Head of School's Report

Head of School

2006 was a particularly challenging year for the School as we struggled to meet constraints imposed by the University budget model. Yet despite many difficulties Physics continued to perform strongly in research and in learning and teaching. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all staff, academic and professional and technical, for their hard work and loyalty and for keeping calm in the face much concern, irritation and disruption.

Once again there have been very good results for research groups and recognition of outstanding individual achievements. In DEST publication outputs Physics ranked about 3rd overall across the 75 schools at UNSW. The Nanoelectronics group (Micolich, Hamilton et al) won UNSW’s largest individual ARC Discovery Project, $1.3M over 5 years, whilst Astrophysics secured $1M NCRIS funding for the Pilot Antarctic Astronomy programme. The ARC Centre for Quantum Computing Technology (CQCT) won significant new research funding. Prof Bob Clark and colleagues were also successful in winning NCRIS funding totalling $5M for the establishment of semiconductor nanofabrication facilities in new laboratories adjacent to CQCT. Dr Adam Micolich won the NSW Tall Poppy Award recognising outstanding work by a scientist under 35 and A/Prof Alex Hamilton won the 2006 Australasian Science Prize for outstanding work on one-dimensional hole gases. Alex also won an ARC Australian Professorial Fellowship (APF). I am delighted to report that there were actually too many individual awards in 2006 to permit mention of everyone here.

In learning and teaching Professor Joe Wolfe won yet another award, the 2006 NSW Quality Teaching Award. Joe must surely by now be the most ‘highly decorated’ lecturer currently teaching at UNSW. A/Prof John Smith and Physics’ Head of School both won UNSW Vice Chancellor’s Awards for teaching excellence primarily for their contributions to laboratory and first year teaching respectively. It is quite a coup to pick up two VC awards in one round like this and it stands as testament to Physics’ commitment to ensuring excellent learning and teaching in its undergraduate programs.

With excellent teaching one might expect that our students would also receive recognition for outstanding work. Correct! Warrick Clarke was nominated for the AIP Bragg Medal and Tamara Davis received the UNSW U Committee Award for Research Excellence in Science. In the 2006 Honours class, Yakov Kulik and Dean Robinson won UNSW University Medals, once again an outstanding achievement to see two University Medals in the same Honours year.

In 2006 we welcomed new researchers and professional and general staff and said goodbye to some long serving colleagues. Head of School, Professor Warrick Couch, left us in June to take up a prestigious Chair of Astrophysics at Swinburne University. Although Warrick was only Head for 18 months he was highly regarded by colleagues for his leadership and research eminence; he will be missed. Professor Chris Tinney joined us from the Anglo Australian Observatory, funded by a five-year APF. Chris is an extra-solar planet expert and we look forward to hearing more about these distant ‘worlds’. John Tann and Melinda Taylor went travelling after leaving the School, whilst in the case of Jack Cochrane I am pleased to say it is goodbye, goodbye, hello, hello Jack and Cochrane Enterprises!

Now that the restructuring miseries of 2006 are safely behind us, the School has clearly turned a corner and can look forward to a new phase of growth and prosperity. Onward and upward colleagues!

Professor Richard Newbury
Head of School
June 2007


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