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Churchie Physics Lecture

Churchie Physics Lecture

Author: Gay Ellyett
Author Role: Coordinator: Exceptional Scientists' Program

Physics is the science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. So, an excursion after school the week before Year 11 exam block must really matter to be worth the energy!

Last week, ten CHAC students were invited to the Annual Churchie Physics Lecture held at ACGS. More than one hundred students from select schools throughout Brisbane heard a keynote lecture by Ms Lucy Sim (Medical Physicist, Mater Oncology Radiation). A panel discussion featured Dr Brad Carter (Astrophysicist, USQ), Dr Jennifer MacLeod (Nanoscientist, QUT) and Dr Areeya Chantasri (Quantum Dynamics, Griffith University) – all faculty members from Queensland’s leading universities.

The experts were, without exception, working in areas at the forefront of their fields. Students were therefore exposed to groundbreaking work being done by relatable and encouraging Brisbane specialists.

At this time of the school term, it is all too easy to be discouraged by the relevance of our study. We struggle to overcome theorems and apply them to practical examples. This excursion was, therefore, elevating and encouraging.

The breadth of worthwhile areas of research being undertaken locally was surprising. The marketability of combined university degrees was also highlighted. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mrs Ellyett and the Exceptional Scientists Program for organising this opportunity.

Not only is physics concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy – it does matter and it is worth our energy.

Anna Coldham-Fussell, Year 11

The Churchie physics lecture was a captivating experience that provided real-world examples of pathways in physics. The lecture consisted of presentations from four physicists and a panel at the end that was open to the audience. The presentations ranged from a discussion of what it is like to maintain MRI scanners and what it's like to build a material that is one atom thick to what the stars in the sky mean for the future of the universe. My favourite part of the night was the panel as it allowed for the audience to ask questions in an informal and relaxed manner; as if you were having a conversation. The most intriguing question was, how did you become a physicist? The answers from all four of the panellists were completely different. One had been set on physics their whole life while another decided to do it after completing other studies. These answers highlighted to me that physics is such a diverse field with a plethora of opportunities and pathways. I would recommend this event to anyone who enjoys physics or is just curious about what opportunities there are in science.

Luke Pearce, Year 11

The Churchie Physics Lecture opened our eyes to the applications and pathways for physics beyond that of academia. The keynote speaker, Ms Lucy Sim, is a medical physicist at the Mater Hospital who is combining the study of nuclear physics with real-world applications and saving lives. Not only did she briefly discuss the fundamental physics behind radiation treatment, but she also explained the evolution of using nuclear physics in the health sphere which has advanced in both limiting side effects and creating more effective treatments. Everyone was quite surprised to hear that when x-rays were first discovered, they were used for shoe fittings, emitting 1 Sv per 20 seconds, while in the modern day above 1 mSv exposure in a whole year is considered the safe maximum. Until attending this lecture, I was not aware of this multi-disciplinary career path; however, I am now interested in combining my interest in physics with my ambitions in health, as Ms Sim does.

One of the panellists, Professor Brad Carter, revealed to us how obtaining a physics degree could open doors to a seemingly far-fetched discipline – astronomy. His clear passion for space shone through his speech and was quite inspirational. The diversity amongst the panellists displayed to us the magnitude of areas that physics can take us, from a quantum level to that of studying an infinite universe. 

Emma Cooney, Year 11

I particularly enjoyed the keynote speaker, Ms Lucy Sim, who shared with us the applications of physics in the clinical world. As someone who is interested in pursuing medicine in the future, it was extremely enlightening to see how studying physics would help further a medical career. Ms Sim specialised in using physics and computers to detect, very precisely locate and then treat cancers, especially brain tumours, ensuring the treatment only affects the cancerous part of the brain. I found it very informative to see how the concepts we’d learnt in class about nuclear materials could be used in the real world. Overall, the lecture was engaging and illuminating. I would recommend it to any student wishing to study physics in the future.

Hannah Dagwell, Year 11

It was extremely interesting to learn about how these different disciplines compare and contrast, relative to whether the panellist studied physics in a theoretical or experimental capacity. Keynote speaker, Ms Lucy Sim (Radiation Oncology Medical Physicist Consultant and Assistant Director and Manager for Education and Research), delivered a highly informative presentation about the uses of radioisotopes in medicine, and how these uses developed from being able to produce a primitive 2D image of a human brain, to 4D imaging of an entire human body. I found the most interesting topic to be the research done by Dr Areeya Chantasri into the integration of quantum physics and technology, to produce a theorised ‘quantum computer’. Overall, it was a very engaging and entertaining experience, which I was able to learn from and enjoy.

Liana Davies, Year 11