KIPAC Newsletter, Fall 2015

Dear KIPACers,

We have many wonderful news items to share with you -- new arrivals and new KIPAC alumni, science highlights and awards, curriculum updates. Classes started today, September 21st.

We have much to look forward to in this new academic year.  


for the KIPAC management team

Tom, Pat, Ziba, Greg, and Risa

Disclaimer: We strive for accurate information but do not always get it all perfect. Please send us any corrections and additions that you would like us to include in the online version of the newsletter.

  • How to invite a visitor or speaker to KIPAC?

    • We now have a KIPAC visitor form that we encourage you to use for anyone you expect to visit KIPAC -- future speakers (for tea, cosmology seminar, colloquium), short-term visitors, etc. This public form can also be used by those who would like to visit or give a presentation at KIPAC. Please encourage your colleagues to use the KIPAC visitor form when they contact you about possible visits.  That will be very helpful for our planning purposes.  

  • KIPAC teabot update

    • KIPAC TeaBot is an automatic system that browses through new arXiv astro-ph papers everyday and sends personal suggestions to subscribers. It also sends discussion suggestions to Tea organizers, and discovers new papers that are authored by KIPAC members. You can now subscribe and customize your KIPAC teabot email subscription and it will bring papers to your attention that are likely to interest you and also sort all of astro-ph using the same machine intelligence.

  • KIPAC Committee updates:

    • The KIPAC Astrophysics Colloquium committee members are William East, Yashar Hezaveh, Irina Zhuravleva, and Jonathan Zrake.  Please feel free to use our KIPAC visitor form for suggestions for KIPAC Colloquium speakers.

    • Roger Blandford will be leading the KIPAC postdoctoral search this year. The full  committee includes Roger Blandford, Peter Graham, Tom Shutt, Risa Wechsler, Bruce Macintosh, and Chao-Lin Kuo. If you know any outstanding postdoc candidates - please do encourage them to apply.

  • People coming and going:

    • Long-Term Visitors, here - or arriving soon:  

      • Niki Kilbertus, arriving in October is a visiting Master’s student from the University of Regensburg and will work with Will East and Tom Abel on early Universe cosmology simulations.
      • Connie Rockosi, a professor at UCSC, is on sabbatical at KIPAC from now through the end of winter quarter.  Connie has played a leading role in studies of the Milky Way and its stellar halo with SDSS and SEGUE, has extensive experience building spectrographs, and is currently involved in DESI and LSST.
    • New Postdocs and Research Associates

      • Kyle Story joins us as a Kavli Fellow, coming from the University of Chicago where he worked primarily on SPT.  At KIPAC he expects to get involved in the Dark Energy Survey, as well as continuing involvement in CMB experiments.
      • Georgiana Ogrean is joining us from the CfA as a Hubble Fellow.  She works on galaxy cluster mergers using X-ray and radio observations.
      • Hirokazu Odaka will arrive later in the Fall, and will be working with Greg Madejski on the Astro-H project, studying the particle-induced background in Astro-H instruments, but also analyzing data for accreting black holes and neutron stars.  
      • Adam Mantz, coming from Univ. of Chicago, has joined Steve Allen’s group.  Adam works primarily on cluster cosmology, with X-ray surveys and LSST.
      • Ji-hoon Kim has rejoined us at KIPAC as an Einstein Fellow, most recently from Caltech.  He is focusing on hydrodynamical simulations of galaxy formation.
      • Daniel Gruen will be joining us from Munich in late fall, as an Einstein Fellow.  Daniel will continue work on the Dark Energy Survey and other topics in cosmology.
      • Mattia di Mauro is joining the Fermi team, working with Eric Charles.  His research is in the area of contribution of individual gamma-ray sources to the gamma-ray background.  
      • Alis Deason joins us as a Porat Fellow, coming from UCSC, where she just completed a Hubble Fellowship.  Alis has expertise in both observations and simulations of the formation of the Milky Way.
      • Ryan Cooke is starting a Hubble Fellowship at UCSC, and expects to spend time visiting KIPAC regularly.  Ryan works on a range of topics including BBN, absorption line systems, damped Lyman-alpha systems, and reionization.
      • Bridget Bertoni has joined us as a joint postdoc between KIPAC and SITP, arriving from University of Washington.  She will primarily work on investigations of dark matter and neutron stars.
      • Vanessa Bailey, has joined Bruce Macintosh’s group. She works on a mix of observational studies of exoplanets/brown dwarfs and commissioning of high-contrast imaging instrumentation, in particular on Adaptive Optics for the Gemini Planet Imager.
    • Graduating PhD Students

      • Kimmy Wu worked on the BICEP/Keck CMB experiments with Chao-Lin Kuo and defended her dissertation in August. She will be continuing to work on BICEP3 at Berkeley.
      • Kristi Schneck worked on (super)CDMS with Richard Partridge and Blas Cabrera, and defended her dissertation in August.  Kristi has accepted a job at Pandora starting in October.  Congrats to Kristi!
  • KIPAC Undergraduate Theses 2015
    • Marc Williamson worked with Risa Wechsler on the formation of the Milky Way in CDM.  Marc is spending the year in Europe including an internship at ETH Zurich, and will apply for graduate school in astrophysics this fall.

    • Benjamin Lehmann worked with Risa Wechsler on understanding what halo properties galaxy clustering depends on.  Ben will be staying at Stanford for a year to do a Masters degree and then will head to UCSC for graduate school in Fall 2016.

  • Congrats to our new KIPAC Postdoc and Research Associate Alumni on their new adventures:  

    • Christopher Williams is joining the Technology Development Practices team at the Exponent Engineering and Scientific Consulting, specializing in hardware security.

    • Luigi Tibaldo is taking a position in Max Planck Institut fur Kernphysik, Heidelberg, Germany.  

    • Tobias Jogler had moved to Germany, to be a Research Scientist at University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.  

    • Amy Furniss joined the faculty at California State University, East Bay (Hayward).

    • Dmitry Malyshev will be starting as a Research Scientist at University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.

    • Anna Franckowiak is moving to DESY/Zeuthen in Germany, to work on the Ice Cube neutrino experiment.

    • Krzysztof Nalewajko will be departing for a tenure-track position at the Copernicus Center in Warsaw, Poland.

  • Selected news from KIPAC over the last few months --

    • News from LSST:  

      • Congratulations to the LSST Camera team for successfully passing the CD-3 review in August, which allows start of construction!

      • The LSST Project and Community Workshop 2015 was held in Bremerton WA in August. In addition to project and science meetings, the meeting included an Observing Strategy Workshop, and six public lectures plus an astronomy slam featuring five different astronomers at each of five venues in Bremerton -- a small city that truly welcomed the LSST meeting with open arms! See this Puget Sound blog for a conversation with LSST Director Steve Kahn and Bob Abel -- the mastermind behind the public outreach -- pictured in the photo.

    • The DESI Project has just achieved CD2 Approval. CD2 approval authorizes the project scientific scope, schedule, and funding profile from the Department of Energy.  DESI is currently on track to start observations in 2019, and will be observing redshifts for more than 30 million galaxies and quasars to map the evolution of the Universe’s expansion rate and growth of structure.  Risa Wechsler serves as the Co-Spokesperson of the Science Collaboration, Aaron Roodman and Kevin Reil are leading the focus and alignment activities, and Eli Rykoff is currently engaged in validation of the precursor imaging surveys.

    • Aaron Roodman is part of an eight-person strong Cosmic Visions panel on dark energy. The group will collect and coordinate ideas from the HEP community for research activities, experiments, projects or facilities that will complement, build on, and extend beyond the current program planned for the 2020s in the 2014 P5 report (DESI, LSST, CMB-S4) in investigating the physics probed by surveys. The group was charged to produce a white paper in January 2016 that will include diverse ideas for the future relevant to the HEP program, ranging from blue sky methods to new project concepts to further use of existing facilities. There will be a small workshop here in the middle of November to allow for input and wide ranging discussion to inform the panel.

    • Bruce Macintosh is a member of the “Mid-decadal Astro Survey”.  Watch for local discussions, and please discuss with Bruce your ideas.

    • DES discovered eight new dwarf galaxy candidates, bringing the total number of DES candidates for 2015 to 17!  This work was led by former KIPAC students Alex Drlica-Wagner and Keith Bechtol, with involvement from Eli Rykoff, Risa Wechsler, Yao-Yuan Mao, and others at KIPAC. These new detections will be  again very exciting for our Fermi team to follow up on.

    • DES had a number of science papers out this summer mostly based on the Science Verification data, including the first cosmology results with weak lensing, which involved many years of work from many KIPAC people including Matt Becker, who led the shear two-point measurements, and Eli Rykoff, who played a key role in much of the early data analysis.  DES started the third of five years of observations last month.

    • The joint Japanese-US X-ray - sensitive satellite Astro-H is on-track for launch in early 2016.  A number of KIPAC members -- Greg Madejski, Steve Allen, Roger Blandford, Ashley King, Norbert Werner, and Irina Zhuravleva -- are actively involved in preparing the observing plan for the mission.  The prime instrument aboard Astro-H will be a high-resolution (1/1000 at 6 keV) calorimetric X-ray spectrometer.  

    • The Fermi Large Area Telescope collaboration had its Fall meeting in Torino during the week of August 31st.  The Collaboration members discussed the recent results, and worked on plans for the presentations at the Fermi Symposium, to take place in Washington, November 9-13 2015.  

    • Bruce Macintosh, the lead investigator for the Gemini Planet Imager, and his team have discovered a 'young Jupiter' exoplanet; the discovery was published in Science.

    • KIPAC research on the early Universe is featured in the hour-long BBC2 program Cosmic Dawn, episode 14 in season 54 of the well-known series Horizon. The full show can be streamed.

  • Mark your calendars

    • Friday, December 18:  KIPAC holiday party from 4:00 PM to 7:00 (or later) at Mistral Restaurant and Bar

    • LSST DESC collaboration meetings (Dark Energy School on Monday, meeting Tuesday-Thursday, Hack Day Friday) --

      • October 26-30 at Argonne National Laboratory

      • March 7-11, 2016 at SLAC

    • DESI Collaboration meeting, Nov 2 - 5 at Argonne National Laboratory

    • Fermi Collaboration Meeting, March 14 - 18 at SLAC

    • DES Collaboration meeting, May 9 - 13th, 2016 at SLAC

    • High Energy Density Laboratory Astrophysics Conference HEDLA 2016, May 16 - 20, 2016, at SLAC

  • Computing and astro/cosmology classes -- of special interest to first-year grad students:

    • A group of computer savvy KIPAC members led by Yao-Yuan Mao is organizing a “KIPAC Computing Bootcamp” -- an event aimed at introducing the computing tools and facilities used in many KIPAC projects. The bootcamp will take place during the first week of the quarter, with a schedule that accommodates graduate courses: Wed 9/23 from 1:30 to 3:00 and Thurs 9/24 from 1:00 to 2:30 on campus (basic shell scripts and Python), and Fri 9/25 from 12:30 to 5:00 at SLAC (more advanced topics in Python, KIPAC computing resources, Git, SQL).  See the bootcamp webpage for details and registration.  

    • All grad students working in astrophysics and cosmology -- including first-year students -- are encouraged to consider enrolling in a new five-week, two-unit course, PHYSICS 366 - Special Topics in Astrophysics: Statistical Methods. The prerequisite is basic familiarity with Python coding (or willingness to learn quickly!) and basic statistics, and an interest in astrophysics and cosmology. The course will primarily be targeted at first and second year students, but we welcome participation from more experienced students.  See the course website for more information.

  • Three LSST @ SLAC presentations are scheduled for the Autumn quarter; they will be held at 11:30 in the Fred Kavli Building 3rd-floor conference room:

    • Elisabeth Krause, KIPAC -- Friday, Oct 16, Activities in the LSST DESC Theory & Joint Probes Working Group.

    • David Burke, SLAC -- Friday, Nov 6, Forward Modelled Photometric Calibration of DES Imaging Data.

    • Connie Rockosi, UCSC -- Friday, Dec 4, stay tuned for the title.

Everyone is welcome to attend!

The LSST@SLAC calendar of upcoming events and archive of past presentations can be found on the LSST@SLAC community confluence page. If you would like to receive regular announcements of LSST@SLAC events or need access to the confluence page, please send an email to Charlotte Hee and Richard Dubois (, to join the lsst-local email list.

  • An interactive Dark Energy School was held as part of the DESC meeting at SLAC in February 2015. The lesson topics ranged from “How to use statistics to describe the large scale structure of the Universe” to “How the physics of sensors impacts dark energy science.” Course materials, including videos of each lecture, slides, interactive materials, and resources are linked to the public DESC web page.