KIPAC Newsletter, Fall 2013

KIPAC Newsletter #3 (Dec 20, 2013)

by Tom Abel

In this newsletter: Computing tips and tricks and forum, New Committees and Membership, KIPAC @ 10 recap, updated KIPAC bibliography, and much more.

Welcome to Newsletter #2. The quarter is well underway and the first hectic period is over. We have a number of new student members this quarter whom we will briefly introduce. We also have created a few new committees to help us organize our institute. I am extremely grateful to all for the enthusiasm that you have shown in contributing new ideas and volunteering for our new committees, and all the excellent excellent advice and feedback you provided. Please keep the ideas coming!

Warm wishes,
Tom Abel
for the KIPAC management team (Aaron, Greg, Pat, Risa, Tom & Ziba)

New Porat Postdoctoral Fellow Endowment

With great pleasure we can report that on the occasion of Dan Porat’s 91st birthday, and out of admiration and respect for her father, Ruth Porat and her husband, Anthony Paduano, have generously given to Stanford. With a match by the University this will create an endowment that will be able fund one postdoctoral fellow here at KIPAC. The Porat postdoctoral fellow will be competitively selected this year for the first time.

New Committees

We have been able to constitute our new committees, some of which already have met for the first time. We include the membership list below and also list a high level purpose statement. Please talk to any of the respective committee members about any issues or suggestions you may have for the particular areas. The functions of the former executive committee have been absorbed into this set of larger committees and the management team. Any further input you may have on how to best help us organize KIPAC to be efficient and to best support our research activities will always be welcome.

Strategic Planning Committee

Purpose: To develop major strategic directions of KIPAC and to weigh major decisions affecting KIPAC’s future.
Membership: Abel (co-chair), Burchat (co-chair), Cabrera, Drell, Irwin, Kahn, Kuo, Madejski, Michelson, Roodman, Schindler, Wechsler

Postdoc and Student Affairs Committee

Purpose: Standing committee to run the annual postdoc competition, strategize on recruitment and mentoring for students and postdocs, and suggest and implement ways to improve the student and postdoc experience at KIPAC.
Membership: Funk (co-chair), Allen (co-chair), Abel, Drell, Madejski, Petrosian, Senatore, and two student representatives Chris Davis and Adam Wright, as well as Luigi Tibaldo and Becky Canning the two postdoc representatives.

Intellectual Life Committee

Purpose: To strategically invigorate the intellectual life of KIPAC, including maintaining a lively visitor program and series of seminars and workshops that optimally engages our members and visitors.
Membership: Madejski (co-chair), Wechsler (co-chair), Burchat, Cunha, Gilmore, Graham, Lu, Marshall, Charles, Digel, Hlavacek- Larrondo, Moskalenko, Rozo, Wood, Zhuravleva

Education and Outreach Committee

Purpose: To represent and communicate KIPAC science to the public, including organization of outreach events -- from high school outings to institute open houses.
Membership: P. Marshall (co-chair), Mahdavi (co-chair), Albert, Bard, Craig, Cunning, Devaraj, Furniss, Gill, Hezaveh, Jogler, Kaehler, Malyshev, S. Marshall, Meyers, Skillmann, Werner, Wu

Social Life & Activities Committee

Purpose: To organize social events that give all KIPAC members and friends of KIPAC the opportunity to meaningfully interact outside of work and enhance the relationships already formed.

Membership: Siegel (chair), Craig, Albert, Franckowiak, Furniss, Mertsch, Stricker

Computing and Intranet
Discussion Forum

Thanks to Rachel and Yao's suggestions and Stuart's help we now have a computing discussion board on our plone site that enables us to ask questions and simply post solutions to issues that relate to computing.

FAC, Friday Afternoon Computing Group

Thanks to Sam Skillman's initiative we have now a group that meets every other week on Friday afternoon at 3:30. His email sums it up nicely:

As some of you heard at the Tuesday Tea Talk, I'd like to start up a relaxed venue to talk about various tools and tricks that people use to get things done.  By that I mean everything from distributed version control systems to paper/citation management to code editors to GPU computing to things like the IPython notebook.

My hope is that for each meeting we can have someone talk about a tool/technology for 15 minutes or so, after which we do things much more free-form.  If people have alternate opinions, they could jump in and say "well, i actually use this to do that, and here's why."  We can also use the time to bounce ideas off others if we are running into a wall in our research/analysis, and find out if someone has written that code already to make the *perfect plot*.


What: FAC (Friday Afternoon Computing)

When: This Friday @ 3:30pm 
Where: Kavli Bldg 3rd Floor Conference Room
Why: Because we all wish we could get things done more easily

Who: Everyone


Also this will alternate between SLAC and campus and there is a social event following each time. Icecream and other fabulous things may be provided. Check for yourself!

Updated the KIPAC bibliography

We updated our bibliography again at
and as always it will have updated automatically with some papers that are false positives and should not be associated with us. Please look for another email for us explaining how you can log into the system and reject these false papers. This has to be only done once for every wrong paper and they will continue to be rejected even when we update again. Also we can use customized search strings for the ADS query associated with your papers which can help significantly decrease false positives in the future. Please work with Tom or Stuart to improve this system. Over time it will in fact get easier and easier and as so often there always is another review around the corner for which this can be a very helpful tool.

New KIPAC members
Michael Baumer

Mike, a first year physics graduate student, is doing a rotation with Sarah Church on developing millimeter and centimeter wavelength experiments to map CO in nearby galaxies (the Argus receiver) and to probe the epochs of reionization and galaxy formation (the COMA experiment). Mike is working on testing prototype components for these experiments, and using the test results to improve the designs prior to production.

Saptarshi Chaudhuri

Saptarshi is a first-year physics graduate student who is doing a rotation with Kent Irwin. He has developed some novel ideas for quantum-limited microwave amplification based on parametric processes in traveling-wave superconducting transmission lines. In addition to analyzing these ideas, he has been studying applications in searches for different dark matter candidates.

Chris Davis

Chris is a second year graduate student who has joined the Dark Energy Survey, working with Aaron Roodman.  As an initial project, Chris has begun work on understanding the Dark Energy Camera point spread function from the measured optical wavefront.  Chris has already shown that the point spread function over the entire 3 square degree field of view can be fit from wavefront data and just a few free parameters. An important goal is to use this physical characterization in the DES weak lensing analysis as a starting point for describing the Point-Spread-Function.  After this project is complete, Chris plans to move on to a study of galaxy clusters using the first year DES images.

Devon Powell

Devon, a second year graduate student, returns to work with Tom Abel. He has solved the exact direct gravitational interaction of homogeneous tetrahedra and their time evolution, and studied a number of test cases. His current projects are to work on dark matter annihilation and calculating it exactly from the dark matter phase space sheet method using tetrahedron-tetrahedron intersections, as well as exact projections of the three dimensional manifold in 6D into the a regular 3D spatial mesh.

Julian Kates Harbeck

Julian was a physics undergraduate here at Stanford and will start graduate school next fall at Harvard University in physics. Currently he is working towards a Master's degree in computer science here at Stanford. At KIPAC, he continues work he started as an undergraduate with Tom Abel concerning new algorithms for simulating the Vlasov-Poisson system for collisionless plasmas. In particular, he has been studying Landau damping, comparing a novel one dimensional scheme to the standard particle-in-cell approaches.

Sam Totorica

Sam a second year physics graduate student is doing a rotation with Tom Abel on plasma physics. He has implemented a novel numerical technique to solve the Vlasov Poisson system in one dimensions and has been studying applications such as the two stream instability and also numerical instabilities of standard plasma physics schemes.

Zhang Zhang

Zhang is a second-year graduate student who joined the Dark Energy Survey this Fall; he is working with David Burke.  As an initial project Zhang is analyzing data taken with the infrared all-sky camera RASICAM that was built at SLAC and is now operating during DES observing on Cerro Pachon in northern Chile.  This camera is used to detect thermal emission from clouds that can obstruct DES observing, and data from it provide input to DES operations and are used in off-line analyses of DECam imaging data. Zhang plans to use DES data to study cluster-cluster spatial correlations as DES data are acquired in the coming years.

Patrick Ingraham

Patrick Ingraham obtained his PhD working with René Doyon at the University of Montreal where he worked on the detection and characterization of substellar objects. Patrick is interested in astronomical instrumentation and high-contrast observations of exoplanets. While at Stanford, he will be participating in the commissioning and first light science observations of the Gemini Planet Imager.


Buvnesh Jain, visits the first week of November

Sara Buson, Nov 8th - Nov 23

Jeff Newman, visits most of the month of November

Paul Schechter, Nov 11-15

Hold the Dates

Communications workshop to be held at Stanford January 17-19. More information forthcoming. The last one was a huge success.

P5 will hold its meeting regarding the DOE Cosmic Frontier program at SLAC, Dec 2-4th. There will be a number of open sessions and many opportunities  for us to learn about planing for the future.

FERMI collaboration meeting Feb 17-21 at SLAC.

KIPAC Director search

KIPAC has the opportunity to look for an outstanding scientist to become its next director. The formal search is underway. Aaron Roodman and Roger Romani are co-chairing the search and the other committee members are Lars Bildsten, Steve Chu, Sarah Church, Shamit Kachru, Saul Perlmutter, Risa Wechsler, and Lance Dixon and Peter Michelson ex officio as the respective department chairs as well as Ann Arvin, Dean of Research, and David MacFarlane, Associate Lab director of PPA. Please feel free to talk to the search chairs and any of the committee members to provide any input you may have.

Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory seek exceptional applicants for the position of Director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (see We are seeking a visionary leader who will continue to foster the vibrant intellectual environment at Stanford and SLAC in particle astrophysics and cosmology, while also helping to identify and realize future major science opportunities in these fields.

Applicants must have a world-recognized record of accomplishment in research in the areas of astrophysics, particle astrophysics and/or cosmology, a record of outstanding scientific leadership, and a commitment to teaching and education. The successful candidate will be appointed to the faculty at the rank of Professor (with tenure), jointly between the Department of Physics and the Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

KIPAC was inaugurated in 2003 as a joint independent institute of Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to serve as a bridge between the disciplines of astrophysics, cosmology and particle physics. KIPAC's members work in the Physics and Applied Physics Departments on the Stanford campus and at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Its mission is to bring the resources of modern computational, experimental, observational and theoretical science to bear on our understanding of the universe at large. There are currently 25 Stanford and SLAC PPA faculty and 19 staff who are members of KIPAC.

Stanford University is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty. It welcomes nominations of, and applications from, women and members of underrepresented groups, as well as others who would bring added dimensions to the University's research and teaching missions.

Applicants should send materials to the search committee, co-chaired by Prof. Roger Romani and Prof. Aaron Roodman, by Dec 1, 2013. Candidates should include a cover letter, curriculum vitae, publication list, and the names of three referees to: the KIPAC Director Search Committee, c/o Amy Rutherford, 2575 Sand Hill Rd., MS 0075, Menlo Park, CA 94025;