Australian Institute of Physics

South Australian Branch

Notice of a
presented by the
Australian Institute of Physics
(SA branch)

Ph: (08) 8201 2093 or (08) 8234 6112 (a.h.) Fax: (08) 8201 2905

Post: AIP-SA secretary, c/o CaPS, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001

at 7:30 pm on Thursday 26th May 2011 in

Napier 102 lecture theatre, Napier Building at the University of Adelaide

"Exploring the Fundamental Laws of the Universe"

by Anthony W. Thomas FAA

Elder Professor of Physics & Australian Laureate Fellow
School of Chemistry and Physics, The University of Adelaide

The Bronze Bragg medal and merit certificates will be presented at the lecture. The medal is awarded for the best performance in the 2010 Year-12 Physics exam, with the certificates being for students who received a score of 20/20.

Abstract: It is almost exactly a century since Rutherford discovered the atomic nucleus and in that time we have discovered quantum mechanics, explored nuclear structure, gone inside the nucleus to see quarks and gluons and developed an incredibly successful theory of the forces of Nature, arguably the most successful theory ever developed, known as the Standard Model. Yet, at the present time it appears as though there is far more to be discovered than we have learnt in the past century. Those discoveries waiting to be made will involve phenomena not seen since a billionth of a second after the big bang, linking subatomic physics to cosmology and astrophysics. We will take a short journey through some of the achievements and open questions, with a focus on the role that the University of Adelaide is playing in this great scientific challenge.

Biography: After obtaining his PhD at Flinders University, Prof. Thomas spent 11 years in Vancouver and Switzerland where he held positions as a staff member at the TRIUMF laboratory and at CERN. He returned to a Chair in the Physics Department at the University of Adelaide in early 1984 and received a DSc from that University in 1986. He served as elected Head of the Department of Physics and Mathematical Physics from 1988-91 and President of the Australian Institute of Physics from 1991-93. In the latter role he played a leading role in the preparation of the first and only Strategic Plan for Physics in Australia. He was appointed Elder Professor of Physics in 1989 (the post held by Prof. Sir William Henry Bragg, Nobel Laureate), elected to the Australian Academy of Science in 1990 and served as Vice-President from 1994-95. He also served on the University Council from 1991-97.

During the first decade at Adelaide, Prof. Thomas built a research program of sufficient international recognition that, with Prof. A. G. Williams, he was awarded an ARC Special Research Centre, the Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter (CSSM) in 1997. The outstanding success of that Centre led to CSSM being recognised as one of the major centres of subatomic theory in the world. CSSM operated typically 2 workshops per year involving leading researchers from around the world, bringing twenty or more each year for extended periods during which they were able to work with local post-graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

In 2004, Prof. Thomas was invited to take up the position of Chief Scientist and Associate Director for Theoretical and Computational Physics at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, one of the US Department of Energy's two major fundamental nuclear physics laboratories. As well as having line management responsibility for over 300 scientists and engineers he held responsibility for the quality of entire scientific program of the laboratory, with its more than 1200 international scientific users. Under his leadership the US$300M upgrade of the laboratory, to double its energy and add a new experimental hall was accorded the top priority in the 2007 Long Range Plan for US Nuclear Science. He has served as the Chair of the Working Group on International Cooperation (WG.9) of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics since its inauguration in 2005.

In 2009 Prof. Thomas returned to the University of Adelaide as an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, one of only two appointed from outside Australia. He is now Director of the University Research Centre for Complex Systems and the Structure of Matter, which incorporates the CSSM but aims for a more diverse research program building upon the expertise in mathematical modelling and high performance computing that has developed around CSSM. Most recently, Prof. Thomas was part of a national consortium, including Adelaide, Melbourne, Monash and Sydney Universities, which was awarded an ARC Centre of Excellence in Particle Physics at the Tera-scale. This Centre will coordinate Australian research at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Prof. Thomas's work has received more than 14,000 citations, with an h-index of 61. Awards received include a Forschungspreise in theoretical particle physics (1992) from the Alexander von Humboldt Association, the Walter Boas Medal (1987) from the Australian Institute of Physics, the Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal (1997) from the Australian Academy of Science, the Harrie Massey Medal (2000) from the UK Institute of Physics, the Inaugural Silver Jubilee Convocation Medal from Flinders University (1991), the Stephen Cole the Elder Prize for Scholarship (1997) and an Australian Centenary Medal (2003).

Pictures below show students receiving Bragg certificates, presented by Professor Thomas. Please email to request a higher resolution photo.