Annual Report of the

South Australian Branch of the Australian Institute of Physics

 

2000 Committee of the South Australian Branch

Dr Derek Leinweber (Chair)

Dr John Patterson (Vice-Chair, Meetings Coordinator)

Dr David French (Treasurer)

Dr Laurence Campbell (Secretary)

Dr Boris Blankleider (Awards)

Ms Susan Cockshell (Education)

Mr Shaun Cook (Student Representative, to April)

Dr Michael Ford (Education, Publicity, Careers)

Mr John Hedditch (Student Representative, from May)

Ms Melanie Johnston-Hollitt (Science Policy)

Mr John Pattison (Publicity)

Dr Olivia Samardzic (Education, Science Policy, Careers)

Mr Craig Tiller (Student Representative, to June)

Mr Stewart Wright (Editorial, Web Page, Science Policy)

The AIP-SA branch has had an active year presenting four Public Lectures, three Member Lectures, a mid-year General Meeting, a Medical Physics tour, a Student Night, a Quiz Night and a launch of a new Physics Student Society at the University of Adelaide. The Education subcommittee has run a Space School, a Teacher Training session and an Exam Wrap-up session in coordination with the South Australian Science Teachers Association (SASTA). We have given encouragement to students in physics through awards, travel grants and support for student activities. Our web page at http://www.physics.adelaide.edu.au/aip-sa/ has been further improved to provide better access to information on branch activities, jobs and physics in general.

 

Public Lectures

We are pleased to have been able to maintain attendance at our Public lectures at the order of 300 people, and on one occasion 800 people. There are a handful of key factors we feel are important in maintaining this level of attendance. We select topics of interest to the general public and have been fortunate to find excellent speakers with an ability to reach a general audience. We assist lecturers in preparing their lecture material by inviting them to review our web page on Preparing a Public Lecture at http://www.physics.adelaide.edu.au/aip-sa/PublicLectures.html. We continue to hold our public lectures in Union Hall, a newly refurbished large comfortable lecture theatre having a professional ambiance. Lectures are advertised in the Adelaidian newspaper, on local radio stations, the AIP-SA web site and A4 posters distributed via the web site. The AIP-SA has responded to this opportunity to address a significant-size audience by advertising activities of the AIP which may be of interest to the audience in the welcome portion of the evening's events. Participating in national programs including National Science Week and holding joint lectures with other societies also provides opportunities to address large audiences and advertise upcoming events. Finally, AIP members are invited to dinner with the speaker and the public is invited to visit with the speaker during a supper after the lecture.

A 19% reduction in our operating grant combined with a significant increase in lecturer expenses in support of this successful public lecture series has placed the AIP-SA expenditures significantly beyond our income. It is clear that new revenue sources must be found if we are to continue to provide the level of service that we have provided in the past two years. The branch will consider "gold-coin" collection at our public lectures and seek increased support from local universities and industry.

I thank our Meetings Coordinator and Vice Chair, Dr John Patterson, who is largely responsible for creating the following successful lecture series. Additional thanks go to our Secretary, Dr Laurence Campbell, for organizing the post-lecture suppers and for preparing the A4 poster advertisements. Thanks also to Stewart Wright for his extensive work on the branch's web page this year, another key source of event advertisement.

Our opening lecture featured a phenomenal talk by Dr. Robert M. Zubrin, of Pioneer Astronautics entitled "Mars Direct: Humans to the Red Planet within a Decade." This lecture, held with the support of the Centre for Biomedical Engineering of Adelaide University and the Astronomical Society of South Australia attracted 800 people. The entertaining and occasionally controversial talk brought together many areas of science all directed at placing man on mars within a ten year time frame.

This year our National Science Week public lecture was entitled "Measuring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope," presented by Dr. Brian Schmidt of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The talk was fascinating with many beautiful images of the nighttime sky revealed for the first time by the Hubble Space Telescope. Not only were the images riveting, but Brian was able to capture and describe the physics of each image in a very clear concise and accessible manner. The AIP Bronze Bragg Medal for highest achievement in Year-12 Physics in 1999, and certificates of merit for students who obtained the maximum Subject Achievement Score in the 1999 Year 12 Physics examination were presented by Dr. Schmidt at this meeting. Thanks to our awards coordinator, Dr Boris Blankleider, for his organization of the awards.

Our third public lecture entitled "The Subatomic Structure of Matter and the Origin of Mass" by Prof. Anthony Thomas, Director of the Special Research Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter (CSSM) provided insights into the activities of the CSSM. Tony described how 98% of the proton mass has its origin in the gluon fields that bind and confine quarks. The Adelaide audience particularly enjoyed learning about the world-class research going on in their own backyard.

In conjunction with the Women in Physics Group, the AIP-SA presented the Claire Corani Memorial Lecture entitled "Nanotechnology" by Dr Michelle Simmons of the School of Physics, University of New South Wales. The lecture illustrated how an understanding of Quantum Mechanics will play a central role in future technological developments and highlighted the new and exciting international research program in Quantum Computing that has recently been established in Australia. Michelle presented the Claire Corani memorial awards at this meeting. Our thanks to Dr Judith Pollard for organizing another excellent Women in Physics lecture series.

Member Meetings

Our opening event this year was a Medical Physics tour at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. A/Prof Tim Van Doorn presented an introductory talk followed by tours of the Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine (imaging) departments.

Our second membersí event was held mid year. Members lectures provide an opportunity for AIP-SA physicists to learn about new areas of physics at a more involved level than is possible in a public lecture setting. This time, Prof. Peter Teubner of Flinders University presented a lecture on "Laser-Assisted Collision Processes." Peter explained how the technique permits scattering from specific atomic states and provides a means of detecting product states that are impossible to detect by other means.

The annual AIP-SA Student Night featuring the research of the top physics graduate student from each of the three SA Universities continues to be our most popular membersí event. Andrew Lahiff of the School of Chemistry, Physics and Earth Sciences at Flinders University opened the evening with a talk on "A Relativistic Model of Pion-Nucleon Scattering." Daniel Badger of the Department of Physics and Mathematical Physics at Adelaide University presented an excellent talk on " Radar Velocity Studies in Meteor Astronomy." Finally, Michael Moody of the Ian Wark Research Institute at University of South Australia presented " Nano-Bubbles and Computer Simulations of Surface Tension." The Silver Bragg medals for highest achievement in the final undergraduate year were awarded to Greg Fee of Flinders University and Ross Young of Adelaide University.

This year we held a midterm AIP-SA General Meeting. Our younger committee members noted that the Annual General Meeting provided an opportunity for review, but does not allow for an open-ended discussion of AIP policy and direction. Unfortunately this meeting was not well attended by our membership. However, we are grateful for the input provided by the few members that did attend. A particularly important note is A/Prof Robert Vincentís case for focusing on inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary lectures such as the Mars lecture. The AIP is in a particularly good position to make such events become a reality. And while we had hoped to have heated debates on questions such as "Should the AIP cater to the 'What's in it for me' group?" it turns out that the best debates were within our Executive Committee meetings themselves. It was decided that we would hold another mid-year General Meeting but in a more informal setting.

In the interests of broadening the scope of AIP-SA activities and hopefully providing an event of interest to young AIP members and potential members, Dr John Patterson went to great lengths to coordinate an event entitled "A Wider Range of Career Opportunities for Physicists." Physicists who had successfully moved on to fields outside of mainstream physics were invited to come and tell us how they did it, and what physics skills they have found to give them an advantage in their careers. Dr Tony Butterfield, of the Australian Taxation Office opened the evening and gave us an overview of his career with an emphasis on how his knowledge of physics got him to where he is today. Dr Ian Tuohy, of British Aerospace (Australia) gave us insights into the path that brought him to his influential position. Finally, Prof John Prescott of Adelaide University placed the former talks into perspective with a review of careers for physicists.

Our final membersí event, the Annual General Meeting and Dinner, was held at the Adelaide Institute of TAFE. The after-dinner speaker was our AIP National President, Prof John Pilbrow who presented an informed lecture on "Science Policy in Australia and a Critical Time for Physicists."

 

Education Subcommittee

Our education subcommittee, composed of Susan Cockshell, Mike Ford, Mike Roach, Stephen Russell and Olivia Samardzic, has had another very active year. They organized a Teacher Training session to assist South Australian Science Teachers adopt the new "applications" based curriculum, an Exam Wrap-up session in coordination with the South Australian Science Teachers Association (SASTA), a space school and a Quiz Night.

 

Teacher Training

The teacher training session was well attended with approximately 70 teachers attending the 2.5 hour workshops. The "applications" sessions on Radioactive Dating and the Davisson-Germer Experiment were particularly well received. Approximately 40 teachers attended the Exam Wrap-up of the Year 12 Physics exam where teachers had an opportunity to hear and provide feedback on exam answers and marking. Future activities will extend to Primary Education where students are forming their first impressions and ideas on science.

 

South Australian Space School

As in previous years, members of the Education subcommittee participated in running the SA Space School for Year-10 students. Running over three days, the space school involved 36 students in visits to organizations and companies working in space-related activities. This yearís activities included tours of RAAF Edinburgh, DSTO, Flinders and Adelaide University research labs, and the Levels Planetarium. A highlight of the activities included model rocket building and launching.

Quiz Night

The AIP-SA held itís second annual Quiz Night this year, organized by Olivia Samardzic and once again hosted by Dr Stephen Russell. High schools in the Adelaide area were invited to enter teams of 3 to 10 students. Members helped out by setting questions, acting as judges and as markers. Prizes were awarded with a new Perpetual Shield and certificates presented to the members of the best school team. Participation was good with approximately 50 in attendance with 5 secondary school teams competing in the event. For the second year in a row, St. Peters Year 12 boys took first prize.

 

Student Representation on the AIP-SA

Over the past two years, our committee has had significant representation from young members of the AIP. This yearís Executive Committee includes two postgraduate students and two undergraduate students. Our postgraduate students made significant contributions to discussions of AIP-SA and AIP issues, policy and science policy in particular. Membership benefits and the general role of the AIP figured prominently in discussions throughout the year. More often than not, their points of view differed from established and more senior perspectives and made for many lively debates.

I found our younger members to be quite critical of current practices. They feel the largest single concern facing the AIP is that it has lost its interest, relevance and appeal to the younger generation of physicists. Falling student and graduate memberships reflect not only a lessening of students continuing in physics across the country, but a turning away from the AIP by those that are involved in the discipline. They feel the AIP is half way between a professional and learned society and as such, the AIP serves neither academic nor industrial physicists adequately. They feel the AIP must take the initiative to grow and change and adapt to the needs of a younger generation. They argue an invaluable part of this process is to heed the younger voices within the Institute, which often provide a new and modern perspective to what is largely an extremely traditional discipline. Moreover they claim that listening to the young is something the AIP seems to struggle with and they fear it will eventually be the AIPís downfall.

I encourage them to remain active in the AIP and create a plan of action to achieve the goals they desire.

These are difficult issues, and I challenge every branch to identify what the AIP does and what the AIP should do. In this way we can feature the core benefits of membership and identify important new directions for the AIP.

 

Launch of the Adelaide University Physics Society

A key aspect of having Student Representatives on the AIP-SA Executive Committee is to extend the success of the Flinders University Physics Club to other SA Universities. This year we are delighted to have participated in the launch of the new Adelaide University Physics Society entitled "Society for Physics, Astronomy, Cosmology and Experimental Deeds" otherwise known as SPACED. Thanks to Melanie Johnson-Hollitt for providing the leadership required to make the event a success. Over 50 people attended the event that included a BBQ, Adelaide University Lab tours and a tour of the Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter (CSSM).

AIP Job Clipping Service On-Line

The South Australian branch of the AIP began electronically posting the AIP Job Clipping Service mailings last year and continued the posting this year. Our page at http://www.physics.adelaide.edu.au/aip-sa/AusJobs.html features links to scanned images of physics related job advertisements published in Australian newspapers. The images are in gif format at 200 dots per inch (dpi) and at 66 dpi for fast browsing of the titles of the ads. Thanks to Prof John Prescott and the AIP for preparing the advertisement collections.

 

National Congress

Three years ago, our AIP-SA Chair, Dr Ray Protheroe, had the foresight to form a separate committee to plan the AIP Congress in 2000. This action empowered the AIP-SA to maintain a high level of local AIP-SA activities, uncompromised by national commitments associated with the Congress. I encourage future State-Branch Chairs considering a Congress to pursue this successful plan of action.

On behalf of the AIP-SA, I thank Prof. Ian McCarthy for chairing the organizing committee in the early stages of planning where the tone of the Congress established its foundation. We are most grateful to A/Prof Anthony Williams for his enormous commitment and contributions as Chair of the committee. Tonyís management of the Congress has been outstanding, and we thank him for creating an environment in which the conferences and participants could achieve success.

Careers Fair at the National Congress

Mike Ford and Olivia Samardzic organized a careers fair at the National AIP 2000 Congress. South Australian based organizations and interstate organizations were invited to participate in the fair through a range of activities centered around a booth running over the first two days of the

Congress. Presentations ranged from providing promotional material and in-person advice, to calling for expressions of interests to fill vacant positions.

The fair aimed to expose current and potential students to the wide range and exciting career opportunities available to Physics graduates, and to give employers the opportunity to access the captive audience of potential employees present at the Congress.

This is clearly an important activity for the AIP to pursue at the National level, and could easily become a standard feature of the Congress in future years. The organizers of the fair would like to thank all the contributing organizations for their time and effort, and the Congress organizers for providing the infrastructure and support required to run this event.

 

Looking Forward

Next year's committee will have a fresh look as several members of the committee are retiring and several new members are joining the executive committee.

Dr John Patterson will retire from the committee this year. His enormous commitment to meetings and publicity for the AIP-SA will be greatly missed. Mr Stewart Wright will also step down this year. His contributions to maintaining, reorganizing and developing the AIP-SA web pages is most gratefully acknowledged. Mr John Hedditch, Ms Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, and Mr John Pattison are also retiring from the committee and I thank them for their contributions.

I extend my personal thanks to all members of the 2000 AIP-SA committee and I welcome the following AIP-SA 2001 Executive Committee Members to an exciting new year.

Dr Peter Bouwknegt (Chair)

Dr Peter Veitch (Vice-Chair)

Dr Laurence Campbell (Secretary)

Dr David French (Treasurer)

Dr Boris Blankleider

Dr Shane Canney

Ms Susan Cockshell

Dr Michael Ford

Ms Joanne Harrison

Dr Alex Kalloniatis

Dr Waseem Kamleh

Dr Derek Leinweber

Dr David Wiltshire

Dr Olivia Samardzic

 

With Best Wishes,

Dr Derek B Leinweber

Department of Physics and Mathematical Physics

Adelaide University, SA 5005

Page prepared by:
Derek Leinweber
Waseem Kamleh
Please send comments/suggestions to
wkamleh@physics.adelaide.edu.au