Passion for physics recognised with community outreach award

Dr Ragbir BhathalDr Ragbir Bhathal. Photo: Australian Institute of Physics NSW

An esteemed Western Sydney University educator and engineering physicist has been announced as the recipient of the 2017 NSW Community Outreach to Physics Award by the Australian Institute of Physics (AIP).

Dr Ragbir Bhathal from the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics is the fourth annual recipient of the Community Outreach to Physics Award – which aims to acknowledge individuals who have made outstanding contributions to physics education in New South Wales.

The AIP noted that Dr Bhathal was a very deserving candidate for the award, due to his continued advocacy for the study of physics over more than 30 years.

As a University lecturer, Dr Bhathal works to advance the knowledge of physics at the tertiary level. His interactive teaching methods have won him two prestigious teaching awards:

  • The Australian Government’s Office of Learning and Teaching 2014 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning; and
  • Western Sydney University’s Distinguished Teaching Fellow in 2016.

Dr Bhathal is also central to community outreach programs that aim to instil a passion for physics and engineering in school students.

Every year, Dr Bhathal gives talks on physics, engineering and astrophysics to over 1000 students in schools in Sydney. He also runs the very successful Engineering Frontiers program (previously called the Siemens Science Experience) – which over the last ten years has engaged over 2000 Year 10 students in the study of physics and engineering.

Dr Bhathal is credited with the establishment of the WSU Campbelltown Rotary Observatory in conjunction with the Macarthur Astronomical Society – through which more than 80,000 people have participated in astrophysics, physics and engineering programs since 2000.

He has also published three books: the Australian Edition of University Physics with Hugh Young (Carnegie Mellon University) and Roger Freedman (University of California); Profiles: Australian women scientists – to encourage more girls to take up careers in science; and Under the Southern Cross with G. White, which won the prestigious C J Dennis award for excellence in natural history writing.

On behalf of the National Library of Australia, he conducts the National Oral History Project on Eminent Australian Astrophysicists and Physicists to record their lives and scientific achievements for the national record. The recordings of the interviews are deposited in the archives of the National Library and can be accessed online by members of the public and scholars.

He also served as an active member of the NSW AIP Branch Committee for a number of years and is a member of the Council of the Royal Society of NSW, the first scientific society in Australia.

Dr Bhathal was presented his award at the Annual General Meeting of the AIP which included the Postgraduate Awards Day – hosted by the NSW Branch of the AIP in conjunction with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the Royal Society of NSW.


24 November 2017

Photo: Australian Institute of Physics NSW

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