Institute of Fundamental Sciences Newsletter – Issue 72
Messages from the Head of Institute
In this Edition of 7 November 2005
•Messages from the HoI•
•2006 Committee Lists•
•Bits and Bobs•
•Farewell – Dr Gillian Thornley•
Deadline for Next Issue
27 January 2006
Christmas Best Wishes
2005 is rapidly drawing to a close after what has proved to be another hectic but rewarding year for both IFS and IFS staff.
Together we have achieved a great deal in every aspect of our activities and staff must be congratulated once again in providing such a high quality learning experience for our students. Research successes have been numerous and the number of awards gained by our staff this year has been exceptional. We can look forward with confidence to the PBRF round which is currently underway and which reaches completion in June next year. I believe that the grading for all three disciplines will improve markedly for a variety of reasons.
I hope that all of you will take a good long break over Christmas and the summer to get revitalised for what will be an eventful year. In particular, the appointment of a new Head of Institute will be a major development as he/she charts a new path for the Institute. I believe this represents an exciting opportunity for everyone. We should not be frightened of the changes that a new Head is likely to introduce. We have the quality of staff to take advantage of each and every situation that arises, and I see a very rosy future
for IFS in the coming years. Together we have established a strong base. The time is now ripe to raise our game further and make new advances.
Emily Parker has kindly agreed to Chair the Student/Staff Liaison Committee in 2006.
She succeeds Gillian Thornley who has performed this role with distinction since the formation of the Institute in late 1997. Emily’s appointment represents my desire, as stated last year, to give increased responsibility to younger members of staff. Towards that end Bill Williams now convenes the Publicity Committee and Tammy Smith convenes the Information Technology Committee.
Gillian Thornley retired on 1 December 2005 after a distinguished career in mathematics at Massey University. Her official farewell was held on Friday, 9 December 2005, at 3.00 pm in the Science Common Room. Many came along to celebrate Gillian’s numerous achievements. A special article listing some of these has been written by Dean Halford and is part of this issue of IFS and Bits.
The staffing situation has rarely been so busy. Appointments have been made in chemistry, Shane Telfer, see photo and mathematics and offers for the two physics positions at Albany are currently being made. The short-list of seven for the latter positions was truly excellent and whichever combination of staff ultimately accept our offers we can be assured that the development of physics at Albany will receive a great boost in 2006. A short- list of three has been drawn up for the mathematics tutor position and the interviews will probably have been held before this issue of IFS and Bits finds it way to your letterbox.
Once again we have a strong field and I am very confident that we will be able to make an excellent appointment. Barbara Gunn’s two half-time positions have now closed and interviewing is underway. All this means is
that we will have quite a few new staff in place next year as well as a number of new Postdoctoral Fellows, which are also in the process of being appointed.
Enrolment in Summer School
As at 18 November 2005 enrolments in our summer papers look particularly healthy. In particular physics is up 38% and mathematics 13%. Overall, we are about 12% up on last year with additional enrolments still to come through. This is good news and hopefully an indication of strong enrolments in 2006 in both Semester 1 and Semester 2. As an aside it will be interesting to see whether “Rookie Vets”, screening on TV2 at 7.00 pm on Sundays, causes first year vet numbers to increase substantially next year.
On Friday, 25 November 2005, we celebrated the achievements of another group of staff in gaining various awards and external recognition. For various (and legitimate) reasons some of those honoured were unable to attend. Nonetheless, I was pleased to have the opportunity of recognising their feats.
These Celebratory Teas have become an increasingly welcomed part of IFS life.
Recognising excellence is something that gives us all a great boost. Heartiest congratulations to all the IFS winners and I look forward to 2006, when we will assuredly be celebrating even more of them.
New Role for Vern Sixtus
Amongst his usual “Accounts Manager” role Vern will (as from 1 January 2006) be responsible for all car bookings and for dealing with all short-term contracts (that do not involve the Impel-HR system that we commonly use for advertised academic positions). Terri will continue dealing with the later group of positions including postdoctoral fellowships. I appreciate Vern’s willingness to move into this area of activity, especially as such new and onerous procedures have been implemented.
I hope that all staff have now almost finished completing the Summary Information Folders for the library. As you will remember this is due to be handed in to Tracey by 14 December 2005. She will then forward them on to the library on your behalf. This will form a major part of the Research Outputs Database on which the PBRF round will be based. I imagine that most of you will also be well advanced on your Evidence Portfolios (EPs). It is important for the College of Sciences and the Institute that we devote quality time to ensuring that our EPs are presented in the most professional manner possible. Our funding for the next six years will depend directly on our success on improving the grades of as many of our staff as possible.
Please ask our PBRF experts (Andrew Brodie, Mike Hendy, Geoff Jameson, Robert McLachlan, Peter Schwerdtfeger, Tony Signal and Ulrich Zuelicke) for assistance should you require it. I am required to sign off all EPs against 15 Generic Standards by 28 February 2006, so will require a hard copy of your draft at least one week prior to the deadline.
Tower A PC2 Space
It has been decided to keep the three IFS protein biochemistry laboratories (Jameson, Parker, Pascal) together in order to maximise interaction between staff and students and, simultaneously, make maximum use of the equipment necessary to undertake this type of research. Therefore, all three labs will be moving from Tower C into Tower A. My sincere thanks go to Gill Norris and Andrew Sutherland-Smith for hosting us so willingly for so many years.
Their help in this regard was much appreciated. The additional space requirements necessitate the conversion of ScA4.01 (which adjoins ScA4.02) into a PC2 laboratory. Geoff and Emily and their colleagues and students will be based in ScA4.02 and Steve and his group in ScA4.01. Some NRC staff will now move their equipment from ScA4.01 to ScB4.02. We would like to thank all of those involved in making these moves work so successfully.
Every effort is being made to renovate ScA4.01 appropriately for PC2 work, and make ScB4.02 suitable for electrochemistry. We hope, in the near future, to place all three protein biochemistry laboratories together in a single, open plan space on Level 4 in Tower B. This will be subject to approval of the Business Plan submitted to the University some months back.
As usual this is the time of the year when we cycle over about one third of the membership of each of the IFS Committees. The idea is give all staff members experience in the diverse areas of activity that shape our research and teaching programmes. The revised schedule of membership is included in this issue. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking all those who will be leaving one Committee for another for the fine work that they have done over the previous years. We do try to keep Committee meetings and membership to a minimum so it is important that those staff involved continue to take their duties seriously and perform at a high level on behalf of us all. I am pleased to say that this is usually the case and I am greatly appreciative of the efforts that everyone has put in again this year. Special thanks go to the Convenors and the Secretaries for the extra work that they contribute to the successful running of their portfolios.
IFS Committees 2006
IFS Management Committee
(4th Thursday of Month)
The Committee shall consist of the HoI as Convenor, the Deputy HoIs, Subject Leaders, all Chairs, the Technical Manager, the Accounts Manager, a Postgraduate Representative and the Secretary.
David Parry (Convenor)
Dean Halford (Deputy Convenor) Peter Schwerdtfeger
Terri Palmer (Secretary) Trevor Kitson
Tony Signal Kee Teo Andrew Brodie Mike Hendy Geoff Jameson Robert McLachlan David Officer Roger Reeves Bob Parsons Vern Sixtus
Amy Pietersma (Student Representative)
IFS Research and Equipment Committee
(1st Monday of Month)
The Committee shall consist of the HoI or Nominee as Convenor, a Deputy Convenor (appointed by the HoI), two representatives from each Discipline, an Albany Representative, the Technical Manager, the Accounts Manager and the Secretary.
Peter Schwerdtfeger (Convenor) Bob O’Driscoll (Deputy Convenor) Vesna Davidovic-Alexander (Secretary) David Parry
Igor Boglaev (31.12.07)
Geoff Jameson [31.12.08]
Matt Perlmutter [31.12.07]
Mark Waterland [31.12.06]
Uli Zuelicke [31.12.06]
Albany Physicist [31.12.08]
Vern Sixtus Bob Parsons
IFS Programmes Committee
(2nd Tuesday of Month)
The Committee shall consist of Deputy HoI as Convenor, the HoI, two representatives from each Discipline, an Albany Representative, and the Secretary.
Dean Halford (Convenor) Tracey Royds (Secretary) David Parry
John Harrison [31.12.08]
Trevor Kitson [31.12.06]
Shane Telfer [31.12.08]
Kee Teo [31.12.08]
Bruce van-Brunt [31.12.07]
IFS Publicity Committee
(3nd Tuesday of Month)
The Committee shall consist of a Convenor (appointed by the HoI), the Webmaster, two representatives from each Discipline, an Albany Representative, and the Institute Administrator who also acts as Secretary.
Bill Williams[31.12.07] (Convenor) Toni Wilson (Secretary)
Andrew Brodie [31.12.06]
Fu-Guang Cao [31.12.06]
Feng Ming Dong [31.12.08]
Gavin Hedwig [31.12.08]
Josine van Melsem [31.12.07]
Stephanie Wayper [31.12.08]
IFS Student/Staff Liaison Committee
The Committee shall consist of a Convenor (appointed by the HoI), one representative from each of the other Disciplines and the Secretary.
Emily Parker (Convenor) Fiona Richmond (Secretary) Fu-Guang Cao [31.12.07]
Marijcke Vlieg-Hulstman [31.12.08]
IFS Safety Committee
The Committee shall consist of a Convenor (appointed by the HoI), two representatives from the Chemistry Discipline, and one each from the Mathematics and Physics Disciplines, an Albany Representative, the Technical Manager, a member of the General Staff and the Secretary.
Eric Ainscough (Convenor) Fiona Richmond (Secretary) Andy Trow (Safety Advisor) Charles Little [31.12.07]
Dave Peterson [31.12.06]
IFS Social Committee
The Committee shall consist of any staff members, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students willing to assist. The Convenor will be appointed by the members of the Committee.
Fiona Richmond (Convenor and Secretary) Noel Foot
David Harding Peter Kelly Peter Lewis Paul Plieger Donna Royal
IFS IT Committee
The Committee shall consist of a Convenor (appointed by the HoI), the Webmaster, two representatives from each Discipline, an Albany Representative, and the Institute Administrator who also acts as Secretary.
Tammy Smith (Convenor) Toni Wilson (Secretary) Judy Edwards
Robin Dykstra [31.12.08]
Pat Edwards [31.12.06]
Jennie McKelvie [31.12.07]
Paul Plieger [31.12.07]
Bob Richardson [31.12.06]
Albany Physicist [31.12.08]
Science Towers Safety Committee Bob Parsons (Convenor and Secretary) Gill Norris (IMBS Safety Advisor)
Andrew Trow (IFS Safety Advisor)
Penny Abercrombie (Science Tower A Warden)
Barry Evans (Science Tower B, C and D Warden)
5 December 2005
Congratulations to Dion O’Neale on being recognized by the New Zealand Mathematical Society for his “highly commended” talk presented at the 2005 New Zealand Mathematics Colloquium. His talk was entitled “Geometric integration for a two-spin system”. Each year the NZMS awards the Aitken Prize for the best contributed talk by a student at the annual NZ Mathematics Colloquium. This year there were two Aitken Prize winners, Amanda Elvin of Massey Albany and Elan Gin from Auckland University, as well as two highly commended talks given by Dion O’Neale of Massey PN and Sharleen Harper from Massey Albany. These achievements continue Massey’s success in these awards with our mathematics students having now won seven of the 17 Aitken prizes since the society introduced the award in 1995.
There have been four winners from Massey PN and three from Albany. This is an outstanding achievement.
Thanks to Georgie, the Institute Office recently received the More FM Morning Tea
shout and as a result received a platter of Subway Sandwiches. A very nice
Bits and Bobs
The first of the seminars for Laboratory Managers is to be held on 13 December with additional seminars early in 2006.
Magnetic Locks are being installed on access to Chemistry Research Laboratories in Science Towers A and B.
Christmas New Year closure ‘permission to be in the buildings’ form has been placed in mailboxes. Reminder if you have to be here during this period then you will need to complete this form and return it to me.
Amazing who you see at Palmerston North International Airport when hopping the ditch.
On my recent jaunt I bumped into Jenny Keall, Linda – a former Physics Secretary and oop front of the Airbus – Robert McLachlan while I was in steerage. A good break away from the bustling crowds amid the bush in the Dandenongs.
I wish all staff and grad students the compliments of the season.
Upcoming Events: 6th Annual Chemistry Research Symposium Programme
Wednesday, 22 February 2006
2005 Prize Recipients
2005 New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Ltd Prize For Second Year Chemistry was awarded to:
Nyree Dawn PARKER and Brendon Philip DYKE
2005 New Zealand Institute of Chemistry Prize For third Year Chemistry was awarded to:
Lauren Angela FERGUSON
2005 Bennetts University Book Centre Prize in Mathematics was awarded to:
Jennifer Louise BONNETT
2005 Parshotam Prize in Differential Equations was awarded to:
2005 Kee Teo Prize in Mathematics was awarded to:
2005 Senior Prize in Mathematics was awarded to:
Jonathan James HUNT
Ian Shinton PhD (Albany)
Ian’s thesis: “Development of a Plasma Gun for application in Magnetised Target Fusion”
involved development and numerical simulation of a prototype plasma accelerator.
As the title suggests the main aim of the work was to develop a component that may be of potential application in making practical energy generation from nuclear fusion a reality. Ian was the recipient of a Bright Futures Top Doctoral fellowship and was the first Doctoral student for the Institute at Albany. At the initial stages of the project, there was little existing infrastructure, and even at the latter stages, in a scenario reminiscent of the early Lawrence radiation tin shed lab at Berkeley, all of the experimental results reported in Ian’s thesis were obtained in an unheated double garage that formed the “lab”. It is fair to say that Ian has a true pioneering spirit that saw him take on a project with: little financial support, no proof of principle, virtually no equipment or physical infrastructure; on a topic that involved the “N” word (albeit associated with fusion energy rather than fission). The only thing which could be claimed to be initially present with any abundance was enthusiasm.
During the term of his doctorate Ian had to gain such diverse skills as talking with politicians and other potential sponsors about the advantages of Fusion energy; salvaging from the scrap pile useful components from the decommissioned nuclear physics AURA II accelerator, as well as the necessary technical knowledge from mathematics, physics and chemistry required to make the project a success. The device that gradually evolved takes a pulse of hydrogen gas at a temperature of less than 5K and within a few millionths of a second produces plasma pulses travelling at velocities greater than 50km/s.
Ian is currently looking for a postdoctoral position in the general area of plasma accelerators and thrusters.
Jonathan Marshall successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis "Holomorphic Solutions to
Functional Differential Equations" in November.
Bruce van Brunt
Farewell to Dr Roger Lins who has been appointed to the position of Research Advisor for the College of Sciences. Roger is currently a Post-doctoral Fellow with David Harding.)
Jim Salvador, Marsden-funded post-doctoral fellow with Geoff Jameson, is returning to the USA just before Christmas, along with his wife Karen. Jim came to Massey University from Michigan State University with a hugely impressive research record in his PhD in solid state chemistry. In the 18 months he has been here he has mastered structural biology, from site-directed mutagenesis to protein expression, purification and crystallisation to data collection and to structure solution, refinement and analysis. He has achieved a number of very significant results. Jim is a real team player and will be very sorely missed. His wife Karen in her short time here has made notable contributions to the musical scene in Palmerston North, as soloist with several choirs, director of a new choir for high-school girls, and musical director of several productions. She will in fact be giving a farewell performance in the Speirs Centre, December 17 at 7:30 pm. Kris Zuelicke, wife of Uli Zuelicke of IFS will be accompanying Karen.
Jim is returning to a position at Michigan State University, which will allow them both to be close to their families. We wish Jim and Karen all the best for the future. We would welcome their return to Palmerston North.
Photo: The end of year Centre for Structural Biology rafting and kayaking expedition down the
Rangitikei River. Jim, back centre-left; Karen, front centre-left (no implications on political
affiliations to be drawn).
The Massey Victoria Chemistry Postgraduate Student Seminar Day
It seems hard to believe that the recent Massey-Victoria Chemistry Postgraduate Student Seminar Day held on Monday 14 November was the 14th in the series. It would be interesting to track down the students that presented papers 14 years ago – who can remember who they were? These events are organised by some willing (Steve Kirk1 says, “willing??? – it was more like my arm was broken behind my back!”) post grads from the host university and this year it was our turn. Steve, ably assisted by Yvonne Ting, took on the task and did a great job. The talks were all excellent being delivered with humour but also making sure the science came through too. Most speakers kept to time – perhaps because all knew that the socialising could not start until the talks finished. A strong contingent of around 25 post grads and staff came from Wellington and this was matched by an equal number from the home territory. It was great to see 2 Albany students (Brian Vest and Behnam Assadollahzadeh) join the symposium for the first time.
Judges Officer and Parker selected the awards (but since our memories have faded a bit I am not sure how accurate this list is – apologies to anyone who is misrepresented, left off or defamed).
The sucking up to the supervisor award: Conrad Lendrum (V) for extolling the joys of physical chemistry and referring to the divine Kate McGrath.
The fluffy ball award: Simon Love (V) for pointing out the links between his carbon nanotubes and spaghetti and other foods.
The smiley face award: Lynton Baird (V) for his brave attempts to overcome severe difficulties in synthetic chemistry and so discovering that label on the bottle is no guarantee of the integrity of the contents.
The fish award: Brian Vest (M) for dreaming about fishing.
The healthy fruit award: Celia Webby to encourage her to adopt a more healthy diet by eating less chocolate.
The fastest motorcycle award: Behnam Assadollahzadeh (M) for dreaming of a world with infinite computing power.
The most entertaining talk award: Steve Kirk (M) for an explanation of this award see the picture.
The most trivial question award: Trevor Kitson (M) for his question to Dan Parr about being a
“manic depressive” after his struggles with Mannich reactions.
After the talks we all headed off for dinner at De Corree. This was one of the best days we have had in the series (and I think I have attended them all). Congratulations to Steve and Yvonne for their superb organisation and thanks to Tracey for sorting out the abstracts and food and to all the chemistry team that supported the event by speaking or by just being there and clapping at the right time.
1 As punishment for suggesting Steve takes on this job I got to write this!
Photo caption: Where did he escape from?
Team IFS at the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge
Seven members of IFS spent last Saturday in cold and windy conditions cycling around Lake Taupo either as individuals or in the relay event. Mark Waterland, Andy Trow, Geoff Waterhouse, Donna Royal, Pat Edwards, Dion O’Neale and Carrol Walkley left the warm and sunny Manawatu to take on not only the 160 km course but also the Taupo weather. Joining 11,500 others they started at varying times from 7.30 am and headed off into the wind with the temperature in single figures.
The first part of the course had developed even more hills than the experienced Andy remembered from his last outing. Turning for home at the Turangi end of the lake the bitter Southerly gave the team a lift on the way to the finish line. Rain had been threatening all day and
eventually set in about midday providing a bit more incentive to get to the finish.
Geoff had the misfortune to leave some of his skin on the tarseal while climbing the Hatepe Hill when the rider next to him collapsed. Meanwhile Andy decided to keep on pedaling for fear of not being able to start again on the hill (he did wait at the top though!). Mark “the Missile” finished the ride in 4 hours 45 minutes showing that all the high speed training to and from Massey each day with Grace in tow has paid off. Solo’s all completed the course in under 6.5 hours…
If anyone else in the Institute participated well done to you all! Training for next year’s event starts on Monday . . .
Mark Waterland, Chair of the Manawatu Branch New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, presenting the NZIC Chemical Education Prize to Trevor Kitson on behalf of the NZIC Council.
Dr Gillian Thornley
Gillian Thornley is a friend to many people at Massey University and in the wider mathematical community. Gillian graduated from the University of Canterbury with a First Class Honours MSc in 1963, her thesis supervisor being Professor Derek Lawden.
She obtained her PhD in metric differential geometry from the University of Toronto in 1965 under the supervision of Professors Hanno Rund and Ray Vanstone.
Upon graduation from the University of Toronto, Gillian returned to New Zealand where she lectured for two years at the University of Canterbury before marrying John Thornley and taking up a lectureship at the Trinidad campus of the University of the West Indies. Then it was back to Nelson (NZ) where Gillian and John’s children, Louise and Matthew, were born and where Gillian did some part-time teaching at Nelson Polytechnic. In 1973 the family moved to Wellington where Gillian obtained mostly part-time positions in Wellington College of Education, Wellington Polytechnic, Victoria University, and held a research position in the Department of Mines. In 1980, Gillian re- commenced full-time work when she was appointed to a lectureship in mathematics at Massey University, with Brian Hayman as Head of the Department at that time. Two years later, Gillian was promoted to Senior Lecturer in Mathematics.
Gillian has had an outstanding career. A hard-working, versatile mathematician, she is highly respected by staff and students as a top-level teacher. It is the very high quality
accolades. She won an IFS Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998 and again in 2001.
A further distinction was the invitation from the University of Auckland to deliver the 1996 Aldis Lecture; her address was entitled From Descartes to Aldis and Beyond: A Geometrical History.
Her personal qualities of patience and integrity in student-staff relations are evident in the liaison work she has performed.
Indeed, the success of the IFS Student-Staff Liaison Committee owes a lot to Gillian’s leadership as Convenor. Her close attention to the needs of students, in and out of class, is evident throughout undergraduate and postgraduate tuition. This is represented, in particular, by the fine support and encouragement she has given to her PhD students Nicola Jayne, Mary Day and Padma Senarath. Colleagues know well the determination that Gillian has brought to advancing the cause of students, in a thoroughly fair and professional manner.
The same high level of professionalism has been exercised in the wider community where Gillian has given much to the development of mathematics and mathematics education. She was actively involved in the previous Mathematics Department’s extension programme with senior high school students, and with the development of gifted students.
Gillian has contributed much to the Manawatu Mathematics Teachers’
Association over the years. Further, she has given exemplary service to the mathematical community at national level and beyond. For 14 years, from 1978 to 1992, Gillian contributed to the activities of the New Zealand Mathematical Society in several roles, becoming President of the Society for two years in 1989. She will be remembered for her wise and capable leadership during a challenging period, and represented the Society at the IMU meeting in Kobe, Japan, where she was the only woman president present. Indeed, Gillian is the only woman President of the NZMS since it was founded in 1974. In 1997 she was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Mathematical Society and in December 2004 the Society awarded Gillian
quote from Winston Churchill: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. In Gillian’s case it is very much the giving, the dedicated giving, that characterises her as a person and her academic career. The other quote is from Samuel Butler: Life is one long process of getting tired. It seems to me that Gillian’s tiredness is indeed long in the coming because she agreed to have her duties at Massey University extended through Semester 2 this year. We are the beneficiaries of that action and her husband John missed out on having Gillian home a lot sooner!
Gillian’s research interests lie mainly in differential geometry, in particular the study of Finsler spaces, but she has contributed to the development of mathematics education, in particular on gender issues. She participated in the ICMI Conference in Sweden in 1993 on Gender and Mathematics Education and published two papers on the topic.
At Massey University Gillian has been actively involved with many committees and boards, too numerous to recount here. Suffice it to say that her expertise has been sought because of her superb organisational skills, her grasp of the mathematics curriculum, her ability to speak and write clearly, her support for students and concern for their welfare, and her representation of women in academic matters.
Gillian will be missed for her guidance on student matters, her complete professionalism, her depth of experience, her willingness to take on the extra tasks, and her good-natured collegiality. Those of us who have been at Massey University with Gillian over the years will remember gratefully the social occasions when she and John kindly opened up their home for Mathematics parties. We in IFS wish Gillian a long and happy retirement.
I will share two items from a book of quotations. These occur on pages 102 and 103, numbers that are significant in themselves because for many years Gillian taught papers 160.102 (for which she co- authored a very successful textbook with
Mike Hendy) and with paper 160.103. A Dean Halford
A Year as a Royal Society of NZ Science, Mathematics and Technology Teaching Fellow
2005 surely rates as the shortest year ever. It seems only a short while ago that I was organizing a library card, access card, keys, finding a car park and getting the laptop connected to the net. It may have been short, but what a year it has been.
Joining Mark Waterland and his group was an eye opening experience. The areas of research and the instrumentation used are far removed from the content covered in the Science and Chemistry courses at secondary school. The challenge on returning to the classroom is to make the new and exciting research areas relevant to the curriculum.
Supervising laboratory classes in 101 and 102 Chemistry was a great contrast to the secondary system. Plenty of equipment which is clean and works well, with technical support are the sort of things that most secondary school teachers just dream of. Appreciative, hard working students who want to learn are not what you always find in a mixed ability Year 10 class during last period on a Friday afternoon. The confines of a classroom with a group of twenty five secondary school students was also considerably different to running tutorials in Marsden Theatre with three or four times the number of students.
The other positives are of the people who work in the Science Towers. The support and encouragement from all will be a lasting memory of a wonderful year.
Carol Walkley 14
I've made a start to making a resource for WebCT available on the web, but not linked from our home page, so only our staff are likely to find it.
needs advertising to staff when they should be setting up their sites for the new year. A timely email about it and mention in induction packs may be helpful too.
Christmas Potluck Luncheon
Congratulations to the Institute Social Committee for organising a successful Christmas pot luck lunch which was supported by many. Paul Plieger was the recipient of the raffle (wine and chocolate).
A Christmas Breakfast is to be enjoyed on Thursday at Café Esplanade.
Allan Wilson Centre news Allan Wilson Centre News
Our congratulations to Barbara Holland on winning the trifecta! Barbara completes her NZS&T post-doctoral Fellowship with the Centre in February, but will be rehired as a Research Fellow within the Centre, with the assistance of a FRST "Bridge to Employment" grant which will meet 50% of her salary for the first year. This is on top of her recent successes in winning a FULL Marsden grant in the 2005 round as sole PI, and her success in being awarded the 2005 Hamilton Memorial Prize, by the RSNZ Academy, for her "pioneering mathematical research in evolutionary biology, including the development of new instruments for phylogenetic network representation. The prize recognizes her achievements in the conception and application of sophisticated mathematical and statistical techniques to evolutionary biology, especially in the representation of phylogenetic networks and trees. (A phylogenetic tree is a graphical means to depict the evolutionary relationships of a group of organisms.) With her solid background in operations research, Dr Holland has developed novel tools for representing the conflicting information that arises in many studies of evolutionary relationships, where a large collection of phylogenetic trees occurs as opposed to a single tree." Congratulations Barbara.
The AWC has hosted six German 4th year exchange students from the Biomathematics programme at Griefswald for this semester. They each did a paper in Computational Biology, and in Bioinformatics, as well as some advanced mathematics papers. The project reports from their Computational Biology papers were all excellent, and we expect most will be incorporated in research publications currently under preparation. This is the third group to come from Greifswald, and we are expecting a larger number next year.
Bernard Beckett, our RSNZ Teaching Fellow for 2005 is just completing his year with us, before he returns to Onslow College (Wellington) where he teaches maths, economics and drama. This has been an excellent placement for us, and we hope to have a report from Bernard in the next newsletter. During this year Bernard was awarded the NZPost and NZ Bookseller's prizes for his teenage novel "Malcolm and Juliet".
The December NRC Report
It is hard to believe that we have come to the last month of another year, the fourth in the life of the NRC. We saw it as a year to consolidate both our research position and financial position and we have certainly done that, producing 18 papers, presenting 14 conference oral or poster presentations and giving eight invited lectures, all with a smaller number of people than last year.
Although we did not gain much financially from new grants, we did win funding for a new MacDiarmid Institute PhD student, we were part of a successful application for an Australian Centre of Excellence, The Australian Centre for Electromaterials Science and a new Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery grant (based at Wollongong) on photovoltaics.
Although we have research projects in other areas, it is photovoltaics that dominates our research at the moment. This was attested to recently by the very successful 2005 Australasian Linkage Photovoltaic Workshop that we held in Wellington on Tuesday 22nd November. This was the third in a series of workshops aimed at bringing greater cohesion to the photovoltaic research programmes in Australia and New Zealand, the first in Paraparaumu the day before AMN-1 in 2003 and the second in Wollongong in 2004.
Twenty one talks were presented on a variety of photovoltaic and related research topics by researchers from Monash University, the
University of Newcastle, the University of Wollongong, the University of Otago and the NRC but the most useful part of the day was the discussion about people’s work that went on at the breaks and over an excellent dinner at the Daawat Indian Restaurant in Manners Mall, Wellington.
The day after the Wellington workshop, I presented a lecture entitled “Nanomaterials – the Key to Sustainability” at the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology Nanotechnology workshop, which was organized by Ashton Partridge to assist MoRST in developing a nanotechnology roadmap for New Zealand. It was great to have the opportunity, along with the likes of Paul Callaghan and Richard Blaikie, to influence future Government policy in this area.
Both these research themes, photovoltaics and nanotechnology, came together the following week in Boston at the 2005 Materials Research Society Fall meeting. The value of this meeting has prompted me to write a separate story about it. However, it is certainly worth restating the impression that I was left with after the Boston meeting was that both the nanomaterials and photovoltaic research that is being carried out by a team of talented researchers in the NRC is clearly internationally competitive.
David Officer, Director, NRC.
Left side is: Professor Doug MacFarlane, Monash University and his son and Professor David Officer
Right side is: Donna Royal, Dr Peter Innis, University of Wollongong, Dr George Tsekouras, University of Wollongong (you can just see the top of his head).
Are Angels OK?
As part of the International Year of Physics, some of New Zealand’s leading writers were invited to join forces with local physicists in a project called Are Angels OK? The idea was to get writers and physicists talking to each other, finding common interests and producing some new work based on the flow of ideas between each writer–physicist pair.
Among the writers involved in the project are novelists Elizabeth Knox, Catherine Chidgey and Lloyd Jones, world-renowned children’s author Margaret Mahy, poets Bill Manhire and Glenn Colquhoun and playwright Jo Randerson.
I was invited to take part in the project as one of two theoretical physicists (the other was Matt Visser at Victoria) working with Glenn Colquhoun, who is based at Waikawa beach.
It turns out that Glenn, despite failing Auckland University’s physics course for intermediate medical students, has a deep love for physics, as well as a wicked sense of humour and a marvellous gift for imagery.
After discussing several ideas for poems related to physics, Glenn decided that he would like to write a series of poems based on important equations in physics. My role was help decide which equations were worthy of translation into poetry, then help Glenn to understand the meaning of the physics encapsulated in the equation. A challenge to my teaching skills indeed! Fortunately Glenn was very keen to learn, and we passed some very pleasant hours discussing physics, poetry and medicine (Glenn works half-time as a GP in Otaki).
Obviously E =mc2 had to be included in the equations, but what about the other 10 or so equations? Interestingly Glenn plumped very early for Maxwell’s equations, which he then translated into a series of four haiku where the inter-relationships between electric and magnetic fields are compared to the relations between migrating birds and men and women.
From early in the history of science we chose Pythagoras’s theorem and the law of reflection, then Newton’s laws of motion from the 17th century and the laws of
Turning to 20th century physics, we contrasted Einstein’s conception of gravity as curvature of spacetime with Newton’s action at a distance gravitational interaction, and we also attempted to decipher quantum mechanics (Schrödinger’s equation) and some aspects of quantum field theory.
Some of the poems made their debut at a reading Glenn gave at the marae at Te Papa on November 15, where they got a warm reception – made even better as Glenn managed to give a brilliant exposition of much of the physics, especially the laws of thermodynamics. The poems will be published next year as part of the book of writing originating from the Angels project.
Glenn’s reading at Te Papa was also recorded by Radio New Zealand and will be broadcast during the summer.
Another aspect of the Angels project was a panel discussion involving physicists and writers. I was lucky to be invited to participate, along with two other physicists:
Paul Callaghan (Victoria) and Phil Butler (Canterbury); and writers Elizabeth Knox, Margaret Mahy and Bill Manhire. The discussion was also held at Te Papa, and moderated by the grande dame of radio, Kim Hill. Needless to say, I was somewhat nervous beforehand at the prospect, especially when Paul Callaghan told me I would be responsible for answering any questions about quarks, fields, relativity and time travel! We met the writers and Ms Hill at a soundcheck an hour beforehand, and after introductions we had a relaxing drink and got to know each other a bit better.
The panel covered a range of interesting topics. Firstly, there was a discussion about ethics and responsibility of writers and physicists to society. This led on to the topic of creativity and whether there is a difference between writers’ creativity and the creativity of scientific researchers. We talked about the different roles of inspiration and imagination, and the different rules that the imagination has to obey in the two cases. One of the writers raised the question of language, as the formulation of physical ideas often seems to
being formulated via pictures, metaphors and mathematics before they are communicated using oral or written language. The conversation also touched on some of the ideas at the frontiers of physics research like superstrings and complexity theory. Kim Hill did a very good job as moderator, eliciting responses from all the panelists and keeping the discussion moving, introducing new ideas for discussion before things got in any way
boring. Amazingly the audience appeared to enjoy everything, and had plenty of questions for us at the end. Again, the panel discussion was recorded by Radio New Zealand, and should be broadcast in the next few months.
It was a very challenging and enjoyable evening for me, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet such an interesting bunch of people.
The best of the worst of the 2nd year lab reports in physics
The last semester was my first one dealing with 2nd year students in physics, and the first one where I was in charge of marking lab reports. I was shocked by the fact that as a person for whom English is the second language I could tell a few native speakers that their written English was poor. Some reports were as clumsy and there was the usual lot of typos and other funny mistakes. Toward the end of the semester I decided to collect the best specimens found in the reports. I wish I had started earlier so I could give the exact quote from one student who told me that they had “manipulated their data to get the results”. Nonetheless here are quite a few good ones, I deliberately preserved the original spelling.
• “Repeating the experiment, allows statistical methods to be used, in that a mean and a standard deviation for use in calculating errors, can be implored.” The student in question couldn't see why it was funny.
• “In the wave theory of light, the frequency does not have a dependency on frequency.”
• “All mercury-vapour lamps, emit UV light, and because this is dangerous, hence the reason for the protective covering.”
• “..., the oven mush be immediately turned down.”
• “Finally we can find 'a' by substituting your values for R, and b into the appropriated equation.”
• “This was conducted two ways, in which the first agreed with the results of the first.” I am so glad it did.
• Spotted in a few reports: "theoretical measurements".
• From an exam paper: “As N increase the number of maxima becomes brighter and increases.”
• According to one report a student used a “senor” and not a “sensor” during the whole experiment.
Sarah Officer (David's Daugher), David Officer, Geoff Jameson,
Michael Freeman (Massey Alumni and Liaison), Jeremy Hyams, Mr Ting's brother (guide/driver).
The Khumbu or Everest region is the most popular trekking area in Nepal. It would probably be the most popular destination, but it is more difficult to get to Solu Khumbu than to the Annapurna area.
To get near Everest, you must either walk for 10 days or fly to Lukla, a remote mountain airstrip where flights are notoriously unreliable.
Solu Khumbu is justifiably famous, not only for its proximity to the world's highest mountain (8848 metres), but also for its Sherpa villages and monasteries. The primary goal of an Everest trek is the Everest base camp at an elevation of about 5340 metres. But you cannot see Everest from the base camp, so most trekkers climb Kala Pattar, an unassuming 5545-metre bump on the southern flank of Pumori (7145 metres).
Well no word can describe the region, better look at the pictures …
View on Mt Everest and South Col from Kala Pattar
Cold dusk over the clouds at High Camp on Lobuche peak
Buddhist shrine with Ama Dablam peak behind (Left)
Yaks at a camp (Above)
Combinatorics in Barcelona
I visited Centre de Recerca Matematica, Bellaterra (near Barcelona) for a month in September and October. There were two courses on Random Graphs (by Bela Bollobas) and Graph Homomorphisms (by Jaroslav Nesetril). The courses were followed by two more conferences - one on Graph Morphisms and Applications and another on Tutte Polynomials and Applications. The courses and conferences were exciting and have given me enough food for thought. The conference on Tutte polynomials had several presentations on problems related to statistical mechanics. The Spanish weather during that time was also not bad.
On the way to Spain I visited my home in Pune, India. My niece Vaidehee recently represented India at the International Mathematics Olympiad in Mexico. Although she didn't win a medal, she did win a prize for the best solution of the most difficult problem! She is now pursuing B.Math. Honours at the Indian Statistical Institute in Bangalore. In India, now there is a lot of encouragement and scholarships for students who participate in the Olympiad or are selected for the "base camp". The state level Olympiads are now attracting increasing number of students, many of whom want to do research in mathematics or theoretical computer science. It is good to see mathematics
successfully competing with professional courses for the best students! I am sure we will see more Olympiad medals and more mathematicians from India in future.
Thoughts from the 2005 Materials Research Society Fall Meeting, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
It’s Day 4 of the five day Materials Research Society Fall Meeting here in Boston and it is still hard to cope with the shear scale of this conference, given that the MRS hold biannual meetings. There are 5300 registrants (most of them sporting a laptop!!), 42 parallel sessions and 300 industrial exhibitors. GM has a hydrogen fuel cell car on display on the 2nd floor of this enormous Hynes conference centre. The Hynes Centre is connected by three shopping complexes to four multistorey hotels so who knows what the weather’s like here at the moment. Despite the numbers, I still managed to run into Steve Durbin this morning, the only other MacDiarmid Institute researcher at this meeting.
I’ve just been to the fashion show held in the exhibit area with students modelling the latest in electronic textiles and hi-tech garments, some with solar cells, MP3 players with the New Zealand developed Softswitch (by Canesis) built into sleeves, hi-tech fabrics that you can change the shape of and so on. This followed one of the Frontiers of Materials Research general talks yesterday by Alex Pentland of the MIT Media Lab who showed how electronics are working their way into clothing; from military garb sensing one’s environment to new textile materials.
Pentland and his colleagues are connecting with fashion designers from Tokyo to Paris trying to transform clunky, nerdy fun into fashion with function. Who says that scientists are geeks??
Another of the Frontiers of Materials Research general talks was given by Samuel Stupp (Northwestern Univ.) on Self-Assembly Codes for Soft Materials. The vision behind Stupp's work in which the basic units are biological nanostructures with defined shapes and internal order is to use self-assembly to multiplex attributes of soft materials with complex functions, leading to possible applications such as photovoltaic cells for solar energy and scaffolds for regenerating human body parts. This was followed later by a fantastic talk by Professor Robert Langer, an extraordinary chemical engineer
with over 500 patents who has pioneered the use of polymers for drug delivery and the construction of prosthetic body parts. Watch the Nobel Prize lists for his name!!
Junji Kido (Yamagata Univ. Japan), the leading international LED researcher presented work on organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) for solid state lighting. He described small molecule-based devices, which are fabricated using vacuum deposition, with white light efficiencies of 36 lm/W and lifetimes of over 30,000 hours at high brightness. Large area devices with dimensions of 30 cm x 30 cm have been fabricated in a prototype facility that utilizes linear sources for vacuum deposition over large areas. Kido estimated commercial lighting products based on this technology will be sold by his industrial partners in Japan starting in 2007.
But the real research ‘fashion statement’ at this conference is being made by nanomaterials and nanotechnology. Nano- inspired research permeates almost every materials research activity presented here, producing more and more remarkable achievements. Heiko Weber from Universitaet Erlangen-Neurnberg in Germany presented his results on single molecule junctions, which show diode-like behavior.
Weber and his colleagues are able to measure the electrical properties of single molecules in mechanically controlled break junctions with dimensions of only a couple of nanometers.
Graham J. Hutchings from Cardiff University provided numerous examples of commercially significant reactions that can be catalyzed by gold nanoparticles, remarkable since gold is considered to be unreactive.
Carbon monoxide produced in fuel cells needs to be selectively oxidized to carbon dioxide at 80 ºC while avoiding the oxidation of hydrogen to water. Among many other applications, Hutchings and his group have engineered an iron oxide supported gold catalyst which is able to meet the stringent requirements for fuel cells. There was more gold chemistry with Catherine J. Murphy 22
from the University of South Carolina giving a talk on the “Wet Chemical Function- alization of Metal Nanorods”. Murphy and her colleagues are able to grow gold nanorods from small spherical gold nanoparticle seeds by the addition of a surfactant, cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB).
Nanoparticle research (read quantum dots!) is in just about every symposium. Maxime Dahan (Ecole Normale Superieure, France) discussed his work on using single quantum dots to probe optical and biological environments. Dahan and his colleagues are able to measure the radiative decay rates of single quantum dots, and find that the individual quantum dots have quantum yields that are quite close to 1. They have tagged glycine receptors in live neurons with quantum dots by functionalizing the surface of the quantum dots. This enables individual receptors to be tracked with a resolution of about 10 nm. Dahan said that the stage is now set for these quantum dot probes to be used to track cellular processes in complex biological environments such as tissues.
Ulrich Wiesner, in his talk, “Cornell Dots:
Bright and Stable Fluorescent Silica Nanoparticles” discussed a new class of materials, the ‘Cornell dots’, consisting of dye molecules encapsulated in a silica shell.
These novel core-shell materials show a significantly enhanced quantum yield and remarkably high brightness per particle, as compared to the dye molecules or just the dye core. The silica shell engenders many applications of these materials by imparting water solubility and compatibility with various surface functionalization protocols.
Of great significance to the Nanomaterials Research Centre is the gathering of most the leading organic photovoltaic device researchers in the world at the Organic and Nanostructured Composite Photovoltaics and Solid-State Lighting symposium. This has been an opportunity to gauge the quality and competitiveness of our photovoltaic research.
It is always scary coming to such meetings with the real expectation that someone will make an announcement that makes your last five years work redundant. The volume of organic solar cell work presented here is enormous and they have certainly been the busiest of the 20 aisles at the poster session each night. But much of the work has been repetitive if not routine demonstrating low efficiency organic devices, which hints at the challenges that are still inherent in building a decent solar cell. We, along with our collaborators in Lausanne, reported a 6.7%
efficiency for porphyrin-sensitised titanium dioxide solar cells, a 0.5% increase on our previous world-best result, and we were encouraged to find that most of our research ideas in this highly competitive area are novel and still have great potential.
This meeting has certainly been an energising experience. One of the good messages that you were left was that any attendees who believed before the meeting that the term nano was just an excuse to attract funding would have had that view well and truly dispelled by the end of the meeting. Perhaps that was best summed up by the Quote of the Day reported on the MRS website. Tom Weber, the Director of the Division of Materials Research of the National Science Foundation was overheard to say, "Nano is big. It is not all hype."
Just to drop you a line to say I am still alive!
The photo of you know who (Einstein I mean) is just outside the Physics building. They told me the students dressed him up recently with a neck tie and hat! Am enjoying the time here assisting with the demonstrations and tasting campus life Israeli style.
Best for now to all Brian Ford
10 of the Best
Not six, but ten of the best … not corporal punishment, but ten weeks of mind and body enjoyment! (Well, the body was occasionally challenged by a lot of walking in hot conditions.) Annual leave allowed Anne and me to take off for a northern hemisphere holiday over September – November. This article is a hurriedly put together collection of reminiscences without much detail, but you may get the flavour.
I’m a Europhile and so we spent time in Greece, Turkey, Italy and the UK before returning home via Canada. No mishaps … well, only one minor incident when our flight from Rome to Frankfurt arrived after the connecting flight to London had closed, but we got the next flight one hour later.
Temperatures over that period ranged from 42˚ C in Athens to 2˚ C, plus wind-chill factor, in Algonquin National Park in Canada.
We did it the easy way in Europe – coach tours with everything taken care of, plus a cruise on the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea. We drove ourselves in a car around the UK, stopping mainly in bed and breakfast accommodation, most of which was very good. Our mode of transport in Canada?
The antiquities of Greece were wonderful.
After several millennia, enough remains in the ruins at sites such as Athens, Delphi, Olympia, Sounion and Mycenae to leave one with an indelible impression of the civility and creativity of those ancient peoples. We haven’t advanced very far, in some respects, over the last 2000 years! My pick (if I have to) of the antiquities we saw in Greece would be Delphi (what a great location) and Mycenae. Although the latter site is mainly a rock strewn spread of the palace in which King Agamemnon was killed in his bath by the jealous Clytemnestra, the Mycenaean artefacts which are displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens are fabulous. The Knossos Palace on Crete (where Theseus mythologically killed the minotaur) is extensive and partially restored, but again it is the range of superb Minoan artefacts dating back 8000 years in the
museum in Heraklion that is most interesting.
Each Greek Island had its own charm. Our favourites were Patmos (where John the Apostle is said to have written the Book of Revelations – we saw the grotto) and Santorini with its quaint village Oia.
Of all the ancient sites we visited, Ephesus in Turkey must be ranked in the top league for its marvellous library and other wonders.
What a great location for a city! Istanbul has the Blue Mosque, St Sophia and Topkapi Palace, all of which were very interesting, but the focus of our attention in Turkey was on Gallipoli where we spent a half day on the ANZAC battlefield. Sobering.
Rome and Venice, on revisits, were everlastingly Rome and sinkingly Venice – we still get a thrill from these great cities.
However, we also wished to see other parts of Italy and we weren’t disappointed. We feasted upon Florence, Pisa, Milan, the Italian Lakes, Assisi, Sorrento, Pompeii and the countryside between. Italian food is good, Turkish food is cheap and good, Greek food is excellent! But the euro doesn’t go very far on drinks and you need a lot of them in that part of the world.
At Heathrow Leon joined us. In a rental car we investigated the south of England, including the Isle of Wight, then went down to the West Country to savour the seaside (including Newquay where an honourable HoI was born), plus several country houses and gardens. Traversing part of South Wales, we headed across country via Ironbridge (yep, there’s a famous iron bridge there in this seat of the Industrial Revolution) to Yorkshire, thence to the Scottish lowlands: many more castles, grand country houses, gardens, museums, lovely villages along the way.
Again, it’s difficult to pick favourites out of an array of treasures, but I’d suggest that Harewood House near Leeds be included on a traveller’s itinerary. My ambition to visit the Old Course at St Andrews was fulfilled – the home of golf is in a superb setting in the old university town, lying next to the great stretch of golden sand on which part of the movie Chariots of Fire was filmed. Our tour of attractions in the UK ended in London with, among other things, an inspection of 400 or 24
so vintage/veteran vehicles on display before they ran the race to Brighton.
We had to get into warm clothes for the Canadian stopover. Autumn colours were still pleasing the eye in Toronto but had disappeared further north in the Haliburton Highlands where we bumped into a deer (literally) on an excursion into the beautiful lakeland and forest area in Algonquin Park, sprinkled with the first fall of snow.
Vancouver and the even more pleasant Vancouver Island (a visit to the Butchart
Gardens is a “must”) were very pleasant exit points on our way home.
We returned to Palmerston North to find petrol had increased in price considerably, but spare a thought for the NZ car driver in the UK where a litre of the fuel costs 92p, almost twice that in NZ! And talking of motoring, drivers in NZ are aggressive but those in Europe have to be seen to be believed! We’ll mix it with them again sometime, though.
Antarctic Adventurer Return
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who helped me realize a life goal, the ability to spend time in Antarctica – from my supervisor Barry and workmate Noel through to Professor Parry, the Head of our Institute, and of course Peter Dyer who looked after my position whilst I was away.
Peter has moved on to ITE workshop where he continues to provide a great service to their Institute.
The Antarctic experience was unbelievable in so many ways, from 24 hr daylight to 24hr darkness, both with their good and not so good points.
A commonly asked question was “ was it cold?” the answer, of course, was yes but only when outside. The coldest I felt was when I hopped off the plane at Christchurch on my way home. I expected the tropics only to find 8 degrees on the tarmac.
Scott Base was maintained at between 18 and 20 degrees 24/7. You knew you had to dress for the cold outside so I never really thought about it.
The crew I worked with there at Scott Base were great and we had many happy times with no major hiccups during my 12 months with them.
I put this down to the selection process used by Antarctica NZ in the lead up to training starting in Christchurch.
It was a positive working environment where our focus was to assist with all science projects to the best of our capability, and during the winter to maintain and improve the base for the next year’s science programme.
Highlights during my year were: meeting Sir Edmund Hillary when he arrived to open the new Hillary Field Centre and commemorate the loss of the DC10 on Mount Erebus.
Visiting the Historic Huts of Hillary, Scott and Shackelton, working on the sea ice with scientists from all over the world, familiarization trips to various sites around the Ross Ice Shelf and working with some of the most focused people I’ve ever met.
Returning to work at IFS was interesting, as many changes have occurred in my absence, including the workshop, staff and buildings around campus. This in itself is great as it shows Massey is looking to the future, which is good for all of us.
Once again thank you all for the opportunity to do something totally amazing.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Steve Denby
Asia-Pacific Few Body Conference 2005
I escaped the cold, windy and wet weather at P.N. in the late July and arrived at 30oC and in humid Bangkok, Thailand in an early evening. The local organizers for the Asia- Pacific Few Body Conference 2005 were about 250km away and the first pre-arranged bus would not leave until 9:00 am the next day, so I tried to have some good sleep in a hotel room near the airport. I felt my mind was much clearer the next morning and started my first task assigned by the local organizers, to find them in the airport (they told the participants to meet them in the airport, but didn’t specify any particular area).
Thanks to the Bangkok airport being not so large, I wandered in the airport for about 10 minutes and met a senior professor from USA. We finally found some local people.
The journey then fell into the hand of our hospitable hosts/hostesses. After picking up some participants from a few hotels in the city we headed to the Grand Palace which was built about 150 years ago and was the residency of the kings of the Thailand Kingdom until the 20th century. It is a well- designed and well-constructed complex containing a few large buildings with glorious decoration mainly in the golden colour. It is no surprise to find the most beautiful building is the Temple of the Emerald Buddah (Wat Phra Si Rattanasasa-daram), in which a Buddha image carved from a large solid piece of green jasper is housed, Buddhism is the national religion in Thailand. It is a good sign for a good conference – a sightseeing tour in the first day! Let’s admire that the scientists attend the conference for the sight-seeing and conference (or maybe the other way around – the conference and sightseeing).
The conference attracted about 100 participants from all over the world. The academic aspect of the conference will be interesting to only a few people at IFS and has been reported. The social activities arranged by the local people were very good. The conference coincided with the 15th anniversary of the hosted university -- Suranaree University of Technology and the participants were treated as VIPs in two
special celebrating ceremonies. In the opening ceremony 500+ students from local secondary schools were put in the audience and listened a one-hour lecture given by the Nobel Lurerate C.Y. Yang. I am not sure how many young students enjoyed the event.
Two elephants were transported from the local zoo to the university campus (which seems to be in the middle of nowhere – the nearest town is about 20 km away) for two days so the participants can experience elephant trekking at their convenience. The consequence was that at any given time in those two days, a few participants were on the back of the elephants rather than sitting in the lecture theatre. I joined a group on another day for a day trip to some historical cities and sites, which involved five hours travelling on the min-bus and visiting temple after temple. By the end of that long and hot day, everybody was exhausted and very glad to be at the hotel.
The public transport system at Bangkok is very impressive although the driving behaviour/habits of most people, especially the taxi drivers are not – it seems they do not care much about any traffic rules. The
“Skytrain”, which runs on the elevated railway on top of the crowed road and connects many downtown areas, is very effective. During rush hours, which could be any time between 6:00am to 22:00 pm, the Tuc Tucs – basically a three wheel motorbike which let the passenger enjoy the open air and view, is recommended by the local people. It may save you some time but may not be able to save your life in the case of accident. I didn’t try it and do not recommend it to any IFS member if he/she visits Bangkok.
Fu-Guang Cao 20/10/2005