Director's Letter - Winter 2016

Lars Bildsten, KITP Director.

Yes, that steel you see above is at the Residence! Construction continues apace, and you can actively monitor our progress at We have had a few delicate operations; read this article to learn about one of them. We remain on pace to open for business in January 2017 and expect to have a large celebration to thank Charlie Munger for his wonderful contribution.

I want to thank all of you who contributed to KITP in 2015, more than 200 individuals! Contributions supported our Family Fund, the Career Development of our postdoctoral fellows, permanent members’ research, graduate fellows, our endowment, and Friends of KITP activities. This article, written by KITP’s Program Manager Maggie Sherriffs, describes the impact of the Family Fund on our visitors’ ability to attend for long periods, and the articles in here about our postdocs and graduate fellows make clear their impact!

Our annual appeal caused us to tally some yearly statistics about KITP. In addition to the 300 scientific papers published in 2015, we learned that it took over 4,500 pieces of chalk and 5,500 espresso shots to achieve that science! Our KITP Online website that captures all of our talks remains a huge resource for the international community, with over 15,000 talks available. Just last year, our website was visited over 100 million times, with over 2 million downloads of those talks.

Science at KITP proceeds and our postdoctoral fellows and graduate fellows continue to shine in their research efforts. KITP has expanded our Graduate Fellows Program to international institutions, which is detailed here. Description of ground-breaking postdoctoral work in both astrophysics and biology are described in this newsletter. I was particularly pleased to be personally involved in the work with Matteo Cantiello and Jim Fuller. A number of us also ran a summer school highlighting the use of the open-source code Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics (MESA) developed by KITP’s Senior Fellow in Computational Astrophysics, Bill Paxton.

The growth of our efforts in quantitative biology at KITP has been greatly enhanced by the work of Professor Boris Shraiman over the last decade. Most recently, this led to a program on Olfaction that was a wonderful education for me in the intricacies of this sense. Combined with our upcoming program on Hearing, we’ve now nearly covered all the senses. The work of Idse Heemskerk and Sebastian Streichan on compressing bio-imaging data is described here.

Please enjoy these articles. Private Foundations continue to support our efforts, with the recent renewal of Shraiman’s grant to KITP from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to support quantitative biology and the renewal of a $2,500,000 five-year grant from the Simons Foundation that supports our distinguished long term participants at KITP.

We continue our minor renovations and tidying up in Kohn Hall. This year saw the installation of a new wireless system that allows our visitors to Skype from most anywhere in and around the building, and we are updating some rather dated furniture! I am very happy to report that we have finally found a place for bikes to be stored other than Kohn Hall. In the adjacent Lot 10, this space provides security and coverage, and will be more in demand when the Residence opens.

2016 will be a busy year for KITP. In addition to finishing the building, we will be applying for the renewal of our major grant from the National Science Foundation. Wish us luck!

~ Lars Bildsten, KITP Director
KITP Newsletter, Winter 2016