Dr Karl: Julius Sumner Miller Fellow

Dr Karl

In 1993 the Foundation established the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow in the School of Physics, a position dedicated to raising community interest and awareness about science. The Foundation partially funds this unique position, which has been held by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki since its inception.

Thanks to his work on radio, TV and the Internet, Dr Karl is known Australia-wide for his rampant enthusiasm for all things science-related.

Surveys of students entering the University of Sydney have shown that one in seven students chose to do science because of Dr Karl.

In recent years Dr Karl has continued to spend three to four hours on national radio each week, talking about science and promoting University events and programs. He is involved in the television series Sleek Geeks and has an ever-expanding presence on the Internet, including regular podcasts.

Dr Karl says about this role:
"I have been honoured to be the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow since 1993. During this time in my role as JSM Fellow, I've been fortunate to be a part of several exciting projects - installing Foucault Pendulum's in both the QVB and the ABC buildings, sending out several hundred tonnes of free New Scientist magazines, and most importantly, I've been able directly to mess with the minds of many students around Australia, hopefully convincing many of them that a career in science can be highly stimulating and will give them many opportunities to travel the world."

Do physics first: a personal view

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Julius Sumner Miller Fellow, The University of Sydney

Suppose that you have a degree in physics, and that you are being interviewed for your first paying job. To get the interview going, the interviewer will ask, "So, you have a degree in physics?" The best answer is, "No, I have a degree in How To Solve Problems".

There are two main reasons why it is essential to make physics a big part of your first degree.

First, physics teaches you how to be a good scientist. You learn how to work out what the problem is, and then, how to solve it. You will learn how to do experiments. You will learn how to design experiments, how to make measurements, and how to analyse your results.

Note one very important thing. You are learning how to be any type of scientist, not just a physicist.

Once you know physics, you need only a very small amount of 'local knowledge' to do science into diabetes, the fatigue of metals, the different states of water (still a very poorly understood liquid), or why a tail is more efficient than a propeller (and maybe put the "fish" back into efficiency for ships). You need only a few weeks of solid reading to get started in any other field. You will pick up the rest of the knowledge that you need as you go along.

The second important thing that physics teaches you is the essential 'mental toolbox' to be any kind of good scientist. It doesn't matter whether you are trying to make a sick pancreas "morph" into a healthy pancreas while it's still in the body of a diabetic, or whether you are trying to save fuel by designing a better plane wing.

Everything that we can measure is in some way dependent on the four forces that run the Universe. They are the gravity force (keeps the planets in their orbits), the electromagnetic force (radio, TV, etc), the weak nuclear force (certain types of radioactivity) and the strong nuclear force (holds the protons in the nucleus together). No matter what you are trying to investigate, it will be mediated by one or more of these forces. Knowing this makes your job as a scientist so much easier!

You can hear more from Dr Karl, including his recent podcasts, at http://www.abc.net.au/science/drkarl

Contact Dr Karl

Dr Karl S. Kruszelnicki
Julius Sumner Miller Fellow
University of Sydney Physics Foundation
School of Physics (A28)
The University of Sydney
NSW 2006
Phone: 02-9351-2963
Fax: 02-9351-7726

About Julius Sumner Miller (1909-1987)

American scientist Julius Sumner Miller was a frequent guest lecturer at the Foundation's International Science School (ISS). His flamboyant (and occasionally intimidating) style struck a chord with many students, and more than a little fear into the hearts of volunteers chosen from the audience.

Professor Sumner Miller's presentations were never dull. He delighted in taking examples from everyday life and turning them into scientific puzzles that would enthuse, confuse and entertain so much so that, for a generation of Australians, Julius Sumner Miller became synonymous with his catch-cry: "Why is it so?"

Through his demonstrations of physical phenomena, Professor Sumner Miller did much to enthuse and fire the minds of people about the wonders of science. He became famous in Australia through TV broadcasts of his early ISS lectures and, much later, used his trademark 'Why is it so?' in a chocolate advertising campaign. The Professor had a gift for communicating science and, in 1993, the University of Sydney Physics Foundation established the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow in his memory.