KITP’s Secret Weapon

Craig KunimotoKITP

As scientists walk through Kohn Hall, they can easily observe the blackboards and art adorning the walls, as well as their colleagues  filling offices and meeting rooms. Repeat visitors often come to recognize more and more familiar faces with each visit, especially those of KITP’s dedicated staff, like Systems Administrator Craig Kunimoto who oversees technology services and infrastructure at the institute. Craig has become one of the most familiar, friendly faces in Kohn Hall as KITP’s longest-serving staff member of nearly 28 years.

Craig grew up in nearby Goleta when it was still a small, unincorporated community. Across the street from his neighborhood were big, empty fields, which are now where people  flock for weekly deals at Costco, and crowds regularly gather on green lawns at Girsh Park. At school, he was an avid swimmer and participated on swim teams all the way through high school.

Craig attended UC Santa Cruz to study computer science, but eventually felt burnt out by his major’s emphasis on coding and programming. He discovered he was also interested in psychology, and ultimately graduated with a double-major. To pursue his new passion without giving up the California coastline, Craig headed next to UC San Diego, where he obtained a PhD in experimental and cognitive psychology. He initially sought to stay in academia because he liked research and still got to work with computers. However, as he learned more about the long and arduous road to academic tenure, his plans began to shift.

After achieving his doctorate, Craig returned home to the Santa Barbara area to look for a job. He knew he wanted to work in a science-oriented environment.  He had also been familiarizing himself with Linux, a new operating system, which at that time was becoming increasingly popular and opened up more career opportunities. Everything seemed to fall into place once Craig obtained a position at ITP in 1995 working with an operating system much like the one he taught himself how to administer, and where there is no shortage of scientists.

For nearly three decades now, Craig has been at KITP through many significant developments. When he was hired, Kohn Hall had only been built for a year. Ten years later, he attended the dedication of the building’s new wing. Nearly thirteen years after that, he took one of the first tours of the Charles T. Munger Physics Residence. Additionally, he has seen the launch of major programs like the KITP Graduate Fellows Program and the Quantitative Biology (QBio) summer course, and has worked with four of the six institute directors.

As KITP’s infrastructure and activities have expanded, Craig has taken joy in watching the flow of people grow with it. In fact, he credits the people at KITP as his main reason for staying. “The leadership and staff have always been supportive,” he explains, “it feels like you’re part of more than a team, it’s more like a family.” While he appreciates everyone he works with, he is especially thankful for Alina Gutierrez, KITP’s Online Talks Coordinator, who has been a huge help in tackling the growing list of projects that Craig previously managed on his own.

No matter how busy Craig may get, it’s unlikely to hear him complain. When asked how he de-stresses from work, he responds with ease, “well…I’m not really stressed. There’s a lot of stuff I have to do, but I don’t feel stressed about it.” Being Systems Administrator is a full-time responsibility that requires dealing with a variety of technical challenges at any given time. Still, Craig is always one of the first to offer help to anyone at KITP when he can, without asking for recognition or praise. He has volunteered as the unofficial photographer at events that otherwise wouldn’t have been documented. He has stayed late to help his coworkers wrap up conferences or clean-up after events. He quietly and consistently goes beyond his regular duties to ensure the institute runs smoothly, which is why he is often referred to by colleagues as “the secret weapon of KITP.”

KITP Chief Administrative Officer Lisa Stewart can also attest to Craig’s helpful attitude and kindness. She describes him as “a joy to work with, and a steady, solid force at KITP. He is someone that everybody can count on.”

KITP boasts that the core of its success and impact on the international scientific community is first and foremost the people, and Craig embodies this strength. “I was so fortunate to find a position at the very start of my career that matched my skills and interests so well, with people I enjoy working with. I can't imagine working anywhere else.”



by Demi Cain, KITP Development Coordinator

KITP 2023 Spring Newsletter