Girls in Physics: Live-Streaming

The Australian Institute of Physics and the Vicphysics Teachers’ Network are organising the live-streaming of the talk Prof Susan Coppersmith will be giving at a Girls in Physics Breakfast in central Melbourne on Thursday, 9th May.
There are many ways for schools to make use of this live-streaming from the simple to the grand. Ideas and tips are provided below.

Date: Thursday, 9th May
Time: 8:15am and finish about 9:15am.
Speaker: Prof Susan Coppersmith, AIP Women in Physics Lecturer for 2024
Topic: From Grains of Sand to Quantum Computers
Abstract: Susan has used principles of theoretical physics to understand various systems ranging from sand to pearls to glasses to quantum dots used to make quantum computers. Seashells, pearls and chalk are all made of calcium carbonate. Why are shells strong while chalk crumbles? Susan has investigated how an organism makes seashells so strong by controlling the structure of a combination of brittle calcium carbonate with a small amount of soft organic material. A better understanding of these processes enables scientists and engineers to combine brittle and flexible components to create new composite materials highly resistant to fracture.

Susan has studied granular materials, showing that the forces that support your weight when you stand on a beach are distributed very differently in the sand than in a “normal” solid. Understanding these variations in forces is important for a variety of industrial processes that use granular materials.

Susan is now working to predict how a combination of silicon and germanium, two materials used in current electronic technologies, can be used to fabricate quantum dots that could enable the creation of quantum computers. This strategy allows the investments that have been made for scaling up modern classical electronic devices to enable the manufacture of large-scale quantum computers.

Bio: Prof Coppersmith is a physicist working on condensed matter physics. She has made substantial contributions to the understanding of a broad range of subjects, including glasses, bio-minerals, granular materials, and quantum computers. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Institute of Physics, and the National Academy of Sciences in the USA. She was the Chair of the Section on Physics of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She is currently serving as Head of the School of Physics at UNSW Sydney.

Susan grew up and was educated in America. She first studied at MIT, then as a Churchill Scholar at Cambridge University. She did her PhD at Bell Research Labs and then joined their staff. Susan then moved to the University of Chicago followed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, coming to the University of New South Wales in 2018.

Ways to use the live streaming from the simple to the grand:

  1. Record the presentation and show it to the students at another time.
  2. Invite students to view the presentation live and be able to contribute questions for the speaker.
  3. Offer the students a light breakfast at the school before viewing the presentation
  4. Invite people who have a career in STEM or are studying STEM subjects at university to join the students for an informal light breakfast before viewing the presentation. The guests could just be women if you wanted to make it a Girls in Physics event or you could open the event to all.
  5. Make the event more structured by including one of more of the following features before or after the live-streaming:
    • Guests and students share a table with at least two guests per table with students asking them questions about what they do, their training, finding a job, etc,
    • Include some careers-based activities. The guests find these of interest as well,
    • Augment the live-streaming by asking a few of the guests to join a panel to say a few words to the whole group about what they do. Some prompt questions on the workplace can give students some insights into the nature of work.
  6. Contact a nearby school and make it a combined event

A document of Tips and Resources is available here.
To register for the live-streaming enter the details below.


The Girls in Physics Breakfasts are organised by the Vicphysics Teachers’ Network and supported by funding from the Invergowrie Foundation.