Director's Letter - Fall 2017

Lars Bildsten.
Photo by Jakub Ostrowski.

It’s the time of year for changes. The most profound one for us is the retirement of Permanent Member Joe Polchinski, one of our most prominent faculty members and the inaugural holder of the Pat and Joe Yzurdiaga Chair in Theoretical Physics. Joe continues his research and engagement here at KITP while recovering from brain cancer. Joe’s retirement celebration had many great moments, so please look to the back cover to see the photos from our celebration, and if you want to learn from Joe about his remarkable adventures in science, go read his just released scientific autobiography at

Our postdocs continue to do very well in their careers beyond KITP. This year, four moved on to new positions. Jim Fuller is an Assistant Professor at Caltech, Louk Rademaker is a five-year fellow at the Perimeter Institute in Canada, Sebastian Streichan is an Assistant Professor in the Physics Department here at UCSB, and Tonomori Ugajin is a postdoc at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. Three new postdoctoral fellows will arrive at KITP this academic year. Chiara Toldo is a high energy theorist who just arrived from Columbia University, while Eyal Karzbrun (a quantitative biologist at the Weizmann Institute in Israel) and Chris White (a computational astrophysicist at UC Berkeley) will both arrive in January 2018.

We are now through nine months of operating the Charles T. Munger Physics Residence, and it has proved a success. Our visitors love being there, and, as expected, the KITP programs now use the Munger Residence as their hub of social activities. Late at night, you will find physicists debating at the black boards and challenging each other at ping-pong, foosball or snooker. It’s really quite the scene. We had our opening celebration on July 15, 2017. Please have a look at the Charles T. Munger Residence Inauguration article for photos of the event and great quotes from Charlie Munger, Chancellor Yang, and myself.

Our programs remain the hallmark of what we do at the KITP. In "The Mysteries and Inner Workings of Massive Stars", you will find KITP participant Ilya Mandel’s summary of his participation in the Spring 2017 program on Massive stars. The program on hearing was a fun one for us, as we all were able to learn so much about how hearing really works. Please read about that program in "Hearing: A Biophysical and Neurological Enigma". We also enjoyed a wonderful public lecture on Hearing by James Hudspeth. You can find it here: This was one of the many programs that Greg Huber managed during his five years of service as KITP Deputy Director. Greg is continuing his research efforts here at KITP through the end of the calendar year and then will be moving on to be the first member of the newly formed Theory Group at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub in San Francisco.

Our other Deputy Director, Mark Bowick, was also in the news for a paper with Suraj Shankar (KITP Graduate Fellow) and Cristina Marchetti (KITP General Member). Though all three harken from Syracuse University, clearly their time here at KITP has led to some fun insights on complex flows in unusual geometries (see "Curious Properties").

Like our postdocs, our staff also often move on to new adventures. Cori Montgomery, our Business Officer for nearly three years, accepted a new position on campus as the Director of the Humanities Administrative Support Center. She did a wonderful job for us and I wish her the best of luck in her new position. Our search for her replacement took much of the summer, but we succeeded! Lisa Stewart arrived at KITP on August 28, 2017 from the Univ. of Virginia, where she was the Director of the Institute for Business in Society.

Other staff transitions are the addition of David Kaczorowski as our new Program Manager. He has already embraced his role as the lead staff member involved with the Deputy Director in program planning. Maggie Sherriffs will continue at KITP as our evaluations coordinator, assisting with our need to assess program outcomes. Alina Gutierrez has joined KITP as my new assistant, and is well known here for her work as a student computing assistant. Martine White joined KITP as the special assistant to David Gross, and Bibiana (“Bibi”) Rojas is now the special assistant to the visitors. Please say hello to all next time you are in Kohn Hall!

~ Lars Bildsten, KITP Director
KITP Newsletter, Fall 2017