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Women in Physics

Lecture Tour 2024

The AIP Women in Physics (WIP) Lecture Tour celebrates the contribution of women to advances in physics. This annual award recognises a woman who has made a significant contribution in a field of physics.  This year, the WIP lecturer will give talks in NSW, ACT, VIC, QLD, TAS, SA and WA. 

See the Women in Physics Lecturer page for information on nominations, closing dates and previous WIP lecturers.

Read about this year's Women in Physics Lecturer, Prof Susan Coppersmith below. Do you have a question about the 2024 Women in Physics Lecture tour dates and venues? Please email WIP@aip.org.au for info. 

Announcing the 2024 Women in Physics Lecturer

Meet Professor Susan Coppersmith FAA FAIP

From grains of sand to quantum computers

The AIP is delighted to announce that Professor Susan Coppersmith FAA FAIP, a theoretical physicist at UNSW Sydney, will tour Australia this year as the AIP’s 2024 Women in Physics Lecturer.

Susan has used principles of theoretical physics to understand a wide variety of systems ranging from sand to pearls to glasses to quantum dots used to make quantum computers.

Seashells, pearls and chalk are all made of calcium carbonate. Why are shells strong while chalk crumbles?

Susan has investigated how an organism makes seashells so strong by controlling the structure of a combination of brittle calcium carbonate with a small amount of soft organic material.

Better understanding of these processes enables scientists and engineers to combine brittle and flexible components to create new composite materials that are highly resistant to fracture.

Prof Coppersmith has studied granular materials, showing that the forces that support your weight when you stand on a beach are distributed very differently in sand than in a “normal” solid.

Forces much greater than the mean occur, but very large forces are exponentially rare.  Understanding these force variations is important for a variety of industrial processes that use granular materials.


Now she is working to predict how a combination of silicon and germanium, two materials used in current electronic technologies, can be used to fabricate quantum dots that could enable the creation of quantum computers.

This strategy has the advantage that it has the potential to leverage the investments that have been made for scaling up modern classical electronic devices to enable the manufacture of large-scale quantum computers.

And she’s exploring how these quantum devices could enable us to better study exploding stars and dark matter.

The Women In Physics Lecture tour celebrates and recognises women’s contributions in physics.

Prof Coppersmith is a theoretical condensed matter physicist who has made substantial contributions to the understanding of a broad range of subjects, including glasses, biominerals, granular materials, and quantum computers.

She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Institute of Physics, and the National Academy of Sciences in the USA. She is currently serving as Head of the School of Physics at UNSW Sydney.

Condensed matter physics is the study of materials, usually solids. It seeks to predict the collective properties of very large numbers of electrons, atoms, or molecules.

Tour dates and locations of Prof Coppersmith’s lecture series will be announced soon.

(Photo credit: Australian Academy of Science).


Upcoming events

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Lecture tour news

  • 1 Nov 2023 9:58 AM | Anonymous

    After 11 public talks, 16 school visits, 7 technical seminars, 8 radio interviews, and connecting with 1,600 + attendees at events around the country, theoretical physicist Dr Karen Livesey presented her final Women In Physics lecture to a packed crowd in her home town of Newcastle.

    A diverse audience gathered at the University of Newcastle's downtown Q building to hear how nano-magnets can:

    •  influence the way bacteria move
    •  jiggle to heat up and kill cancer cells
    • create a binary system for higher-density data storage in computers.

    "The tour has been overwhelming,” said Dr Livesey. “It has been a privilege to learn about physics research, high school studies, and diversity initiatives across all states and one territory. I hope my talks have had an impact on some young people." 

    She thanked the AIP national and state branches, her Newcastle and Colorado colleagues for their unwavering support of Women in Physics, and her family for making the tour possible.

    Karen was presented with her AIP Women In Physics Lecturer medal on the night, presented on behalf of the AIP by Past President Emeritus Professor John O'Connor. Dr Hannah Schunker, a Future Fellow in Physics at the University of Newcastle, gave the event introduction.

    See photos from the event by Lachlan Rogers:


  • 1 Aug 2023 10:57 AM | Anonymous

    Coming soon to: Adelaide, Canberra, Wollongong, Sydney, Launceston, Hobart and Newcastle.

    The AIP Women in Physics Lecture Tour with Dr Karen Livesey has seen jam-packed visits to Perth and Melbourne so far.

    A public lecture at University of Western Australia in Perth kicked off the tour in June with around 100 attendees – including friends, family, former colleagues and members of the public.

    "I think we had record high numbers for the WiP lecture series, and Karen delivered an outstanding lecture that captivated our audience," said WA AIP branch president Jingbo Wang.

    A technical seminar and tour at Curtin University was followed by several visits to Perth public high schools, plus a radio interview on ABC Perth.

    The Melbourne leg of the trip was packed with a public lecture at RMIT, plus research visits at RMIT, The University of Melbourne and Monash University.

    Karen also gave a talk at a Girls in Physics breakfast at Monash University, in front of a fully-engaged crowd of high school girls, and women in STEM.

    A technical seminar at the ARC Centre of Excellence Future Low Energy Electronic Technologies (FLEET) rounded off the Melbourne visit.

    Next stops on the tour include Adelaide, Canberra, Wollongong, Sydney, Launceston and Hobart in September.

    The tour will naturally finish in Karen’s hometown at the University of Newcastle.

    Stay tuned for details of an event near you.

  • 28 Feb 2023 5:24 PM | Anonymous

    The Women in Physics Lecture tour celebrates the contribution of women, everywhere, to advances in physics. This annual tour selects one outstanding lecturer each year to showcase her contribution in the field of physics.

    The AIP is thrilled to announce that Dr Karen Livesey, theoretical physicist at the University of Newcastle, will be touring Australia in 2023 as the AIP’s Women in Physics Lecturer.

  • 1 Sep 2022 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Free public talks in Sep as part of 2022 Women in Physics Lecture Tour in SA, WA,*** NSW and QLD

    QLD events will also be streamed online

    What’s the difference between a meteoroid, meteor, and meteorite? How do you measure quakes on Mars and what do they tell us about the structure of Mars’ interior? How do you go about it if you want to work with NASA?

    Find out from planetary scientist Associate Professor Katarina Miljkovic, our 2022 Women in Physics Lecturer.

    She’ll be giving free public talks this month in Adelaide, Perth*** , Newcastle, and Brisbane. Everyone is invited. The events in Brisbane are a reschedule from the cancelled July dates.

    Katarina will be talking about her modelling work on impact processes and cratering mechanics, and how these affect the evolution of planets. She will also provide insights on her involvement in billion-dollar space missions and her unique career path.

    She was a co-author on a recent Nature paper that traced the source of a Mars meteorite that crashed into Africa.

    Register to attend her public talks:

    * The talk at Curtin University will follow an expo featuring science demonstrations and hands-on activities in physics, featuring impact craters, rocks from space, and space exploration.

    ** This is a physics colloquium geared towards those with physics training.

    *** Curtin University talk rescheduled for 1 Dec due to the new 22 Sep public holiday.

    As part of her lecture tour, Katarina will also give private talks to high school students and participate in afternoon teas with university students studying physics and early career researchers.

    Read more about Katarina and the lecture tour here.

    Know a brilliant female physicist who you can nominate for the 2023 Women in Physics Lectureship? Details and how to nominate here.
  • 14 Jul 2022 3:45 PM | Anonymous

    CANCELLED: Due to unforeseen circumstances, all QLD events of the 2022 Women in Physics lecture tour will not be going ahead.

    We apologise for any inconvenience caused. We hope to re-schedule the events, either in-person or online, at a later date.

    Please watch this space for more announcements.

  • 1 Jul 2022 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Free public talks by Women in Physics Lecturer Associate Professor Katarina Miljkovic in Melbourne in July.

    Women invited to participate in Girls in Physics Breakfasts in VIC.

    IMPORTANT UPDATE: QLD EVENTS CANCELLED - more below.

    The 2022 Women in Physics (WiP) Lecture Tour continues with events in QLD from 18-20 July and in VIC from 27-28 July.

    The title of the WiP lecture is ‘Impacts! Rocks from space colliding with planets’ and will give given by planetary scientist A/Prof Katarina Miljkovic (Curtin University). She will describe her work on impact processes, cratering mechanics, and shock physics applied to geological materials.

    She’s already given lectures at high schools, universities and public venues in NSW and ACT, including Science Space (Wollongong) and Questacon.

    This month, A/Prof Miljkovic will give free talks open to the public on:

    Click on the event venues for more details and to register.

    A/Prof Miljkovic will also participate in the Girls in Physics Breakfasts occurring across VIC. These events are an opportunity for students in years 10 – 12 to share a table with women in physics or engineering and ask them about their work and lives.  She will participate in the event on 28 Jul at the William Angliss Institute, Melbourne.

    Women in physics or engineering (including those studying these subjects at university) are invited to attend and participate in the Girls in Physics Breakfasts by registering here.

    A/Prof Milkovic will also give private talks at senior high schools in Brisbane, Cairns, and Melbourne.


    IMPORTANT UPDATE

    CANCELLED: Due to unforeseen circumstances, all QLD events of the 2022 Women in Physics lecture tour will not be going ahead.

    We apologise for any inconvenience caused. We hope to re-schedule the events, either in-person or online, at a later date. Please watch this space for more announcements.


    More information

    To read more about A/ Prof Miljkovic and her work, as well as the lecture tour, visit here.

    Further requests for information about the Girls in Physics Breakfasts can be directed to the organiser, Dan O’Keefe.

    Further requests for information about QLD events can be directed to the AIP QLD branch chair, Joel Alroe
  • 20 May 2022 4:00 PM | Anonymous

    A/Prof Katarina Miljkovic will be giving free talks open to the public at the following NSW and ACT venues:

    Click on the events for more details and to register.

    She will also be giving at talk at the follow event but it is only open for physicists at the Australian National University:

  • 2 May 2022 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    The 2022 Women in Physics Lectureship tour kicks off at the end of May and runs through to September.

    Planetary scientist Associate Professor Katarina Miljkovic from Curtin University will be giving a lecture series entitled ‘Impacts! Rocks from space colliding with planets’.

    The Women in Physics Lectureship is awarded annually to recognise and publicise significant contributions by a woman to advancing a field of physics and to inspire future physicists.

    A/Prof Miljkovic will be giving her lecture to schools, academics, and the general public.

    Catch a speak peek of what she’ll be talking about in Impact: Beyond the Night Sky (2020), a short documentary written and directed by Kath Dooley. This immerse, 360, virtual-reality documentary was a finalist in the best experimental film category at the 2022 Atom Awards

    The currently confirmed dates for the lecture tour are:

    • NSW: 30 May – 1 Jun
    • ACT: 2 – 3 Jun
    • QLD: 18 – 20 Jul
    • VIC: 27 – 28 Jul
    • TAS: 8 – 10 Aug
    • SA: 6 – 8 Sep
    • WA: 22 Sep

    Further tour dates in WA are TBA. Watch out on social media and in next month’s newsletter for venues and times.

    “When imagining the space in our Solar System, many people think of a dark silent void but the space around us is not empty; it is filled with particles, with dust, and with rocks – some very small and some large.  The history of our Universe is a history of impacts when things collide.” – A/Prof Katarina Miljkovic in Impact: Beyond the Night Sky (2020).

    Photo credit: TAKE2STEM.

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