Physics in Australia – September 2008

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

Nominations are still open for The Walsh Medal, awarded by the AIP to a practising physicist who has made significant contributions to industry in Australia. It’s an important prize and will be presented at the AIP Congress in Adelaide in December 2008.

More details, and links, are provided below. We have extended the nomination deadline to Tuesday 16 September – so please give serious thought to nominating one of your colleagues who has had success in achieving industrial and commercial outcomes from their research.

This month’s events around the country include: a talk on the 2007 Nobel physics prize in Tasmania, more on old scientific instruments in Queensland; commercialising research in Sydney; a postgrad student conference in Western Australia; and VCE synchrotron workshops in Melbourne. The bulletin also lists another 16 physics events for September.


I’d also welcome the help of AIP members in finding financial support for two AIP projects:

  1. our Honours Year Scholarship program offered to Australian Physics Honours students. Our founding sponsor DSTO has recently withdrawn their support so we’re keen to find a new sponsor of this program that supports two of the countries top physics students;
  2. the AIP is keen to send a small delegation to the Third International Conference on Women in Physics in Seoul, Korea, October 8-10, 2008.
    We are looking for support for two to three delegates.

Our own biennial congress in Adelaide is shaping up as a big one. A last minute rush of abstracts took the total received to over 550. As a result the organisers are planning a seventh parallel stream. More details below.

Finally I’d like to recognise an AIP member who received one of four L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowships this week. Amanda is a theoretical physicist at the University of Melbourne. She is working to create computational tools to predict the behaviour of nanoparticles in the environment. I was pleased to be one of the judges for the Fellowships this year.

If you have any questions or comments on this bulletin, the AIP or physics in Australia, please let me know.

Cathy Foley,
AIP President.

In this bulletin:

1. AIP events across the country
2. Physics activities across the country
3. The Walsh Medal for Service to Industry – nominations extended to Tuesday 16 September
4. Siemens Science Experience
5. Student photo contest: Vic AIP
6. Student and teacher video contest: Vic AIP
7. AIP National Congress
8. Are nanoparticles safe?
9. Physics Conferences
10. Submission deadlines for the bulletin and journal

AIP events across the country

QLD: Tuesday 9 September, 6.00-7.30pm, Qld AIP and School of Physical Sciences, UQ

SERIES: Tools of Science Series

A series of meetings for all those fascinated by old scientific instruments.

TITLE: Hanbury Brown, Twiss and all that

SPEAKER: Andrew White

VENUE: Room 7-222 St. Lucia campus, The University of Queensland

For details contact Prof. Norman Heckenberg on 3365 3369 or

Upcoming sessions:

Tuesday 7 October: Norman Heckenberg – Galvanometers

Tuesday 4 November: Alan Emmerson – Tools of the Instrument Maker

TAS: Wednesday 10 September, Tas AIP

TITLE: The 2007 Nobel Prize in physics: discovery of giant magnetoresistance

SPEAKER: Dr Michael Smith, University of Queensland

VENUE: Physics Lecture Theatre 1, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay

Michael will recognise the achievement of Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg, who were awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics, by talking about the physics of giant magnetoresistance and the impact of its discovery on current condensed matter research.

More information:


VIC: Tuesday 9 – Thursday 11 September, Vic AIP Education Committee

TITLE: Photonics and synchrotron workshops for students

The AIP (Vic Branch) Education Committee is organising workshops for VCE students doing two Unit 4 Detailed Studies: “Photonics” and “Synchrotron and its applications” on Tuesday 9, Wednesday 10 September and again on Thursday 11 September.

VENUE: The photonics workshops will be held at Swinburne University, while the synchrotron workshops will be held at Monash University.

Late news is that these sessions are booked out but there is a possibility of attending an inservice for teachers on Monday 22 September at the synchrotron.

More information and bookings: Dan O’Keeffe


NSW: Wednesday 24 September, 6.30pm NSW AIP and the University of Sydney

TITLE: Commercialising research – from scientist to entrepreneur and back again

SPEAKER: Dr Viv Robinson, ETP Semra Pty Ltd

VENUE: Slade Lecture Theatre, School of Physics, University of Sydney

More information: Fred Osman


WA: Wednesday 24 – Friday 26 September, WA AIP

TITLE: Biennial Postgraduate Student Conference at Jarrahdale

This conference provides a great opportunity for students from Honours to PhD to present their research to their peers in a relaxing and supportive environment. Members are invited to participate.

More information:


Physics activities across the country

NSW: Monday 1 September, 3.15pm, School of Physics Colloquium, University of Sydney

TITLE: Novel optical technologies for ion-trap quantum computing

SPEAKER: Dr David Kielpinski, Director, Australian Attosecond Science Facility, Griffith University

VENUE: Slade lecture theatre, School of Physics, University of Sydney

David will discuss the use of trapped ions for quantum computing, remote sensing and plasma diagnostics.

More information: Andrew Hopkins (02) 9351 7688 or

Upcoming colloquia:

Monday 8 September: Dr Robert Robinson, Head of The Bragg Institute at ANSTO – Title to be advised.

Monday 15 September: Dr Chiaki Kobayashi, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, ANU – Chemodynamical simulation of the universe and the galaxy.

Monday 22 September: A. Prof. John Close, The Australian Centre for Quantum Atom Optics, ANU – Bose Einstein condensates, the atom laser and precision measurement.

Monday 29 September: Dr Peter Papathanasiou, Australian Phenomics Facility, John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU – Stem cells: don’t believe the hype! Believe the science.

More information: Andrew Hopkins 02 9351 7688 or


NSW: Wednesday 3 September, 3.30-4.30pm, Australia Telescope National Facility

SPEAKER: Ue-Li Pen, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, Toronto

TITLE: To be advised

VENUE: ATNF Marsfield Lecture Theatre

More information: Tobias Westmeier (02) 9372 4622 or

Upcoming colloquia:

Wednesday 10 September: Peter Michelson, GLAST/Stanford University – The Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope: first light.

Wednesday 24 September: Oleg Titov, Geoscience Australia, Canberra – Systematic proper motion of distant radio sources from geodetic VLBI data.

More information: Tobias Westmeier (02) 9372 4622 or


VIC: Monday 15 September, 6.30-7.30, University of Melbourne

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Lecture

TITLE: Building nanostructured materials and biomedicine

SPEAKER: Prof. Frank Caruso, Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

VENUE: Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre (Bldg 134), Parkville, University of Melbourne

Frank will discuss recent advances in the design and preparation of nanoengineered particulate systems for the encapsulation of drugs and vaccines, cell targeting and intelligent drug/vaccine release. He will explore the application of these devices for the ultimate treatment of cancer, HIV and the diagnosis of heart disease.

More information: or phone 03 8344 6715


NSW: Tuesday 16 September, School of Physics, UNSW

SPEAKER: Dr David Reilly, Harvard University, U.S.A. & University of Sydney

TITLE: To be advised

More information:


VIC: Wednesday 17 September, 6.30pm, Swinburne University

SPEAKER: Prof. Bob Carswell, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

TITLE: Gravity and light – gravitational lenses and black holes

VENUE: Room AR104, Swinburne University, Hawthorn (more info at )

Bob explores how light behaves near massive objects, and shows that for gravitational lenses, gravitational redshifts and black holes, the main concepts can be understood in general terms from Einstein’s oft-quoted equation, E=mc2.


QLD: Friday 19 September, 4.00pm, University of Queensland

TITLE: The density matrix renormalization group

SPEAKER: Dr Ian McCulloch, UQ

VENUE: Parnell Building Room 222, University of Queensland

More information: or


VIC: Monday 22 September, 6.30-7.30, University of Melbourne

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Lecture

TITLE: Seeing the light with polymers

SPEAKER: Prof. Andrew Holmes, Bio21 Institute

VENUE: Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre (Bldg 134), Parkville, University of Melbourne

Certain kinds of plastics (polymers) can behave as semiconductors, rather than insulators, and may be used to obtain light emission of visible primary colours for use in ultra-thin flat panel displays for TV and laptop screens. Andrew will describe progress in this research, efforts to commercialise it and the role plastic solar cells may play as an alternative source of renewable energy.

More information: or phone 03 8344 4392


VIC: Thursday 25 – Friday 26 September, Swinburne University

TITLE: Synergies between ASKAP and Large Optical/IR Surveys

Discussion meeting at Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University.

RSVP essential. Please email Illana Feain

More information:


WA: Sunday 28 September, 7.00-9.30pm, Gingin Observatory

TITLE: Aboriginal astronomy with Noel Nannup

Ever wanted to know more about the Aboriginal stories of the night sky? There is a wonderful and extensive history when we look up and this special event, hosted by Noel Nannup, will open your mind to another night sky. Noel has dedicated his career to educating young Western Australians about the rich cultural heritage of Aboriginal people and with him we will explore many stories that shape diverse Aboriginal cultures.

Other Gingin Observatory activities include: Fathers’ day stargazing, Saturday 6 September; Fathers’ day BYO telescope class, Sunday 7 September; and family space adventures over the September/October school holidays.

More information: 08 9575 7740, or email


NSW: Monday 29 September – Friday 3 October, Australia Telescope National Facility

TITLE: 8th ATNF synthesis imaging school

VENUE: Australia Telescope Compact Array, Narrabri, NSW

There will be lectures by radio astronomers and engineers as well as practical sessions involving ATCA observation and data reduction. The intended audience is postgraduate students and other interested researchers. No prior experience with radio astronomy is required. Participants are encouraged to present a poster describing their research.

Note: Registration closes Friday 29 August:

More information:

The Walsh Medal for Service to Industry – nominations extended to Tuesday 16 September

The Walsh Medal recognises significant contributions by a practising physicist to industry in Australia. The award will be given by the AIP for physics research and/or development that has led to patents, processes or inventions which, in the opinion of the judging panel, have led to significant industrial and/or commercial outcomes, such as devices that are being manufactured or have influenced a major industrial process. Any AIP member may nominate any qualified person.

For more information, see or email the AIP Special Projects Officer, Olivia Samardzic on

Nominations have been extended to Tuesday 16 September, 2008.

The medal will be presented at the AIP Congress in Adelaide in December 2008, at which the medallist will present a lecture on the subject of the award.

Applications and nominations should be sent by email attachment to or to the Special Projects Officer at Olivia Samardzic, 205 Labs, EWRD, DSTO, P.O. Box 1500, Edinburgh, SA 5111.

Siemens Science Experience

Year 9 students (about to enter Year 10 in 2009) with an interest in science are welcome to attend the Siemens Science Experience. Participants will engage in a wide range of science activities with scientists at universities across Australia. The program, which runs in December 2008 and January 2009, is supported by Rotary clubs, the Young Scientists of Australia and the Australian Science Teachers Association.

For more information and to apply online, go to Applications for individual programs close during September 2008.

Student photo contest: Vic AIP

The Vic AIP is looking for Victorian school student photos. There’s a prize pool of $1,000.

The photos must show a physics concept, which may be set up by the student or an everyday situation.

The contest rules are given on the Victorian AIP website where you can also see the excellent photos that were entered into the 2007 contest.

Closing date is the end of term 3, 2008.

Student and teacher video contest: Vic AIP

The Vic AIP is looking for Victorian school student and teacher video clips. There’s a prize pool of $2,000.

Victorian teachers and students may compete in separate categories in the Victorian AIP physics video clip contest.

The video clip should demonstrate physics in action, and will be evaluated on their suitability for instructional use.

See the website for contest rules

Closing date is the end of term 3, 2008.

AIP National Congress

The Congress is the AIP’s major meeting. The congress program is filling out with over 550 abstracts and 7 parallel streams.

Plenary speakers include:

Alain Aspect, CNRS; Andy Buffler, University of Cape Town; Jocelyn Bell Burnell, University of Oxford; Steven Carlip, University of California, Davis; John Ellis, CERN; Marvin A. Geller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Michael Geyer Abengoa Solar S.A.; Oliver Jäkel, German Cancer Research Centre; John B Pendry, Imperial College London;  Michelle Simmons, University of New South Wales; Howard Wilson, University of York;

Details of the plenary and keynote speakers are available online at

Earlybird registration rates range from $150 for undergraduate students to $695 for non-members.

Earlybird registration closes on 30 September.

Are nanoparticles safe?

Earlier this week theoretical physicist and AIP member Amanda Barnard received one of this year’s L’Oréal For Women in Science Fellowships.

After two decades of research the first wave of nanotechnology consumer products are entering the marketplace in applications as diverse as catalysts, surface treatments for glass, cosmetics and drug delivery. But the properties that make them attractive to industry may also have unforeseen consequences. That worries Amanda Barnard, a physicist at The University of Melbourne.

“Many materials that are normally inactive-gold and silver, for example-become biologically active when the particles are just a few nanometres in size. So, if we are creating these new particles we need to understand how they will behave in the environment.”

Amanda believes she can create a theoretical framework that will allow the risk of nanoparticles to be determined in the computer-before the particle has even been made. She will use her L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship to develop new computational tools to predict the behaviour of nanoparticles in the environment.

Physics Conferences

Brighter Deeper Greener – Geophysics in a Changing Environment

Adelaide, South Australia

22/02/2009 – 26/02/2009

18th National AIP Physics Congress

Adelaide, South Australia

30/11/2008 – 05/12/2008

28th International Congress on High-Speed Imaging and Photonics

Canberra, ACT

9/11/2008 – 14/11/2008

33rd Annual Australasian Radiation Protection Society Conference 2008

Canberra, ACT

21/09/2008 – 24/09/2008

The Third International Conference on Women in Physics

Seoul, Korea,

8/10/2008 – 10/10/2008

Submission deadlines for the bulletin and journal

We welcome contributions about activities, conferences and announcements for next month’s bulletin. Our next submission deadline is Thursday 25 September. Please send your submissions to Margie Beilharz from Science in Public on or (03) 9398 1416.

And the AIP’s journal, Australian Physics, welcomes your articles. The next deadline is Monday 20 October for the November/December edition. Email John Daicopoulos on


For more information on physics events visit and click on ‘physics events’ or on your state branch.