Katie Mack is the 2017 Women in Physics lecturer; space films & podcasts; physics prizes; and more – Physics in April

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

Professor Andrew PeeleInterim Director, Australian SynchrotronOne of the special things an organisation like the AIP can do is to support people doing wonderful things for physics. One way we do this is through the Women in Physics lecture tour, which 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 is selected to present lectures in venues arranged by each participating state branch of the AIP.

The AIP has been running the Women in Physics lecture series since 1997 and this edition of the bulletin introduces a new Women in Physics lecturer—Dr Katie Mack—who is not only doing world-leading research but is also an inspired and effective communicator. More on Katie below.

Another important way to support physics is by being informed about issues that affect our discipline, and science more broadly, and by being prepared to advocate for science. Some of our members have taken this to heart and have decided to join in the March for Science on April 22.  The AIP endorses the March objectives. More below on how you can be involved.

While on the topic of being informed, the Australian Government has recently released its National Science Statement, which sets out a framework to guide investment and decision making in the longer term. The document is part of a process to formulate and support a strategic plan for the innovation, science and research system to 2030. I encourage all AIP members to be aware of and to have opinions about the National Science Statement. More on this below.

Being informed and part of all these areas, and more, are part of being a member of the AIP. If you would like to become a member or to renew your membership, go to aip.org.au/joining-the-aip

Kind regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics

AIP News

Introducing Katie Mack, this year’s AIP Women in Physics lecturer

katieEach year the AIP funds the national Women in Physics tour by an eminent female physicist. This year’s AIP Women in Physics lecturer will be Dr Katie Mack, a theoretical astrophysicist from the University of Melbourne.

Katie specialises in cosmology and observable tracers of cosmological evolution. Her work focuses on finding new ways to understand the early universe and fundamental physics using astronomical observations.

Her current research focus is on dark matter, the mysterious invisible stuff making up most of the matter in the Universe. In her cutting-edge research, she shows how dark matter interactions in the early universe might have shaped the first stars and galaxies and altered the course of cosmic evolution.

Alongside her astrophysics research, Katie is deeply passionate about science communication, especially through social media, where she maintains one of the most-followed Twitter accounts by any professional astronomer world-wide. You can find her at @astrokatie

She is extremely active in other areas of science communication and appears regularly on television, radio, and in various print media, including a regular column in Cosmos Magazine.  You can find out more about Katie from her website: www.astrokatie.com

Katie Mack is the 2017 Women in Physics Lecturer and will present lectures in Australia between July and September.

Members marching for science

Some of our members at the AIP have decided to show their support for science by participating in the March for Science on April 22, which celebrates science, the role it plays in our individual lives, and the need for us to encourage research the provides insight into our world.

The AIP endorses the stated March objectives of:

  • Universal Literacy: A well-informed community is essential to a free, democratic and successful society. We support education to promote broad public knowledge and discussion of scientific work. As professionals, parents and community-engaged volunteers, we enthusiastically contribute our time and expertise to helping children and students of all ages engage with the physical universe and biological world.
  • Open Communication: Publicly-funded scientists have a responsibility to communicate their research; public outreach and accessibility of scientific knowledge should be encouraged. Communication of scientific findings and their implications must not be suppressed.
  • Informed Policy: Public policy should be guided by peer-reviewed evidence and scientific consensus. Public policy must enable scientists to communicate their publicly-funded research results, and must support literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • Stable Investment: A long-term, strategic approach to investment in scientific research and development is essential for driving true innovation. Government commitments to stable science funding policy will deliver solutions to our complex challenges, promoting prosperity for all.

You can read more about the March for Science at www.marchforscience.com.

AIP Prizes

The following AIP medals and awards are open for nomination:

  • The Walter Boas Medal for excellence in physics research in the past five years
  • The Bragg Gold Medal for the student judged to have completed the most outstanding Australian physics PhD thesis
  • The Outstanding Service to Physics award for exceptional contribution to the furtherance of physics as a discipline.

For more information, head to aip.org.au/medals-awards-and-prizes or email Olivia Samardzic on olivia.samardzic@dsto.defence.gov.au.

Nominations close 1 June (except for the Bragg Gold medal, which closes 1 July).

Book reviewers and articles wanted for Australian Physics

Reviewers are sought for the following books:

  • Essential MATLAB for Engineers and Scientists (6th Edition) by Brian Hahn and Daniel Valentine
  • Why String Theory? by Joseph Conlon
  • 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
  • String Theory and the Real World by Gordon Kane
  • An Introduction to Quantum Theory by Jeff Greensite
  • Outside the Research Lab: Vol 1: Physics in the arts, architecture and design by Sharon Ann Holgate
  • The Dark Universe by Catherine Heymans
  • Space Weather by Mike Hapgood
  • Complex Light by Jeff Secor, Robert Alfano and Solyman Ashrafi

Australian Physics also accepts articles for the bi-monthly magazine, and we strongly encourage our members to contribute their articles.

If you’re interested in reviewing a book or submitting an article to Australian Physics, contact editor Brian James at b.james@physics.usyd.edu.au


Physics news & opportunities

Australia’s National Science Statement

Last week, Minister Sinodinos released the National Science Statement, which is part of a process to formulate and support a strategic plan for the innovation, science and research system to 2030.

Some of the highlights of the Statement included the need for recognition of basic research, acknowledgement of the need for long-term thinking, the importance of strong community awareness about science, and of the need for further internationalisation of Australian science. The Australian Academy of Science welcomed the Statement in this media release.

Here’s what Professor Ken Baldwin, Director of the Energy Change Institute and Deputy Director of the Research School of Physics and Engineering at the Australian National University, had to say about the Statement:

“The National Science Statement contains no new significant new strategies or funding announcements, but does affirm the Government’s strong support for science as a driver of the economy and social advancement.

“We eagerly await the 2030 Strategic Plan being prepared by Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) that will be released later this year. The expectations of the science community will be riding on this document, which needs to place Australia at the forefront of R&D performance – both in the government and private sector.

“What is needed from the Government are incentives for industry to collaborate more broadly in research, and for support to be provided more generally to enable Australian researchers (whether private or government supported) to link with and leverage research overseas.”

You can read Ken’s statement and those of other experts on the AusSMC’s website here www.scimex.org/newsfeed/expert-reaction-national-science-strategy-released

Read more on the National Science Statement here www.science.gov.au/SCIENCEGOV/NationalScienceStatement/index.html.

Nominate an outstanding physicist or physics teacher for a Prime Minister’s Prize for Science

medal only_smallEach year the Australian Government honours Australia’s best scientists, innovators, and science teachers through the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. And we need your help to encourage more physicists (and especially women in physics) to nominate for these awards.

The Malcolm McIntosh Prize specifically awards the work of early-career researchers in the physical sciences. We encourage you to consider which of your colleagues may be eligible for this award and to give them a push nominate. Most nominations for these awards come from people who have been encouraged by a colleague.

We’d also love to hear from you which humble heroes of physics you’d like to see awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science or Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation. And we’d be happy to help you co-ordinate a nomination.

The prizes are:

  • $250 000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
  • $250 000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation
  • $50 000 Prize for New Innovators
  • $50 000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
  • $50 000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools ($50 000 shared between the recipient and their school)
  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools ($50 000 shared between the recipient and their school).

It’s simple to nominate in the first (shortlisting) stage, with an online form. If a nomination is shortlisted, further material will be required in the final stage.

Nominations close at 5.00 pm Canberra time, Wednesday 12 April 2017

For nomination guidelines and online forms: www.business.gov.au/scienceprizes or contact 13 28 46

For info about past recipients: www.science.gov.au/pmscienceprizes

Awards from the Australian Academy of Science

The Australian Academy of Science has opened nominations for the following prizes and opportunities in physics.

  • Pawsey Medal: recognises outstanding research in physics by scientists up to 10 years post-PhD
  • Frederick White Prize: recognises the achievements of scientists (up to 10 years post-PhD) who are engaged in research that has made an actual or potential contribution to community interests, to rural or industrial progress, or to the understanding of natural phenomena. Relevant areas of research are physics, astronomy, chemistry, and the terrestrial and planetary sciences.
  • Elizabeth and Frederick White research conference: $10,000 is available each year to fund a physical and mathematical sciences conference, held at the Shine Dome, in areas related to the solid Earth, the terrestrial oceans, Earth’s atmosphere, solar-terrestrial science, space sciences and astronomy.

Nominations for the Pawsey Medal and Frederick White Prize will close on 20 April 2017. The research conference prize will close on 1 June 2017.

More information is available at www.science.org.au/opportunities.

Prizes for physicists for World Metrology Day

The National Measurement Institute has created two awards in recognition of World Meterology Day.

  • The Barry Inglis Medal celebrates outstanding achievement in measurement research and/or excellence in practical measurements in the fields of academia, research or industry in Australia.
  • The NMI Prize celebrates outstanding achievement in measurement research and/or excellence in practical measurements by a young individual working in academia, research or industry in Australia.

Nominations for both prizes are now open and will close on 21 April 2017.

More information is available at: www.measurement.gov.au/measurementsystem/Pages/WorldMetrologyDay.aspx

The Search for Life in Space—new film out

lifeThe Search for Life in Space takes us from the surface of Mars and the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn to the extreme lava fields of Hawaii and to toxic thermal vents deep beneath the Pacific Ocean. In these harsh environments, astrobiologists look for clues to how life takes hold—and how life might thrive on other planets.

The film is on now at IMAX, you can book tickets here: imaxmelbourne.com.au/movie/the_search_for_life_in_space_3d

The Search for Life in Space is the second in the trilogy of related giant-screen films created by December Media in collaboration with Swinburne University of Technology.

Cosmic Vertigo—new podcast from Amanda Bauer and Alan Duffy

cosmicCosmic Vertigo is a new astronomy podcast on ABC Radio National, brought to you by space experts Amanda Bauer and Alan Duffy.

It explores all aspects of the Universe, and that dizzy feeling you get when you think of the incomprehensible scale of space. Each episode takes you through a different aspect of space, from the Moon, to our Solar System, to what makes a star, and more.

You can check out the podcast here: www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/cosmicvertigo

Stargazing Live – it’s Australia’s turn this week

brianANU Astronomy and Brian Cox have teamed up to deliver Stargazing Live from the ANU’s Siding Spring Observatory.

The series debuted on the BBC last week, and this week for three nights from 4 April the ABC will broadcast an Australian version of Stargazing Live.

Professor Brian Cox and TV presenter Julia Zemiro will be joined by a cast of Australia’s leading scientists, space experts and celebrities including actor comedian Josh Thomas and Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis.

Throughout the series, the Stargazing Live audiences will be encouraged to help make scientific history by participating in the ANU citizen science projects – like naming the ninth planet.

Following each night’s ABC broadcast, Stargazing Live: Back To Earth will be aired on ABC2. Viewers can use social media to send questions directly to Professor Cox and Julia, post their favourite astronomy pictures and take part in astronomy discussions and debates live on air.

And if you want more of Brian Cox and Australian Astronomy, you can still watch Life of A Universe on iview.

Dawn of the new Space Age at the Shine Dome

Join Naomi McClure-Griffiths on 4 April at The Shine Dome in Canberra for the next instalment of this year’s Academy of Science speaker series.

The event promises to take us on a tour of the Milky Way, revealing how the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will revolutionise our understanding of the galaxy, and by extension other galaxies.

Naomi uses the world’s largest radio telescopes to study our galaxy and nearby galaxies. She is heavily involved in science planning for the Square Kilometre Array and a member of the International SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee. She is a principal investigator on two of the planned sky surveys with the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope (ASKAP).

The remaining events in the series will cover the topics of cleaning up space junk with lasers, Australian satellites and where to find them, journeying to the centres of the planets and Australia’s leading role in looking for life on Mars. For more info visit the Academy’s website.


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.

Australian Capital Territory

Time Travel: What’s the Current Status?
Thu, 20 Apr 2017, 6pm
Theatre 3, Manning Clark Centre, Australian National University

Cleaning up space junk with lasers (Dawn of the new space age talk series)
Thu, 6 Jun 2017, 5.30pm
Theatre 3, Manning Clark Centre, Australian National University

New South Wales

Dr Peter Domachuk Memorial Lecture
Tue, 4 Apr 2017, 5:45pm
Harry Messel Lecture Theatre

Enrico Di Teodoro Colloquium
Wed, 5 Apr 2017, 3pm
Marsfield Lecture Theatre at the The Australia Telescope National Facility

UNSW School of Physics Annual Student Awards Evening
Wed, 5 Apr 2017, 6pm
School Common Room, G64, Main Building, UNSW Sydney

Leo Vanzi Seminar
Fri, 7 Apr 2017, 3pm
Macquarie University in room E6B 2.300

Understanding the Human Voice
Fri, 7 Apr 2017, 6pm
Physics Lecture Theatre, Old Main Building, UNSW Kensington Campus


There are no upcoming events

South Australia

Quantum computer devices built from implanted single atoms
Wed, 12 Apr 2017, 1pm
Flinders University, Room 2105 Physical Sciences

Secondary science teacher professional development day (pre-service)
Thu, 8 Jun 2017, 9am
The Science Exchange

Secondary science teacher professional development day (in-service)
Fri, 9 Jun 2017, 9am
The Science Exchange


Big Questions Need a Big Telescope: Australia’s Advances Towards the Square Kilometre Array
Thu, 6 Apr 2017, 8pm
Physics Lecture Theatre 1, Sandy Bay Campus, University of Tasmania



Galaxy Formation and Evolution in 3D
Wed, 5 Apr 2017, 2pm
Monash University

Do Supermassive Black Holes Help to Regulate Galaxy Evolution and Black Hole Growth?
Thu, 20 Apr 2017, 10:30am
Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing

ANSTO PD for teachers
Tue, 20 Jun 2017, 9am
Australian Synchrotron, 800 Blackburn Rd, Clayton, Victoria

Western Australia

There are no upcoming events


Innovation in Radiation Applications 2017
20–22 Apr 2017, University of Wollongong, NSW

Quantum Africa 4
30 Apr 2017, Tunis, Tunisia

Surveying the Cosmos: The Science from Massively Multiplexed Surveys
5–9 Jun 2017, Sydney, NSW

QCD Downunder 2017
Mon, 10 Jul 2017, Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort

International Conference on Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions (ICPEAC XXX)
26 July to 1 August 2017, Cairns, Qld
Note the AIP student travel scheme for AIP student members will be available for this conference.

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

International Particle Accelerator Conference (IPAC 2019)
25–29 May 2019, Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, Vic

Contributions and contact details

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