Australian Institute of Physics ‘Women in Physics’ lecture


“Women in Physics Day 2016” – a lecture by Italian-Romanian physicists Dr Catalina Curceanu, a panel discussion featuring some of Perth’s finest physicists and about 20 experiments on Bush Court including the ‘Walk on Water’ Non-Newtonian starch bath. Attendance with almost 600 high school kids well surpassed our wildest expectations. Need to do it again next year!

Lecture recording:
Murdoch University news item (pdf):

Download the flyer here (print version, web version)

(from the Murdoch School of Engineering Staff Newsletter 2016)

The physics cat is … alive! 

Hundreds of high school students enjoy “Women in Physics” day on Bush Court

Noel D'Souza running on non-Newtonian fluids will Dr Catalina Curceanu and Dr Kate Brookes look on.

Thanks to all staff members and students who helped make last Friday’s “Women in Physics” event such a big success. It was a delight to welcome more than 500 high school students from 20 WA high schools to our University for a fun-filled day of physics. Activities included: a lecture “Quantum Technologies : the Offspring of Schrödinger’s Famous Cat” by the winner of the Australian Institute of Physics ‘Women in Physics’ lectureship, Dr Catalina Curceanu; and a panel discussion “Physics @ University: Good for Me, Good for Society”, featuring leaders in industrial research, including Dr Sharon Eyer, Principal Research Scientist at Alcoa and Dr Stuart Midgley, Chief Technical Officer of DownUnder GeoSolutions, in addition to academics from UWA, Curtin and Murdoch.

A highlight of the day was almost 20 experiments and activities on Bush Court including some by UWA, Curtin and SciTech. A special thank you to staff and students not just from Physics, but also across the School as many of these activities were organised by our Murdoch colleagues from Chemistry, Mathematics and IT.

A Kelmscott Senior High School Year 10 student summarised the success of the day: “The lecture was extremely interesting and fun, explaining Schrödinger’s cat, Quantum computers and much more. After the intriguing lecture we were able to wander around Bush Court at our leisure, watching fascinating experiments and learning all kinds of scientific facts. The highlights of our day were these interactive experiments, such as; a pool full of tapioca flour and water, the thermite reactions, and learning about the butterfly nanostructures. Personally I loved the tapioca ‘Walk on Liquid’ experiment! It was a lot of fun to run on top of and learn the science behind, especially when people fell in. This day was filled with the perfect combination of what a high school student wants: Free stuff, science, and fun activities. It was a great way to learn and I’d love to do it again!”

Beyond reaching out to our secondary school partners and to our fellow physics institutions in WA, the day also demonstrated the spirit within our School. One of our undergraduate students who volunteered at the event, said “I certainly felt valued as a person to be invited as a helper with the ‘walking on water’ Bush court station for the Physics open day. Three hours of camaraderie with other helpers and making the visitors feel at home has made me feel a real sense of belonging to a community at Murdoch Uni, who have a joy in engaging with people.”
For the organisers, this is testimony that the day was indeed the celebration of physics and of science that our new Deputy Vice Chancellor Education, Professor Romy Lawson, declared it to be in her opening address on the day.

The AIP 2016 Women in Physics recipient Dr Catalina Curceanu, in front of one of her two packed lectures theatres.Our wonderful ‘physicists’ from chemistry conducting a super superconducting demonstration.

Scenes from the lecture and the Bush Court experiments.

Women in Physics recipient: Catalina Curceanu, Physics international heart-throb: Brian Cox, Einstein-ien stunt double: Gerd

(At the ‘After Life Club’ following Prof Brian Cox’ show at the Perth Convention Center the night before)


Read on for our www announcement published prior to the event…

Heads up for Western Australian Year 10-12 highschool students and teachers! The Australian Institute of Physics would like to invite you to this public lecture by award-winning Italian physicist Dr Catalina Curceanu. The lecture is on Friday 19 August 2016 from 11am-12noon, followed by light refreshments, at Murdoch University, Kim Beazley Lecture Theatre. Funding for bus transport from high schools may be available, see flyer. Please RSVP to

The event is part of the ‘Women in Physics’ lecture series, is organised by the Western Australian branch of the Australian Institute of Physics and hosted by the School of Engineering and IT at Murdoch University.

About the Speaker Dr Catalina Curceanu is the head of a research team at Italy’s prestigious National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati. Born close to Dracula’s castle in Romania’s Transilvania region, her urge to become catalina9a scientist took Catalina to a physics degree at the University of Bucharest, and to a doctoral degree in an experiment at Geneva’s famous particle laboratory CERN. Throughout her career, Catalina has been decorated with prestigious international awards and is the author of more than 200 scientific articles. Her book “From Black Holes to hadrontherapy. A journey into Modern Physics” reflects her passion to explain the beauty and importance of science – particularly to enthusiastic high school audiences.

Catalina will be touring Australian Universities and Schools as part of the 2016 Women in Physics lectureship, awarded to her by the Australian Institute of Physics.

About the Lecture About 100 years ago, it became clear that a new theory was needed to explain the very foundation of all matter, us included. This new theory, Quantum Mechanics, departed sharply from older theories in that probabilities and chance events, and lack of microscopic predictability, were its essential elements. Despite being famously opposed by Einstein’s quote “God does not play dice”, Quantum mechanics has matured into the best theory we have ever had. The structure of molecules, the forces that shape proteins and molecules, the semi-conductor physics that underlies all computing, and many other fields cannot be understood without quantum mechanics.dead_alive In spite of its tantalizing success, quantum mechanics still spurs a lively debate about its interpretation: the early quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger created the now famous paradox known as Schrödinger’s cat – which is simultaneously dead and alive until we look at it. In this talk, we shall explore some modern perspectives on this paradox: the collapse models, the many worlds scenario and Bohmian mechanics. We shall also look at some of today’s experiments conducted to test the most peculiar features of quantum mechanics, such as the apparent infinitely-fast infinitely-distant information exchange known as entanglement. Far more than a mere challenge for our philosophical interpretation of the world, quantum mechanics is the basis for future quantum-driven technologies, from quantum computing and cryptography to teleportation. Today’s dreams might become tomorrow’s realities.

Transport Funding and More Information The lecture is aimed at Year 10-12 high school science students. Murdoch University has funding available for bus transfers from high-school locations to the lecture venue. Teachers or students interested in organising transport for high-school classes should contact the Murdoch University outreach coordinator Michelle Austin ( for help and assistance. For questions related to any other aspect of the event please contact Dr Gerd Schröder-Turk (contact details see here).


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