The Australian National University

Event Horizon

Research School of Physics


Weekly newsletter | vol 48 no 1 | 9–13 January 2023


Director's Message

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you have had a great break.

Welcome to all the delegates attending the Canberra International Physics Summer School, this year on “Fields and Particles”. Aimed at graduate students to sharpen their skills in advanced topics the Summer School has been running for 35 years and has attracted top international speakers, even before their Nobel Prize. Please take a look at the schedule and whether you're staff or student you’re very welcome to drop in if any lecture interests you.  

This week’s photo shows John Marshall, son of Dick Marshall (Dept of Engineering Physics, 1970’s) in front of an early prototype of his father’s rail gun built in the Round House, where the Weigold Building now stands. Together with Scott Rashleigh, Dick broke the world record by launching a 3g projectile at nearly 6km per second! The Homopolar Generator and a special storage inductor delivered 200kA to the apparatus accelerating the projectile to over Mach 17, the bow wave from said projectile caused a streak of air ionisation, which makes a striking image captured in their landmark paper (Journal of Applied Physics 49, 2540 (1978)). Both authors went on to do grand things; Dick went to the US to work on rail gun developments including his dream of launching payloads into Space, and Scott onto building his Billion dollar company, AOFR, which at their peak supplied around 40% of the world market for optical fibre couplers, splitters and wavelength division multiplexers. John has very kindly donated this treasure, the last remaining item from that activity in the School’s history (see Fire in the Belly, p 41). This and other treasures will form part of a permanent display in the new building.

Australia’s top architectural photographer, John Gollings, will be photographing our new building today and tomorrow. He has indicated that he would be very pleased to see the building animated with people. Accordingly, please feel encouraged to go about your routine, noting that you may well be part of his timeless images. 

I’d welcome any photos from you over the next few weeks. Please send them to reception.physics@anu with a short description.

Best regards and welcome back,



The first Australian cold gas space propulsion system, the Bogong Thruster, designed and manufactured by the SP3 group in our school, was successfully launched into orbit on Wednesday morning, 4th January 2023.


Self-powered Nanosensors Set To Revolutionise Healthcare And Environmental Monitoring

A new miniscule nitrogen dioxide sensor could help protect the environment from vehicle pollutants that cause lung disease and acid rain.

The sensor is an array of nanowires, in a square one fifth of a millimetre per side, which means it could be easily incorporated into a silicon chip.

It also needs no power source, as it runs on its own solar power, said Shiyu Wei, first author of the paper reporting the research in Advanced Materials.

» read more




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Staff Movements

Lan Fu will be away 23/12/22 - 06/02/23
Cedric Simenel will be away from 23/12/22 - 09/1/23
Andrew Stuchbery will be away from 19/12/22 - 31/1/23
Nanda Dasgupta will be away from 16/12/22 -26/1/23 
Sonia Padrun will be away from 9/1/23 - 20/1/23


Know your administrators...

L-R: Belinda Barbour, Sonia Padrun, Petra Rickman, Nikki Azzopardi, & Julie Arnold

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Know your School team...

Uyen Nguyen -
Finance Team Leader

Sue Berkeley -
Stores/Purchasing Team Leader

Goran Radovanovic -
Stores Services  

Patrick Romero - Stores/Purchasing Services 

Mim Ellen-Barwell - Stores/Purchasing Services


Know your student admin...

Liudmila (Luda) Mangos -
Higher Degree Research admin
C3.02C, Cockcroft bldg (Thurs 9:30-5pm)

Siobhan Ryman -
Physics Education Centre admin and HDR
1.05, Bldg 38A (Tues 8.30-4pm) ; C3.02C, Cockcroft bldg (Mon,Thurs-Fri 8.30-4pm)


Mid-Career Academic Job Opportunity

The Science Teaching and Learning Centre is working to recruit an early to mid-career academic in a Sub-Dean position.

The position is part time (50%) for two years.

Applications close on the 15th of January, 2023.

For further information please contact Matt Thompson.

» read more


What To Do If You Test Positive For COVID-19

If you test positive to COVID-19, please:

1. Register your positive result with ACT Health using this online form, or with the state/territory health authority where you are located.

2. Alert the University through this online form.

3. Inform your supervisor or course convenor.

» read more


Physics @ ANU



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