Director's Letter - Fall 2018

Lars Bildsten.
Photo by Jakub Ostrowski.

I hope that by now you have seen our 2018 Impact Report, which is the first edition of what will become our annual report to all KITP supporters. In addition to stories highlighting activities at KITP, it also discusses the evolving funding landscape for science research. The monthly magazine Physics Today wrote a thoughtful piece about increasing support from philanthropy and private science foundations for physics research that highlighted KITP’s ability to navigate in these new funding waters, and its broad impact across physics. To illustrate this new landscape, in 2018, 60% of our funding comes from the National Science Foundation. The remaining 40% is coming from private foundations (e.g. the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Kavli Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Simons Foundation) and private philanthropy. Many of you have contributed, and we all thank you for your instrumental support!

Fall is the time of transition. We have recently bid farewell to our founding manager of the Munger Residence, James Brill, who moved to Ohio to pursue his passion for guitars as a writer for the venerable guitar parts supplier, StewMac. James did a remarkable job at establishing the operational model for the Residence, and worked tirelessly to engage all of our visitors. His successor, Carlos Marquez, started this October. Carlos has been with UC Santa Barbara housing for many years, and we are very fortunate to have him! We also said goodbye to IT Director Kevin Barron, who retired this year after more than two decades of service to the institute. My thanks to both for their dedicated service to KITP’s mission.

October also marks Chief Administrative Officer Lisa Stewart’s first full year with us. In addition to leading all of our staff, she also launched KITP’s twitter account @KITP_UCSB in January. It has taken off rapidly, with over 1,000 followers in less than a year! Read Lisa’s article on the back cover to get some insights into how Twitter is working as a new tool for outreach and science collaboration.

In other staffing news, I am pleased to announce that Mark Bowick has agreed to continue to serve in his important role as Deputy Director, and I look forward to continued collaboration with him on our important scientific programs and outreach efforts.

Six of our postdoctoral scholars have moved on to new positions across the world: Gábor Halász to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tim Hsieh to the Perimeter Institute in Canada, Jianpeng Liu to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Michael McCourt to Invoca, a Santa Barbara start-up, Vlad Rosenhaus to the Institute for Advanced Study, and Chiara Toldo to Ecole Polytechnique, both in Paris and CEA-Saclay.

We have eight new postdoctoral scholars arriving at KITP this academic year, their research ranging from condensed matter and soft condensed matter to particle theory, astro, and high energy physics. David Aasen and Thomas Kupfer come to us from Caltech, Isabel Garcia Garcia from Oxford University, Adam Jermyn from Cambridge University, Noah Mitchell from University of Chicago, Benny Tsang from UT Austin, and Huajia Wang and Tianci Zhou both from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Most have arrived and are already engaged with all that’s happening at KITP! It’s been a busy year for outreach. Locally, we have continued our tradition of Public Lectures and Friends of KITP Chalk Talks at Kohn Hall, and KITP postdoc Eyal Karzbrun also gave an intriguing Café KITP talk (read here) describing how the folds of the brain form. Additionally, we have initiated a new tradition of events in New York City. Our salon in May featured recent Kavli Prize-winner James Hudspeth of Rockefeller University speaking on the physics of hearing at the home of KITP supporter Michael Coyle. It was a special evening for me, as I had just learned of my election to the National Academy of Sciences that morning! Well-deserved accolades also came to Leon Balents, who was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year.

We are pleased to feature two articles from KITP program participants Doug Jerolmack (read here) and Jodi Cooley (read here) who both share about experiences at KITP and their research.

Finally, it’s rare when theoretical physics makes front-page news. It’s even more rare when it appears on the cover of a top academic journal like Nature magazine! KITP postdoc Yan-Fei Jiang achieved just that with his research on the enigmatic properties of the envelopes of massive stars. This result was found via one of the largest supercomputer simulations ever done for this type of astronomical object, and the 3D images are fascinating. Here is a summary of his research and accompanying images.

The image above is from a painting by Marcia Burtt in the Lounge of the Munger Residence. Marcia’s art hangs throughout the building for the enjoyment of all our visitors.

~ Lars Bildsten, KITP Director
KITP Newsletter, Fall 2018