Message from the Head of School
 

The year 2001 was, as expected, a critical one for the School of Physics. However while the year started with a sense of uncertainty and concern, it finished with the School in a much stronger and healthier position, and looking forward to the future with renewed confidence.

At the end of June, after over a year of intense debate throughout the University, the Faculty of Science and Technology merged with the Faculty of Life Sciences to create a single, new faculty - the Faculty of Science. Within the newly formed faculty further substantial changes took place, with additional mergers reducing the total number of schools from 14 to 10. Despite all these changes, the structure of the School of Physics was essentially unchanged.

However with no new appointments to the School since 1994, it has been clear for some time that the School urgently needed to start an ongoing program of recruiting new staff. In 2001 we were able to make not one but three new academic appointments. Significantly, two of these were women. A survey at the end of the year showed that the composition of the academic and research-only staff of the School was 22% female. This is a remarkable improvement on the situation of only a few years ago, but there is still some way to go. In 2001, every level D and E academic position in the School was male.

The School's high standing in teaching was reflected in this year's results in the Course Evaluation Questionnaire (CEQ), a uniform survey that is filled out by graduating students across Australia. The School of Physics was ranked third in Australia, behind two much smaller institutions. While sampling errors tend to make the CEQ a questionable instrument, it is always rewarding to see our teaching efforts acknowledged.

In other teaching highlights, the School introduced a series of postgraduate programs in photonics and optoelectronics - the first new postgraduate coursework programs we have introduced in many years. The programs have been an instant success, and will be developed for on-line delivery during 2002. The School was also pleased to receive one of the University's first ITET (Innovative Teaching and Education Technology) Fellowships, which will help to keep us at the forefront of educational innovation.

In terms of research, the School continued to excel, with outstanding success in winning competitive research funding. The Centre for Quantum Computer Technology continued its extraordinary run of successes, acknowledged during the year by the award of one of the inaugural Federation Fellowships to Professor Bob Clark and by his election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. This recognition, together with an unprecedented $9m grant from the federal government, firmly establishes this Centre as one of the leading physics activities in the country.

For the next three years the School will host the Australian Gemini Office, with Associate Professor Warrick Couch as Gemini Project Scientist.

With a research output of some 166 refereed papers and numerous other published works, the School continues to consolidate its formidable reputation in research. Equally impressive are the outreach and public awareness activities of our staff. Some 192 public presentations were made, at conferences, colloquia and public meetings. Media coverage was also excellent. On average, a UNSW Physics story was in the press every few days - either in this country or somewhere around the globe.

Professor John Storey
Head of School
May 2002

 


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