Great scientific minds think Down Under

Australian expertise in the field of science is seeing a growth in associated events.

When The Australian Academy of Science was founded on 16 February 1954, few could have envisioned that its location in Canberra, the nation’s capital, would become a hotbed of research, development and education half a century later.

Modelled on the Royal Society in London, the Australian Academy of Science now has more than 450 pre-eminent Fellows, employed by universities, the CSIRO, government and private research organisations. In 2013 four Canberra-based Australian National University academics were elected as Australian Academy of Science Fellows.

Despite its size, Canberra is regarded as an intellectual hub with institutions including the Australian National University, Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, CSIRO, Research School of Physics and Engineering, Department of Nuclear Physics, University of NSW, Canberra, and University of Canberra.

Indeed, the city’s academic expertise in the field of science, and particularly in physics and chemistry, is proving a boon for the business events sector, with the city hosting an increasing number of high-level international scientific meetings.

In 2014 Associate Professor Heiko Timmers from the School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences at the UNSW Canberra and Professor Andrew Stuchbery from the Department of Nuclear Physics at ANU, are hosting the 5th Joint International Conference on Hyperfine Interactions and Symposium on Nuclear Quadrupole Interaction.

This meeting will fittingly be held in The Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome – often described as “the spiritual home of Australian science”.

The HFI/NQI meetings bring together experts and students from a variety of scientific disciplines including theoretical, nuclear, atomic and condensed matter physics, materials science, synchrotron research, as well as chemistry, biology, medicine and engineering. The HFI/NQI event in Canberra will be the 17th International Conference on Hyperfine Interactions and the 21st International Symposium on Nuclear Quadrupole Interactions.

It is expected that 80 per cent of delegates attend visit from international markets.

Later this year, Professor Timmers’ associate at the UNSW Canberra, Dr Anthony Day, a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Design and Reaction Mechanisms and Organic Chemistry, is hosting the 3rd International Conference on Cucurbituril. The bi-annual meeting, which focuses on molecular interaction, was held in Korea in 2009 and the United Kingdom in 2011.

Dr Day expects 80 per cent of delegates will attend from international markets, predominantly from Asia including China and India.

Another Canberra-based Professor, Dr Rod Boswell from the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering at ANU, is chairing another science-based international meeting in 2013 – the 21st Symposium on Plasma Chemistry – with this one to be held in Cairns in Tropical North Queensland.

Organised on behalf of the International Plasma Chemistry Society, around 400 scientists, researchers and academics from around the world will hold meetings at the purpose-built Cairns Convention Centre with a day mid-conference dedicated to excursions to the Great Barrier Reef, Green Island and the Kuranda Scenic Railway.

Dr Boswell said that while plasma chemistry is a relatively small section of the scientific community Australia “is on the cutting edge” of the specialisation.

Like their expertise in chemistry, Australian scientists are also leading the world in physics – a point not lost on the scientific community or the general public during the 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics held in Melbourne in 2012.

It was announced at this conference that a discovery of a new (Higgs boson) particle had been made that confirms what scientists believe about how the universe was created.

Chair of the conference and one of the leading scientific researchers in the search for the so-called Higgs boson particle, the University of Melbourne’s Professor Geoff Taylor, said there were 820 delegates in Melbourne present for the historic meeting.

As the meeting Chair and an Ambassador for Melbourne he said he could not have been happier with the conference and the outcomes.

“The majority thought it was a fabulous conference. They thought Melbourne was a great city; they liked the lifestyle, the cafes and the dining options; and the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre is a great centre,” he said.

Events like this provide delegates the opportunity to meet with Australian and international leaders in their field.
He said following this meeting’s success it was likely Australia would be hosting another high-profile physics-related international conference in 2015.