thesis in physics under the auspices of an Australian university in the past year are now due. Each Australian university may nominate one candidate, and these nominations must reach the State AIP Branch committee by 1 July.

I also encourage you to consider nominating yourself, a student or a colleague, as appropriate, for one of the following AIP awards, which recognise research excellence and outstanding service to physics.

The following AIP medals and awards are now open for nomination:

  • The Walter Boas Medal, which recognises excellence in research in physics in Australia (in the past five years) by an AIP member— nominations close 1 August 2013
  • The AIP Award for Outstanding Service to Physics in Australia—a Branch Committee, or three members of the AIP, may nominate an individual AIP member who has made an exceptional contribution to physics as a discipline by 1 August 2013

More info at http://www.aip.org.au/info/?q=content/aip-medals-prizes-awards or from Olivia Samardzic, Special Project Officer AIP, at olivia.samardzic@dsto.defence.gov.au or by phone on (08) 7389 5035.

The 2013 AIP SA Branch Excellence in Physics Teaching Award: Call for Nominations

Friday 5 July is the last chance to nominate inspiring, committed and passionate secondary teachers for the AIP SA Excellence in Physics Teaching Award. The outstanding South Australian Teacher of Physics will receive a medal and a cheque for $1000.

More information on the AIP SA Branch website.

A new learning method for physics – seeking input


Chris Creagh

Congratulations to AIP members Chris Creagh, Murdoch University, and Manju Sharma, University of Sydney, who have recently been awarded Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) National Teaching Fellowships.

Chris’s project addresses the problem of first year students beginning university studies without the skills and background they need to study physics. This results in fewer students going on to major in physics, or other areas that require physics, and contributes to the lower course completion rates found in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics than in other disciplines.

Chris has designed, and will evaluate, a teaching process she calls “Work it Out”. Through a series of steps, the students will be set a task that is just at the limit of their capabilities (for example, unpacking formulae or creating useful diagrams) and in the process of completing that task they will:

  • discover what they know
  • discover what they don’t know and identify ways of filling their knowledge gaps
  • learn from experts
  • learn how to judge quality in presentation and content
  • learn how to give and receive feedback.

Chris would like to build a community of scholars to trial this learning method. Please contact her at at c.creagh@murdoch.edu.au if you are involved in teaching early years of undergraduate physics and are interested in participating.

Explain a physics concept in a 3-minute video—a competition for ACT students

The 2013 ‘Frame your Physics’ competition has been launched. ACT students (both school and university) are invited to show a physics topic in a fun and educational 3-min video. The top videos will be featured in a special presentation night at Questacon and winners will compete for a share of $3000 in prizes!

Entries close August 19. More info, and a link to last year’s best videos, at www.act.aip.org.au/Frame_Your_Physics/.

Books for review

Contact John Macfarlane, the book review editor for Australian Physics, at jcmacfarlane@netspace.net.au if you are interested in reviewing a book or have a suggestion of another book to review.

Other physics news and events

Physics events for the general public, students and teachers

Around Australia

Brian Cox: An evening of scientific phenomena

British particle physicist, author, TV presenter and ex-rock star Prof Brian Cox is touring Australia in August with the ABC’s Adam Spencer at the following dates and places:

Saturday 10 August – Riverside Theatre, Perth
Wednesday 14 August – Hamer Hall, Melbourne
Thursday 15 August – Capitol Theatre, Sydney (new show)
Friday 16 August – Capitol Theatre, Sydney
Saturday 17 August – Royal Theatre, Canberra
Tuesday 20 August – Concert Hall, Brisbane

New South Wales

Brian Schmidt: Exploring the last frontier – Australia’s pioneering work in astronomy
Thursday 11 July, 6-7.30pm – Nobel Laureate and AIP Fellow Brian Schmidt will give a public talk about Australia’s role in exploring the Universe, at the University of Sydney

HSC physics enrichment program, Macquarie University
Thursday 11 July, 8am-4.30pm – for NSW and ACT Year 12 physics students

Nuclear Energy for Australia?
Thursday 25 July–Friday 26 July – conference for the general public
Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Open day at the Australia Telescope Compact Array near Narrabri
Sunday 1 September – Public Open Day featuring tours, talks and activities

Fred Watson: Cutting Edge Astronomy
Tuesday 10 September, 6.30-7.30pm – In a public talk at the University of Wollongong, astronomer and popular scientist Fred Watson will explore astronomy from the latest research to the earliest advances


AAS New Fellows’ and Medallists’ Symposium

Thursday 4 July – The newly elected Victorian Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science, together with this year’s medal winners, will give brief presentations on their work at the University of Melbourne.
Among the speakers are:

  • Prof Yuri Estrin FAA (Monash University) – Bulk Nanomaterials: Properties and Promises
  • Prof Geoffrey Taylor FAA (University of Melbourne) – Search for the Higgs Boson

University of Melbourne’s July lectures in physics – free public lectures by the university’s experts. The 2013 theme is The centenary of the quantum atom – “Niels Bohr’s discovery of the quantum atom”. The talks are:

Friday 5 July, 8pm – Prof Lloyd Hollenberg: The quantum atom as a new technology resource – from quantum computers to ultrasensitive probes of the machinery of life

Friday 12 July, 8pm – Prof David Jamieson: The discovery of the quantum atom and its applications to hold, process and transmit information

Friday 19 July, 8pm – A/Prof Harry Quiney:  From Moseley’s law to the molecular microscope: a century of X-ray physics, chemistry and biology

Friday 26 July, 8pm – Prof Rachel  Webster: The cosmological history of hydrogen

Free Astronomy public lectures, Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology

Tuesday 9 July, 6.30pm – Syed Uddin, Swinburne: The dark Universe
Friday 16 August, 6.30pm – Christopher Fluke, Swinburne: Science week
Monday 9 September, 6.30pm – Chris Blake, Swinburne
Monday 11 November, 6.30pm – Eyal Kazin, Swinburne: Einstein and astronomers: An ongoing cosmic saga
Thursday 12 December, 6.30pm – Fred Watson, Australian Astronomical Observatory

Invest in research and translation: stand up for Australia’s future

Australia’s peak science organisations have joined together ahead of the coming election to call for non-partisan support of science and all forms of research.

The alliance, including Science and Technology Australia, of which the AIP is a member, the Australian Academy of Science, the CRC Association and Universities Australia, called for a commitment to the fundamental value of research and the development of a long-term, strategic vision:

Research helps us ride out storms of economic uncertainty and tackle the big challenges facing the nation and the world. Without a committed, strategic approach to supporting the nation’s research system, we risk wasting our great national talent and our precious capacity-building investments and resources, and falling behind our region and the world.

Prof Brian Schmidt, Nobel Laureate and a Fellow of the AIP, was one of the signatories to the 17 June media release.

Maths and science education on ABC’s Big Ideas

The decline of maths and science education was the focus of a recent discussion on Radio National’s Future Tense. Prof Brian Schmidt joined in the discussion which explored why maths major enrolments have dropped about 15 per cent in the past decade, while demand for mathematicians has increased by 52 per cent.

Listen to the discussion on the Radio National Big Ideas website.

Science seeks volunteer physics writer for educational material

Would you like to expand your communication skills writing for a broader audience? The international journal Science is seeking experts to volunteer as writers for their ‘Science in the Classroom’ project. The project creates sets of annotated research papers and accompanying teaching materials for use in the classroom.

Experts are needed in the fields of geology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. For information about the project visit scienceintheclassroom.org, and to apply for the position contact the Senior Editor for Science, Pamela Hines on phines@aaas.org.

Discover opportunities for international collaboration

The Humboldt Foundation is holding a colloquium in Sydney from 17 – 19 October, exploring the chances and challenges of international research in a world in constant change.

Advanced PhD students as well as early-career scientists and scholars are invited to apply to participate in the three-day colloquium and present a short paper or poster.

Participants will meet established researchers from Australia, New Zealand and Oceania with strong international experience and connections. And they will have the chance to seek advice on opportunities for sponsorship for international collaboration through the Humboldt Foundation and its partner organisations.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation promotes academic cooperation between excellent scientists and scholars from Germany and internationally. The Foundation will cover the costs for the participation of early-career researchers in the program.

Applications are accepted until 23 August under the following link:


Awards and fellowships

AIP medals open for nomination

  • The Walter Boas Medal
  • The AIP Award for Outstanding Service to Physics in Australia

See details in the separate item above or at http://www.aip.org.au/info/?q=content/aip-medals-prizes-awards

Seeing Stars SKA Art Prize 2013

Celebrate art and astronomy in painting, drawing, textiles or digital prints.

The Seeing Stars SKA Art Prize is inspired by the world’s largest telescope—the Square Kilometre Array (SKA)—which will be co-hosted in Australia.

Artists and would-be artists are invited to create original pieces of artwork expressing the excitement and mystery of the SKA and its potential for discovery.

There are two categories—for entrants under twelve years of age, and an open category. The under-twelve winner receives an iPad and the open winner receives $3,000.

Entries close Friday 5 July 2013. More information on how to enter is at www.ska.gov.au/artprize/Pages/default.aspx

Australian Academy of Science awards

Several of the 2014 AAS awards, fellowships, and conference supporting funds are open to physicists, including the following:

European Institutes for Advanced Study (EURIAS) Fellowship Programme

Researchers have the opportunity to travel to Europe for a 10-month residency in one of 16 institutes within the EURIAS Fellowship Programme. Applications are now open for 39 fellowships in the 2014-2015 academic year to promising young scholars as well as leading senior researchers.

Although EURIAS Fellowships are mainly offered in the fields of the humanities and social sciences, they may also be granted in “exact sciences” for project that interface with humanities and social sciences and don’t require lab facilities.

Applications close Friday 5 July. For more information visit the EURIAS website.



The Director’s Colloquium – Research School of Physics and Engineering, Australian National University

Thursday 4 July – Lawrence Krauss: The Higgs anniversary – Unification, The Standard Model and the Greatest Story Ever Told… So Far

Research School of Physics and Engineering, Australian National University

No departmental seminars currently listed. Check website for updates.

New South Wales

CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF), Marsfield

Friday 5 July – Mark Lacy, NRAO
Wednesday 17 July – Shane O’Sullivane, University of Sydney: The first broadband circular polarization spectrum of an AGN Jet
Wednesday 7 August – Michelle Cluver, AAO
Wednesday 14 August – Brian Jeffs, Brigham Young University
Wednesday 2 October – James Allison, SIfA

Macquarie University Department of Physics & Astronomy – MQ Photonics Seminar Series

No departmental seminars currently listed. Check website for updates.

School of Physics, University of Sydney

No departmental seminars currently listed. Check website for updates.

School of Physics, University of NSW

No departmental seminars currently listed. Check website for updates.


Physics colloquia, University of Queensland

No departmental seminars currently listed. Check website for updates.

South Australia

Chemical and Physical Sciences Seminar Series, Flinders University

Tuesday 2 July – Dr Audrey Levine, Batelle: Cleantech opportunities for safe and sustainable water
Tuesday 16 July – Chris Williams, Flinders University
Tuesday 23 July – Ben Chambers, Flinders University
Tuesday 23 July – Karen Bruce, Flinders University
Tuesday 30 July – Jun Ma, University of South Australia


Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University

Tuesday 2 July – Molly Peeples, University of California, Los Angeles

Thursday 4 July – Rob Crain, Leiden Observatory, Netherlands

Friday 5 July – Markus Kissler-Patig, Gemini Observatory: Intermediate mass black holes

Thursday 25 July – Leon Koopmans, Kapteyn Institute

Thursday 1 August – Simona Gallerani, Scuola Normale di Pisa

Thursday 8 August – Gabor Worseck, MPIA

Monash Centre for Astrophysics, Monash University

Tuesday 2 July – Marc Pinsonneault, Ohio State University: Asteroseismology: A window on stars and stellar populations

Tuesday 30 July – Chiara Tonini, Swinburne

Tuesday 13 August – Laurens Keek, Michigan State University

Tuesday 20 August – David Nataf, RSAA/ANU

Tuesday 27 August – Alina Donea, MoCA, Monash University: The violence of the Sun – solar quakes

School of Physics, University of Melbourne

Friday 5 July – Peter Jenni, CERN & University of Freiburg

Western Australia

Department of Physics, University of Western Australia

No departmental seminars currently listed. Check website for updates.


12th Asia-Pacific Physics Conference
14 – 19 July, Chiba, Japan

Nuclear Energy for Australia?
25 – 26 July, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

21st International Symposium on Plasma Chemistry (ISPC 21)
4 – 9 Aug 2013, Cairns, Qld

Italian National Conference on Condensed Matter Physics, FisMat 2013
9 – 13 Sep 2013, Milan, Italy

NEW STANSW Annual Conference 2013. Inquiry Science: Bedding down the NSW Syllabus

20 – 21 Sep 2013, UNSW, Sydney, NSW

4th World Conference on Science and Technology Education (World STE)
29 Sep – 3 Oct, Sarawak Malaysia

NEW Nuclear Science and Engineering in Australia (ANA2013)
11 Oct 2013, Sydney, NSW

Australasian Radiation Protection Society (ARPS) Conference
13 – 16 Oct 2013, Cairns, Qld
Abstract submission is open until 27 May and registration opens 1 May

Healthy, Wealthy and Safe: Metrology Society of Australia 12th Biennial National Conference
15 – 17 Oct 2013, Sydney

NEW Looking to the Future: International Research in a Changing World – Humboldt Collquium
17 – 19 Oct 2013, Sydney, NSW

Engineering and Physical Sciences in Medicine conference, EPSM 2013
3 Nov – 7 Nov, Perth, WA

37th Annual Conference of the Australian Society for Biophysics
24 Nov – 27 Nov, Melbourne, VIC

ANZ Conference on Optics & Photonics
8 – 11 Dec 2013, Fremantle, WA

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

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

Contributions and contact details

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

  • Rob Robinson, AIP President  aip_president@aip.org.au
  • the AIP website for more information is www.aip.org.au (note this is a new site – don’t get stuck in the old one at aip.org.au)
  • membership enquiries to the Secretariat aip@aip.org.au
  • ideas for articles for Australian Physics to the Chair of the Editorial Board and Acting Editor Brian James, on b.james@physics.usyd.edu.au, 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 Margie Beilharz from Science in Public on margie@scienceinpublic.com.au 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 Margie, as above)
  • to receive these bulletins, please email Margie, 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, www.aip.org.au)