Director's Letter - Fall 2015

Lars Bildsten, KITP Director.

We have had a very exciting and productive start this year! Synergies between KITP programs are happening, and are nicely described in this article by visiting scientist Roger Melko. Science writer and biographer Graham Farmelo was here this spring as a Kavli Foundation supported Writer-in-Residence. His report beautifully captures his personal experience and is a wonderful testimony to our efforts to achieve strong synergies at the KITP. A nice science result from Deputy Director Greg Huber is highlighted here and the fruits of his outreach efforts via the Teacher-in-Residence program are described here.

We are very proud of the achievements of our postdocs here at KITP. Read about Iair Arcavi’s award of the prestigious Karp Fellowship that will allow him to continue his search for supermassive black holes in distant galaxies. As expected, and is part of normal academic life, many of our postdocs are leaving in Fall 2015 for new positions. Jim Halverson has started his junior faculty position at Northeastern University, Tarun Grover has accepted a faculty position at UC San Diego but will stay at KITP for an additional year, Idse Heemskerk will be a postdoctoral fellow at Rice University, Max Metlitski will be at the Perimeter Institute as an assistant professor, Sahand Hormoz will continue his exploration of biophysics at Caltech in the lab of Prof. Elowitz, and Tobias Heinemann will take up a faculty position at the Niels Bohr Institute. Congratulations to all!

There have also been some staff transitions. Our long term housing coordinator, Monica Curry, retired this summer (see article), triggering the recruitment of James Brill to the KITP. He will continue to house our visitors while also working with me on the Residence planning. James will be the manager of the Residence once it is up and running. One of our long-term IT staff, Shaun Drong, has departed and was replaced by Tim Czerniec, who comes from the College of Letters and Sciences. I also am very happy to report that I have recruited Laura Lambert as KITP’s development officer. She has been working with me part-time for over a year and is very familiar with the KITP. Please welcome her and all of our new staff next time you are in Kohn Hall!

KITP programs are known to both strengthen existing collaborations and nucleate new collaborations and ideas. However, once the participants return to their home institutions, it often proves difficult for them to maintain the intellectual momentum gained while in residence at the KITP. Hence, progress on excellent ideas can stall, or, in the worst case, evaporate. To address this problem, and with new funds from the Kavli Foundation, we are presently experimenting with a new program, called “Follow-Ons” that allows collaborating groups of former KITP program participants to return for an intense 1-2 week working period within 6-18 months of their previous time here. By the end of 2015, we will have hosted an additional 70 visitors under this new program. We are looking forward to seeing the impact of this new modality. I’m also happy to report that I am participating in one myself!

We are well along on our Residence project, please see this article for some exciting photos. Charlie Munger frequently visits us, both to see the progress but also to continue his strong involvement in design and final interior selections. Thanks again, Charlie!


~ Lars Bildsten, KITP Director
KITP Newsletter, Fall 2015