AIP President’s blog

Eureka-winning physics: physics in September

Congratulations to the physicists who were among the winners of the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes announced this week, listed below.

Last month’s National Science Week was a resounding success. Many science enthusiasts came to hear particle physicist Brian Cox, space historian Amy Shira Teitel, and femtosecond laser researcher Eric Mazur, as well as attending so many other physics events around the country.

The AIP’s Women in Physics Lecturer tour meshed nicely with Science Week this year. In this bulletin we include a report from our 2016 lecturer, Catalina Curceanu. Also, we are now calling for nominations for the 2017 Women in Physics Lecturer. Details below.

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National Science Week: physics in August

This month is our bumper National Science Week edition of the AIP Bulletin. Science Week kicks off on Saturday 13 August and runs until the following Sunday 21 August.

Federally, things have settled down following last month’s election, with Government departments no longer in caretaker mode.

We are looking forward to working with Greg Hunt, the new Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. It was great to see him visit Questacon almost immediately after he was appointed and hear him speak on how critical science and innovation are to Australia’s future prosperity. His instruction to the CSIRO to renew its focus on climate science is also very encouraging.

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Congress deadline and physics tours: physics in July

Are you coming to the Physics Congress in Brisbane this year? If so, a reminder that to get a significant discount on the cost of registration, the early-bird deadline is next Monday, 4 July. This is also the deadline for abstract submission. There is more information about the joint meeting later in this bulletin.

We are calling for nominations for four key roles within the AIP. Details, and the Executive’s nominations for these four roles, are given below.

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LIGO Director coming to Australia this year, and Federal physics funding – physics in June

With Warrick away this month, I am taking on the task of writing to you on behalf of the AIP Executive.

As current AIP Vice President it has been a pleasure and a privilege to be part of the wider physics community, beyond my day job as Director of the Australian Synchrotron – there is always so much activity underway in Australian physics.

Last month’s Federal Budget included new funding for some important physics infrastructure projects. See later in this bulletin for details, as well as an excellent analysis from the Australian Academy of Science (AAS).

The AAS announced the election of 21 new Fellows last week, including three AIP Fellows and one member of the AIP Executive.

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Meeting this year’s women-in-physics lecturer – and who was Australia’s top physics publisher: Physics in May

This Bulletin is being distributed at an eventful time. Firstly, it was very pleasing to hear last week that CSIRO will establish a new Climate Science Centre in Hobart, which will focus on climate modelling and projections for Australia, exploiting both national and international research expertise. This is in response to the rather negative feedback CSIRO received from its stakeholders and staff on the job cuts it proposed to make in the climate change area – announced in February.

Coupled with this good news is the establishment of a scientific committee to advise Government on the future direction of Australia’s climate science capability and research priorities. [continue reading…]

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

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.

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Gravitational waves and an influx of fresh, new members: physics in March

What a fantastically exciting month it has been with the announcement of the first transient gravitational wave event due to a binary black hole merger. This will surely go down as one of the most significant discoveries in physics over the last century.

Some of the Australian researchers involved in the discovery are acknowledged in an article in this bulletin. It was also great to see how many took the opportunity in the weeks following the announcement to reach out to a curious public.

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Prize nominations open for AIP awards and more: physics in March

Posted on behalf of Warrick Couch, President of the Australian Institute of Physics.

This is my first bulletin as AIP President, and I’m looking forward to carrying on in the spirit of my predecessor, Rob Robinson.

I’m an astronomer by trade, and especially interested in the evolution of galaxies. I’m the Director of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, and before that I was Director of the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University. A particular research highlight for me was being a member of the Supernova Cosmology Project, one of the two teams that discovered the universe’s accelerating expansion and whose leader, Saul Perlmutter, shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics with Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess (from the other team).

This year at the AIP we’ll be focusing on growing our membership, and we’ll be asking for your help by encouraging colleagues to join. We’ll also be modernising our constitution this year. And now that our Women in Physics group has been reactivated, we’ll be making sure it gets noticed.

We’re also planning a new prize for our members who are early-career researchers. Details will be announced soon, but in the meantime nominations are open for the Walter Boas Medal for excellence in physics research, the Bragg Gold Medal for the best PhD thesis, and the AIP Award for Outstanding Service to Physics.

On top of this, our NSW branch has their own award for community outreach, won last year by space science educator Ken Silburn—more details are below.

In the spirit of the recent Oscars (and wasn’t it great to see some physics in the limelight this year), prize nomination season is truly upon us, with the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, the Eureka Prizes, the Australian Academy of Science’s honorific awards, FameLab and Tall Poppies all open for entries.

Coming up on 24–25 March, the AIP will be taking part in Science and Technology Australia’s annual Science Meets Parliament event, bringing researchers together with parliamentarians, policymakers and the media. Our representatives will be Joanna Turner (Qld), Peter Metaxas (WA) and Laurence Stamatescu (SA).

There is plenty more to read in this bulletin, with events from our state branches and physicists’ views on poetry and climate science. And don’t forget to check our News in Brief section, with highlights of research from around the country and around the world. [continue reading…]

Australia Day honours for science outreach and a change of president: physics in February

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

The Australia Day Honours list again includes one of our own, with science communicator and AIP member Mike Gore being made Officer of the Order of Australia for his decades of work in public outreach and education. This recognises his roles in setting up the Questacon National Science Centre, the travelling Shell Questacon Science Circus and the Centre for Public Awareness of Science at ANU.

Last week saw the official launch of the International Year of Light in Paris. The AIP is proud to support the year’s Australian activities, which celebrate optics, astronomy and anything else involving light. You can read more below.

Next Monday the AIP’s annual general meeting will be held in Melbourne, and I once again encourage any members who are able to attend. This will include the election of, and handover to, the new Executive Committee, marking the end of the current team’s two-year term.

That means that this will be my last bulletin as AIP President. It’s been a privilege for me to serve and contribute to the Institute’s evolution over the past two years.

Reflecting on this time, there are encouraging signs that we’ve turned around our fall in membership numbers—a problem plaguing many professional societies. We’ve also embraced the trend of regional collaboration, forging tighter links in the Asia-Pacific and opening unique opportunities beyond from Europe and America.

These links further strengthen at the Asia-Pacific Physics Conference and AIP Congress to be held in Brisbane, 4–8 December 2016. This joint meeting will be chaired by Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop and Warrick Crouch, who is also the AIP’s new incoming president.

With such a promising future there’s no better time for AIP members to get involved and encourage their colleagues, students and friends of physics to be part of the Institute and its activities. [continue reading…]

Achievements in quantum tech & education, challenges for women & climate: stories from the physics congress

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

In this special mid-January bulletin, we present some stories from December’s AIP Congress in Canberra.

Among the personal highlights for me was the session on women in physics, where we learned about how, instead of improving gender diversity, Australia is going backwards in some areas. With so much more to be done, the AIP has revitalised its Women in Physics group with new members—you can read about them below.

I also had the honour of giving out the AIP prizes at the closing ceremony and the banquet, which was held in the National Gallery of Australia in the presence of Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles”—thankfully explained to us by an expert. Read on for more about the medal winners’ achievements with quantum lasers, nanotechnology and hands-on physics education.

You can also read about the plenary speakers, including Nobel laureates Steven Chu and Serge Haroche, who were featured guests in what was a very strong program. Abstracts from the presentations are still available on the Congress website.

My thanks to Congress Chair John Howard and his team for their efforts leading up to and throughout the week, and especially to Jodie Bradby for organising the main events.

The next AIP Congress will be in Brisbane in 2016, in conjunction with the 13th Asia-Pacific Physics Conference.

Last month saw a reshuffle of the federal cabinet and Australia once again has a Minister of Science, with Ian MacFarlane adding science to his industry title. This is surely good news, as were the soothing words about research funding from the Minister of Education, Christopher Pyne, in his speech opening the Congress. However, time will tell what these mean in real terms.

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies began on 1 January, with a giant light bulb on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the fireworks. With the world’s attention once more shining on physics, I encourage you to make the most of it and have a happy and productive new year in physics. [continue reading…]