Year of Light, a Nobel visitor and honouring postgrads: physics in September

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics, Bulletins
Year of Light, a Nobel visitor and honouring postgrads: physics in September post image

Posted on behalf of Rob Robinson, President of the Australian Institute of Physics.

2015 is the International Year of Light, giving all those of us who work with light a chance to shine. That covers most of physics, from nanophotonics through to astronomy.

We’re supporting our cognate, the Australian Optical Society, who are leading the way with activities around the country. In the next few weeks they’ll be holding networking events in different states to build momentum and share ideas. You can find out the details and register to attend by emailing

Using laser light to trap and cool atoms earned Steven Chu a Nobel Prize in Physics. He’ll be one of the headline speakers at this December’s AIP Congress in Canberra, and we profile him in this bulletin.

Postgraduate students in NSW and WA have the opportunity to win prizes for presenting their research, at events hosted by their state AIP branches. Registrations for both of these close soon, so read on and see how you can take part.

AIP Fellow and former President Tony Thomas was recently named South Australian Scientist of the Year, a worthy accolade for his decades of work here and overseas exploring the subatomic structure of matter.

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

International Year of Light 2015 Australia

International Year of Light AustraliaThe Australian organising committee is building the Light Year buzz with networking events around the country.

Come along and find out what is planned and share your ideas. If you’re interested in attending, please email

Follow the Year of Light on Twitter @LightYearAU and sign up to receive the newsletter at

AIP Congress speaker Steven Chu

Steven ChuAmong the top speakers lined up for this year’s AIP Congress (7–11 December in Canberra), is Nobel laureate and former US Energy Secretary, Steven Chu.

Steven’s work on using lasers to cool and trap atoms earned him the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William D. Phillips.

From 2009 to 2013 he was President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Energy, advocating for a move from fossil fuels to clean energy.

He is currently Professor of Physics and Molecular & Cellular Physiology at Stanford University, where his research team studies biological systems at the single molecule level.

And he was recently one of the many who accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge, which you can watch on YouTube.

Early-bird registrations for attending the Congress close Monday 15 September.

WA postgraduate conference

Physics Honours, Masters and PhD students can meet their peers and show off their research at the AIP WA Branch’s annual Postgraduate Conference, to be held at Murdoch University on 3 October.

At previous conferences attendees have enjoyed discovering the breadth of physics research performed by people and groups they weren’t aware of, all in a relaxed, well-catered environment

There are prizes for the best presentations, and the day is sponsored by the AIP—although you don’t have to be an AIP member to attend.

Abstracts should be submitted on a template you can obtain from Chris Creagh ( and returned to her by 15 September.

For more information, see the AIP Events Calendar.

Online lecture videos complete

Chris Creagh with a Van de Graaff generatorBasic physics concepts such as gravity, friction, simple harmonic motion and electric and magnetic fields, are all demonstrated in a series of short videos now available on YouTube.

The AIP’s own Chris Creagh has uploaded 30 demonstrations for first-year physics students, as well as some longer videos that dig a bit deeper into what teaching activities help to build a learning environment.

All the videos were produced thanks to a National Teaching Fellowship from the Office for Learning and Teaching. They’re open access, meaning anyone anywhere in the world can download them, use them in lectures or discussions, remix them, play them backwards to music… As long as you cite where they came from.

You can find the videos on the Physics Vids YouTube channel.

NSW postgraduate awards day

Nominations are now open for AIP NSW Branch’s annual Postgraduate Awards Day, to be held at 2 pm on Tuesday 18 November in the Slade Lecture Theatre, University of Sydney.

Each NSW university is invited to nominate one student to make a 20-minute presentation on their physics research. Presenters will be judged on their content and scientific quality, clarity and presentation skills, with the winner receiving a a $500 prize and Postgraduate Medal.

The Royal Society of NSW will also award the separate Jak Kelly Scholarship prize of $500 at the event.

At 6 pm after the Awards Day there will be public lecture by the University of Western Sydney’s Ragbir Bhathal on “Some aspects of 40,000 years of Aboriginal astronomy”, followed by the NSW AIP annual branch dinner. Students nominated for the awards will be invited to attend the dinner as guests.

This event is proudly sponsored by the AIP, the Royal Society of NSW and the CSIRO.

Please email the title and abstract of your nominated student presentation to Dr Frederick Osman by Friday 10 October on

Victorian consultation forums

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) has released a consultation draft of their new Physics Study Design, and the AIP (Vic Branch) Education Committee is running forums around the state to gather the views of teachers.

Each forum will run for two hours, going through the changes in the new draft and leaving plenty of time for small group discussion.

Find out where and when your nearest forum will be and register to attend at

SA Scientist of the Year is a physicist

Prof. Tony ThomasParticle physicist and Fellow of the AIP Anthony (Tony) Thomas was named South Australian Scientist of the Year at the Science Excellence Awards on 8 August 2014.

His research connects experiment, theory, computation and simulation to tackle fundamental questions about subatomic matter and physics beyond the Standard Model, as well as financial markets and atmospheric and climate studies.

Born in Adelaide, Tony obtained his PhD at Flinders University, receiving the University Medal in 1971. After numerous positions overseas—including at TRIUMF in Canada and CERN in Switzerland—he returned to Adelaide to take up a Chair in Physics in 1984.

From 1991 to 1993 he was President of the AIP, working on the first Strategic Plan for Physics in Australia.

He served another stint in the US as Chief Scientist and Associate Director for Theoretical and Computational Physics at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, before returning again to the University of Adelaide in 2009.

He is currently Australian Laureate Fellow and Elder Professor of Physics in the School of Chemistry and Physics at the University of Adelaide, and he heads both the ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale at the University of Adelaide and the ARC Special Research Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter.

Read more at ABC News.

Other physics news

A SKA for astronomy

Physics World in the UK has put together a short video that takes you on a tour of the Australian and South African sites for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), with artists’ impressions of the telescopes and scientists and engineers talking about the opportunities and challenges they face.

With its Australian precursor ASKAP already producing exciting science results, the completed SKA will be the world’s largest radio telescope and give an unprecedented view of the sky.

You can watch the video online at

AIP events

The Art of Physics, 2014 AIP Congress
7–11 Dec 2014
ANU, Canberra

Twinkling of the stars

Wed 3 Sep, 8 pm
Kerr Grant Lecture Theatre, University of Adelaide

Public lecture

Laurence Campbell will discuss the history and controversy of something we see every night yet still don’t fully understand.

2014 Einstein Lecture, ‘Pocket Astrophysics’

Fri 21 Sep, 6 pm
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Public lecture

Orsola De Marco reveals the fascinating world of astrophysicists from her personal experience.

More events below

News in brief

Undergraduate vacation scholarships

CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science is offering 3rd-year students scholarships over the summer of 2014–15.

Tectonic plate speed tracked

Geophysicists at the University of WA find signs of changes in tectonic plate movement.

Tractor beam from water waves

ANU physicists control flow patterns to move floating objects against the direction of waves.

Storing light energy

Quantum physicists at UQ show that “superradiance” increases the ability of a group of atoms to absorb energy.

CSIRO weighs budget impacts

At a Town Hall meeting in July, the Australia Telescope National Facility discussed its response to funding cuts.

Water rocket contest

Applications for students to build a rocket and represent Australia in Japan close 19 September.

Physicist wins WA student prize

Mark Zammit, a PhD candidate at Curtin University, was named ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year for his atomic and molecular collision model.

Live X-ray imaging of cystic fibrosis

Technique developed by Monash University physicist Kaye Morgan can watch treatments at work on airway surfaces.

Graphene process for miniaturisation

A micro-fabrication process developed by Francesca Iacopi at Griffith University could lead to mass-production of low-cost sensor devices.

Infragravity waves hit harbours

University of WA research shows waves with periods of 25–300 seconds, or wavelengths 0.1–10 km, can impact berthing operations.

Cancelling out quantum noise

UQ and ANU researchers find new way to tackle noise in quantum systems.

A star is born

In research published in Science, Monash University astrophysicists edge closer to understanding the formation of the Sun.

Feeding the trolls

Monash University physicist Michael Brown discusses his experience in debating science online.


AIP event denotes AIP events


Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Fri, 24 Oct 2014, 7pm
Royal Theatre, National Convention Centre Canberra
Public lecture


AIP event Orsola De Marco: 2014 Einstein Lecture, ‘Pocket Astrophysics’
Fri, 12 Sep 2014, 6pm
Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris St, Ultimo
Public lecture

Sat, 4 Oct 2014, 9:30am
Siding Spring Observatory, Observatory Rd, Coonabarabran NSW 2357
Open day

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

AIP event Physics in Industry Day: Physics of the Mind
Thu, 6 Nov 2014, 9am
CSIRO, 36 Bradfield Road, Lindfield West NSW 2070
All-day seminars

AIP event Postgraduate Awards Day
Tue, 18 Nov 2014, 2pm
Slade Lecture Theatre, University of Sydney
For postgraduate students

AIP event Ragbir Bhathal: Some aspects of 40 000 years of Aboriginal astronomy
Tue, 18 Nov 2014, 6:35pm
Slade Lecture Theatre, University of 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


AIP event Laurence Campbell: Twinkling of the stars
Wed, 3 Sep 2014, 8pm
Kerr Grant Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, University of Adelaide
Public lecture

Tanya Monro: 2014 Science Inspiration
Wed, 17 Sep 2014, 11am
The Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide
For students and teachers

Tanya Monro: 2014 Science Inspiration
Wed, 17 Sep 2014, 7pm
The Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide
Public lecture

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


No events currently listed.


Clare Kenyon: How do I tackle the VCE physics exam?
Thu, 4 Sep 2014, 6pm
Hercus Theatre, School of Physics, The University of Melbourne
For students

Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Sat, 18 Oct 2014, 7pm
The Plenary, Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre
Public lecture

AIP event Victorian Young Physicists’ Tournament
Tue, 2 Dec 2014
Quantum Victoria, 235 Kingsbury Drive, Macleod West
For students


AIP event Postgraduate Conference
Fri, 3 Oct 2014
Biological Sciences Lecture Theatre, Murdoch University
For postgrad students

Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos
Thu, 16 Oct 2014, 7pm
Riverside Theatre, Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre
Public lecture


5th IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics
5–8 August 2014, Waterloo, Canada

ROSIS Workshop: Introduction to Patient Safety in Radiation Oncology and Radiology
3 September 2014, Melbourne Convention Centre, Vic

PNCMI 2014: Polarised Neutrons for Condensed Matter Investigations 2014
15–19 September 2014, University of Sydney, NSW

ENVIRO’14: Pathways for better business
17–19 September 2014, Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, SA

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

NEW SpaceUp Australia
28 September 2014, Flinders University Victoria Square Campus, Adelaide, SA

NEW AIP Postgraduate Conference
3 October 2014, Biological Sciences Lecture Theatre, Murdoch University, WA

VASCAA-7: 7th Vacuum and Surface Sciences Conference of Asia and Australia
5–9 October 2014, Hsinchu, Taiwan

MEDSI 2014 – Mechanical Engineering Design of Synchrotron Radiation Equipment and Instrumentation
20–24 October 2014, Hilton on the Park, Melbourne

2014 Australasian Radiation Protection Society Conference
26–29 Oct 2014, Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart, Tas

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

NEW ANSTO-AINSE Neutron School Neutron Scattering for Soft Matter
3–7 November 2014, ANSTO, Lucas Heights, NSW

The Periphery of Disks
3–6 Nov 2014, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, NSW

New User Symposium: Synchrotron, Accelerator and Neutron techniques 2014
19 November 2014, Australian Synchrotron, Clayton, Vic

Australian Synchrotron User Meeting 2014
20–21 November 2014, Australian Synchrotron, Clayton, Vic

NEW IONS-KOALA 2014 Conference on Optics/Photonics, Laser Applications and Atomic/Quantum Physics
23–28 November 2014, The University of Adelaide, SA

OSA Optics and Photonics Congress on Light, Energy and the Environment
2–5 December 2014, Australian National University, ACT

AIP Congress – The Art of Physics
7–11 December 2014, Australian National University, ACT

Annual Condensed Matter and Materials Meeting (“Wagga 2015”)
3–6 Feb 2015, Wagga Wagga campus of the Charles Sturt University, NSW

AMN7 Advanced Materials & Nanotechnology
8–12 February 2015, The Rutherford Hotel, Nelson, New Zealand

The Most Massive Galaxies and their Precursors
9–12 February 2015, Sydney, NSW

Physics Teachers Conference
20 February 2015, Monash University, Clayton, Vic

NEW AOCNS 2015 – 2nd Asia-Oceania Conference on Neutron Scattering
19–23 July 2015, Novotel Sydney Manly Pacific, Manly, NSW

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 9895 4477
  • 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,