New nano centre in Sydney, planetarium show touring, and two AIP awards announced: Physics in April

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

The AIP places great importance on recognising excellence and outstanding contributions in physics, and promoting the important roles played by women in physics. One of the tangible ways it does this is via its awards, and I am delighted to be able to announce the recipients of two of its most prestigious such honours in this context: Cathy Foley has been awarded the Outstanding Service to Physics Award for 2015 in recognition of her leadership and many outstanding contributions to physics and the physics community. And Catalina Curceanu will be this year’s AIP Women in Physics Lecturer. Stay tuned for further information on these two awards in both this Bulletin and in our Australian Physics magazine.

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the new “Capturing the Cosmos” movie created by staff at Melbourne’s Scienceworks and scientists from the Centre for All-Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO). See it if you can—more on the science behind the show is below.

In this bulletin we profile another one of the distinguished international scientists who will be a plenary speaker at the Joint 16th Asia-Pacific Physics Conference/22nd AIP Congress to be held in Brisbane in early December: Korean physicist and science policy adviser Youngah Park. Note also that abstracts are now being accepted for this joint meeting.

Last month we announced the new free AIP membership category that has been introduced for undergraduate students. I am delighted to say that we have already recruited over 650 new student members. This will be their first bulletin from the AIP, and we hope to see an influx of young physicists coming along to our state branch events.

Warrick Couch
President, Australian Institute of Physics

AIP Congress: profile of Youngah Park

In the second article on speakers for this year’s AIP Congress, we introduce Prof Youngah Park, from Myongji University, South Korea.

Youngah Park’s research areas include critical phenomena, neural networks, soft matter, and biological physics (such as protective ‘braking’ mechanisms within the cochlea). But her expertise goes beyond physics to the interface of science and policy, and gender issues in science. She served four years as an elected lawmaker in South Korea’s national assembly and is President of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Evaluation and Planning, which provides science and innovation vision and strategy.

Youngah Park is a member of Korea’s Presidential Advisory Council on Science and Technology and chair of the Women in Physics working group of the Association of the Asia-Pacific Physical Societies (AAPPS). With the Korean Women in Physics Committee, she has addressed the historically low involvement of female students in physics via high-school physics camps, international networking links and mentoring.

Her areas of interest include the role of innovation in science and technology, education, women in science, and gender issues.

This year’s AIP Congress will bring together physicists from Australia and the Asia Pacific region for a week-long program of science and networking. We are now calling for abstracts.

  • Brisbane 4–8 December 2016
  • Registration and call for abstracts at
  • Meeting co-chairs: Warrick Couch and Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop

Student membership update

There has been fabulous up-take of the new free online membership for undergraduate physics students, with over 650 students having already taken up the offer. At this point, Victoria is leading the charge, with almost 200 new student members.

Online student members receive the president’s monthly ebulletin and an electronic copy of the Australian Physics magazine, and emails from their local AIP branch about events. They do not have voting rights.

The AIP Executive are excited by the addition of so many keen, young physicists to the ranks of the AIP. Thanks to all the AIP members who have worked so hard to promote membership among the student body.

The link for students to apply is here.

AIP prizes

The following AIP medals and awards are open for nomination:

  • The Harrie Massey Medal for contributions to physics made either by an Australian physicist or by a physicist working in Australia
  • The Alan Walsh Medal for significant contributions to industry by a practising physicist in Australia
  • The Walter Boas Medal for excellence in physics research in the past five years
  • The Education Medal for significant contributions to university physics education
  • 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.
  • And our inaugural early-career research award, the Ruby Payne-Scott Medal, for outstanding contributions made by a physicist who is just beginning their career.
  • The NSW Community Outreach Award, which recognises contributions to physics education or community engagement and demonstrated passion for the study of physics (nominations for this award close 9 October).

More information can be found at or from Olivia Samardzic. Nominations close 1 June (except for the Bragg Gold medal and the NSW Community Outreach Award). Also see more prizes listed under Other news, below.

Books for review

If you are interested in reviewing any of the books below for publication in Australian Physics please contact magazine editor Brian James.

New Sydney nano centre

The Sydney Nanoscience Hub, to be launched this month, will provide Australian researchers with the tools and facilities to develop new technologies in energy, medicine, information and technology, as well as extending our fundamental knowledge of physics at the nanoscale, working at scales of a millionth of a millimetre, where quantum effects dominate.

The centre will be home to three research streams:

David Reilly, Director of the Quantum Nanoscience Laboratory, leads the team that works to understand the quantum laws that govern nanoscale materials, and to harness those laws for new technologies.

Ben Eggleton runs the Quantum Nanoscience Laboratory—harnessing light, sound and nanoscale matter to build optical photonic circuits, which will provide faster, more powerful, greener processing.

Michael Biercuk, leader of the Quantum Control Laboratory, is using tools such as superposition (single particles in two states at once) and entanglement (two particles inextricably linked at a distance) in control and measurement technology.

Before the researchers even get started, there is already some incredible science behind the building of the new $150m facility. The environmental controls surrounding the Quantum Control Lab eliminate outside influences on temperature, air pressure, and electronic and magnetic interference. Even the EM interference from a vehicle passing on the road outside will be eliminated via a compensation cage surrounding the lab.

The Sydney Nanoscience Hub will be run by the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at the University of Sydney.

New planetarium show

Australian astronomers searching for the galaxy’s oldest stars and dark energy have contributed to a new planetarium show.

Narrated by Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush, Capturing the Cosmos was created by Melbourne Planetarium and CAASTRO, and features science from two Australian telescopes: the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and the SkyMapper optical telescope.

The MWA radio telescope array at Murchison WA allows astronomers to peer into the distant, lightless past, piercing the dark fog of the early Universe to reveal details of the formation of the Universe’s first stars and galaxies.

The ANU’s SkyMapper telescope in NSW is looking for the effects of dark energy, which accelerates the expansion of distant objects, by studying particular accelerating supernovae. It continues the work for which ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt, who helped establish SkyMapper, won his Nobel Prize in 2011.

Capturing the Cosmos was launched at partner Melbourne Planetarium by Brian Schmidt in March, and will show in planetariums around Australia, including Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Launceston, Wollongong, Sydney and Adelaide.

Get your physics on (National Science Week)

Last year, National Science Week saw 1.3 million people participate in over 1700 registered events around the country, including the national experiment Galaxy Explorer (in which 18,000 people classified over 200,000 galaxies), and a record-breaking stargazing event at ANU.

How will you use the broad reach of Science Week to your advantage?

Now is the time to plan events and activities that bring physics to the people, raise the hot topics, challenge the stereotypes and inspire the next generation.  In particular, a new national citizen science project is needed. More at

Art and physics collide in Sydney and CERN

An Australian artist’s interpretation of quantum physics graces the latest cover of Nature Nanotechnology.

The image is a still from Quantum Consciousness, an audio/visual representation that places the viewer inside an electron’s field of probability, which allows the particle to exist in two states simultaneously.

UNSW artist and director of the Fine Arts Honours Program, Paul Thomas, worked with Andrea Morello from the Centre for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology, also based at UNSW. Andrea’s team are controlling the spin of electrons and nuclei in phosphorus atoms to form the qubits that will store information in quantum computers.

Meanwhile, CERN is seeking applications for their artist in residency program. Monica Bello, head of Arts@CERN, says they’re seeking to connect science and art—“encouraging both fields to inspire and challenge each other”. Criteria and conditions at

Other prizes

The World Metrology Day awards for excellence in measurement science cover all areas of measurements—from pathology tests to traffic light colour; a myriad of fields where measurement underpins lives and productivity. If you or people you know are making a mark in the world of measurement, submit a nomination here. Nominations close 30 April.

Tall Poppies recognises excellence in early-career research, alongside a proven ability and passion to engage the community with science. Nominations close 11 April.

Australian Academy of Science Awards are open to scientists of all levels of experience. The Academy also offers research funding, conference funding and travel opportunities. The closing date for award nominations is 30 April and the closing date to apply for research, conference and travel support is 15 June. See

The L’Oréal For Women in Science Fellowships recognise outstanding early-career female scientists and assist them in consolidating their careers and rising to leadership positions in science. Visit for more information.

Australia’s most comprehensive science prizes, the $160,000 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, recognise research, science communication and journalism, leadership, and students. Nominations close 6 May. More at

Encourage the physicists you know to nominate, or nominate them yourself.

Australian Physics Olympiad Summer School

17-year-old Alex Karamesinis spent two enriching weeks at the Australian Science Olympiad summer school.  Learn what she go up to. 

The two weeks I spent at the Australian Physics Olympiad Summer School in Canberra were the two most academically challenging weeks I have ever experienced. Despite the workload and the lengthy exams, they were also two of the most enriching weeks of my life.

A typical day at Summer School involved three lectures, a lab session and two tutorials, finishing at about 9:30pm, usually followed by card games in the common room.

Weekends and weekdays were alike, so we made the most of our one precious free day, visiting Parliament House and sourcing the best milkshakes that Canberra had to offer!

The intense university-based physics course taught me more than I could have imagined, both theoretical ideas and experimental processes. The problem-solving based style of the camp certainly pushed the boundaries of my thinking—between this and the dinner-table discussions with tutors and other students from around Australia, I learnt so much both in and out of the classroom.

Boarding in Ursula Hall at ANU tested my independence, giving me the opportunity to discover more about university life. The sense of camaraderie that quickly developed amongst the physics cohort was fantastic; many lasting friendships were formed during the camp.

I look forward to extending my Olympiad journey at the Asian Physics Olympiad in Hong Kong in May; it is sure to be an unforgettable adventure to enjoy physics in an international setting.

I’d encourage all students with an interest in physics to become involved with the Australian Science Olympiad program; the Summer School was a brilliant, inspiring experience which demonstrated the exciting times that await us in the field of science.

For more information visit

—Alexandra Karamesinis

Physics shorts

Physics news from around Australia

A supernova shockwave has been observed for the first time at visible wavelengths. ANU researchers were on an international team that detected the shockwave at the moment of core collapse in a red supergiant some 750 light-years distant.

Fusion researchers at ANU have discovered why experiments running at one hundred million degrees C sometimes fail to achieve a result.  “There was a strange wave mode which bounced the heating beams out of the experiment,” says lead author Zhisong Qu.

The world’s thinnest lens has been created by ANU researchers shaving layers off molybdenum disulphide crystals atom by atom. The finished lens – just over 6 nm in width, smashing the previous record of 50 nm – has potential applications in flexible TV and computer screens and miniaturised cameras.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) hosted the Southern Sydney Science and Engineering Challenge in March, with 220 students completing science challenges that included building a Mars rover and earthquake-proof buildings.

A Monash University graphene-based filter that is nine times faster than competing filtration technologies has potential applications in freshwater treatment, dairy processing, wine production and pharmaceuticals.

Griffith University and University of Queensland researchers have developed increased-capacity quantum logic gates that could make the construction of quantum circuits cheaper and easier.

Swinburne University of Technology researchers were part of an international team that has controlled and monitored the direction of electrons ejected from an atom for the first time, using the FERMI free-electron laser in Italy. It could lead to real-time monitoring of electrons in other attosecond-speed processes such as photosynthesis and combustion.

Cheaper, more sustainable electricity storage is closer thanks to Neeraj Sharma, whose team is using sodium from seawater to create batteries that will rival the current leading technology, lithium-ion, for a fraction of the price.

Swinburne University of Technology researchers have created a quantum chip that entangles four photons – the most complex such chip yet built.

The April meeting of the American Physical Society in Utah has some interesting items on the agenda, including the 750 GeV ‘bump’ in data at CERN (perhaps!), the lack of any sign of Fermilab’s tetraquark at CERN, and further LIGO results after the big announcement in February.

Jetsons-style self-cleaning clothing could be a step closer. RMIT researchers have developed metal nanostructures that, when exposed to light, release a burst of energy, cleaning the textiles to which they are attached of organic matter.

Researchers from the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) have developed a creative new method for layering conductive, transparent graphene-oxide film onto micro silica fibres, opening up a range of new optoelectronic applications.

A Curtin University team searching for scattering delays in distant millisecond pulsars that could reveal long-period gravitational waves has been aided by improvements in the Murchison Wide-field array radio telescope observatory in WA that have improved sensitivity tenfold.

The Australian Academy of Science, in its maths vision for 2025, has encouraged Australian universities to reintroduce year 12 maths as a prerequisite for all science and engineering bachelors degrees. “We are in the era of big data but what good is data without the ability to interpret and analyse it?” said plan committee chair Nalini Joshi.
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.


Tanya Monro: Unlocking the secrets within using light – from wine to embryos
Tue, 5 Apr 2016, 5:30pm
The Shine Dome, 15 Gordon St, Canberra

Warwick Holmes: Rendezvous with a comet – The Rosetta Mission
20 April 2016, 5.30 pm
The Shine Dome, 15 Gordon St, Canberra

New South Wales

Zero Gravity! Buckle up for a ride on the “Vomit Comet”
Wed, 6 Apr 2016, 6:30pm
Ainsworth Building UNSW

Jarryd Pla: Single-Atom Spin Qubits in Silicon
Tue, 12 Apr 2016, 6pm
Room G64 Old Main Building, UNSW
NSW Branch Committee Meeting before the lecture from 4:30PM

Ursula Keller: GigaHertz Laser Frequency Combs
Tue, 12 Apr 2016, 6pm
Macquarie University

Ursula Keller: At the speed limit and at the boundaries of the measurable
Wed, 13 Apr 2016, 3pm
Sydney Nanoscience Hub, Harry Messel Lecture Theatre, The University of Sydney

Sir Michael Berry’s public lecture
Tue, 19 Apr 2016, 6.30pm
Macquarie theatre, Macquarie University

Christopher P.J. Barty: Lecture on Bringing Star Power to Earth – The Story of the World’s Most Extreme Lasers and the Pursuit of Fusion for Environmentally Clean Energy
Thu, 28 Apr 2016, 5pm
Room G64 Old Main Building, UNSW

Astronomy from the Ground Up! 2016 Teacher Workshop
Fri, 29 Apr 2016
Parkes Observatory, NSW

Adult Astronomy Course: Exploring the Heavens
Tue, 3 May 2016
Sydney Observatory

Planetary Parliament
Tue, 10 May 2016
CSIRO Life Sciences Centre, North Ryde
A joint event with RACI, RSNSW and Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

Astronomy Open Night
Sat, 14 May 2016, 6:30pm
Macquarie University NSW

Northern Territory

No upcoming events currently listed.


Gerard Milburn: Quantum physics and gravity—the odd couple
Fri 8 April 2016, 3pm
Frank White Building (St Lucia) 43-102, University of Queensland

South Australia

No upcoming events currently listed.


Warrick Couch: The Next Generation of Extremely Large Optical/Infrared Telescopes
Thu, 7 Apr 2016, 8pm
University of Tasmania


Mount Burnett Observatory members night
Fridays, 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 Apr 2016, 8pm
420 Paternoster Road, Mount Burnett, VIC

AstroTours school holiday program: Experience the Universe in 3D
Tue, 5 Apr 2016
Swinburne University Virtual Reality Theatre, ground floor of the AR building (AR104)

Teachers’ Practical Activities Workshops and Equipment Fair
Thu, 7 Apr 2016
Camberwell Grammar School, Mont Albert Rd, Canterbury

Beginning Physics Teachers’ In-Service
Fri, 8 Apr 2016
Kew High School

Ursula Keller: At the speed limit and at the boundaries of the measurable
Fri, 8 Apr 2016, 6:30pm
Theatre A, Elisabeth Murdoch, University of Melbourne, Spencer Road, Parkville

Western Australia

There are no upcoming events.