Director's Letter - Spring 2023

The banner image is a photo from our celebration of the naming of the David Gross Commons in Kohn Hall. As KITP’s Director for 15 years, David (fifth from left above) led a remarkable expansion of KITP’s activities, while at the same time renewing the faculty and expanding our sources of support. Due to his efforts, KITP now has vigorous programming across all of physics (including astrophysics and quantitative biology), broader support for early-career physicists, and an enlarged Kohn Hall to accommodate the nearly 1000 long-term visitors every year. David’s remarkable ability to track a broad range of science and see where KITP could successfully expand its scope is a testament to his deep intellect and ravenous scientific curiosity. David not only recruited me to the KITP as a Permanent Member, but he also enthusiastically convinced me to succeed him as Director. Thank you, David, for your tireless efforts on the behalf of all of science, not only here at KITP, but also across the globe. And, thanks also must go to Jackie Savani (fourth from left, above) for your support and engagement here at KITP.

In honor of David, Dr. Mani L. Bhaumik (far right, above) made a generous donation to our postdoctoral scholar endowment. Mani has been a remarkably generous supporter of theoretical physics, most notably with the establishment of the Mani L. Bhaumik Institute for Theoretical Physics at UCLA. Mani provided a wonderful quote for David’s plaque: ``There is no one I know who has done more for the international physics community than David Gross”. We were also so happy to have UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang (second from left, above) and Dilling Yang (third from left, above) with us for the celebration. So much of KITP’s success is due to their support of the institute over the last nearly 30 years.

The community of Montecito suffered a terrible disaster in January 2018 when the combination of a fire earlier in the year and a dramatic rainfall led to a debris flow event. Lives were lost, homes were ruined, and rebuilding continues to this day. By coincidence, we were running a program at the time entitled: ``Physics of Dense Suspensions”, which brought together physicists, geo-physicists and fluid dynamicists who study the nature of flow in liquids that contain solid material (e.g. water with suspended sand). The similarities with the debris flow were many, and program participant Douglas Jerolmack (U. Penn) quickly went to Montecito to study what happened there in a collaborative effort with faculty here at UCSB. Please read the article here to learn their insights.

KITP is a special place for our scientific visitors in many, many ways. One particular aspect is the excellence and dedication of our staff towards the mission of ensuring that our visitors have the most productive stay possible. The article here highlights Craig Kunimoto, KITP’s longest serving staff member. His story tells it all, but, even more, just recently Craig was instrumental in trouble-shooting an IT issue at the Munger Residence that was inhibiting our ability to monitor our hot-water system. Craig continues to amaze us all!

We strive to be at the frontier of physics at all times. For that reason, we remain open to rapidly moving when the physics community identifies a cause to rapidly convene. Prior “Rapid Response Programs” discussed LIGO’s discovery of black holes and the experimental realization of twisted graphene layers as platforms for scientific discovery. UCSB Physics Professor Nathaniel Craig identified the need to gather the High Energy Physics community to discuss the challenges posed by a possible Muon Collider. The outcomes of that event are described here. I’m also happy to announce that Nathaniel will be working with us on a five-year Particle Theory Initiative to create new connections across physics.

KITP is now providing a focused 6-8 week visit to KITP for a few faculty members every year who have heavy teaching loads at minority-serving undergraduate institutions. KITP Fellow Louise Edwards from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was with us early this year, and shares her experience here. We just selected our second cohort of this program, which continues to be generously supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation.

I close with a sad note. This May we learned of the passing of Professor James Hartle. Jim was one of the UCSB Physics Department "Gang of Four" who won the founding grant from the National Science Foundation that created the Institute in 1979. As a prominent scientist who studied the early universe and general relativity, Jim was a giant in physics. He also continuously supported the success of KITP, both by serving as Director for two years, and in successfully recruiting David Gross from Princeton to join the institute and lead us in so many new directions. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to Mary Jo and all of the Hartle family.



~ Lars Bildsten, KITP Director

KITP 2023 Spring Newsletter