KIPAC Newsletter, Fall 2016


Dear KIPACers,


We are already well into another great academic year for KIPAC. With this latest Newsletter we want to give you an overview of the comings and goings, alert you to upcoming events and opportunities, let you know about upcoming courses -- and more. Please also have a look at the longer news story at the end, by Steve Allen and others; it describes our roles in making Athena, the next generation large European X-ray space telescope, a reality.


Let us also remember our commitment to support each other through what has been a very difficult year for many and perhaps most of us. Over the course of this very long presidential election campaign and in the aftermath of the election result we have all been exposed to deeply hurtful rhetoric and some of the most divisive language many of us have ever heard and seen. We cannot stress enough our deep commitment for KIPAC to be true to the Stanford mission as expressed well in the letter we all received from the university president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, and provosts John Etchemendy and Persis Drell:

Even as we maintain our focus on education and research in service to the world, we must reaffirm our bedrock values of free expression, diversity and inclusion. This includes promoting a culture where all opinions can be heard and respected. Our university is enriched by the perspectives we each contribute.

The members of our institute have a very wide range of backgrounds and as scientists we always think about our enterprise as a global human endeavor in which we work across borders, whether they are physical or imagined. We will need to stay vigilant and continue to do our best, and improve wherever we can, to maintain and strengthen the bridges we have already built, look for opportunities for new ones to be constructed, to bring down walls where they exist and stop new ones from being erected.

These events and ongoing discussions add additional stress to many of our lives and it is more important than ever to help each other to manage it well, supporting and taking care of each other at any opportunity. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us and also take advantage of the many University resources such as the ones summarized by Cardinal at Work and BeWell@Stanford for all employees, and the Postdoc Assistance Program and Graduate Life Office specifically.


We hope you’ll have a very successful quarter! Also please use this moment to mark the early evening of Friday the 9th of December on your calendar to be sure to come celebrate together at the KIPAC holiday party.


Best wishes from,

Greg, Pat, Risa, Tom & Ziba


KIPAC by the numbers

Within KIPAC we currently have over 20 faculty, some 33 students, 39 postdocs & research associates, 58 scientific staff,  8 administrative staff and 1 IT staff -- so over 160 members in all.  We took stock of the papers published in the last year, and found that current KIPAC members co-authored 547 papers in refereed journals!  Our members manage federal research funding in excess of 20 million dollars per year on a broad range of topics within Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. This is not even counting the project funding of the big DOE projects such as LSST, SuperCDMS and LZ in which we play such large roles.


Upcoming meetings and events

  • Hitomi workshop, Nov. 14-18th 2016;  discussion of the analysis and interpretation of data on hand.

  • LSSTC+KIPAC blind analysis workshop, January 18-20th (TBC) 2017.

  • LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration meeting and Dark Energy School & Hack Day at SLAC February 13-17th 2017.

  • CMB-S4 workshop at SLAC February 27-28th 2017 (TBC)

  • Fermi collaboration meeting at CERN, March 27-31st, 2017.

  • Please plan to join the KIPAC holiday party on Friday, December 9th from 5:00 - 9:00PM at Vino Locale in Palo Alto.  

  • Three graduate-level courses related to astrophysics and cosmology will be offered in the Winter Quarter:  PHYSICS 260 Introduction to Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics, PHYSICS 360 Modern Astrophysics (3 units), and PHYSICS 366 Special Topics in Astrophysics: Statistical Methods (2 units). Both are 10-week courses.


Long-term Visitors

  • Suttiwat Madlee, postdoctoral fellow at  Mahidol University in Thailand. Working with the Fermi group from Nov. 1 -  August 31, 2017.

  • Silvia Manconi, graduate student at Turin University in Italy.  Working with the Fermi group for 6 months starting in January 2017.


Departures and new adventures:

  • Richard Anantua completed his PhD with Roger Blandford and has started as a California Alliance Postdoctoral Fellow at the UC Berkeley Theoretical Astrophysics Center. His thesis is entitled “Towards multiwavelength observations of relativistic jets from general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations.”

  • Will East accepted a five year Director’s fellowship position at the Perimeter Institute.

  • Matt Lewandowski completed his PhD work with Leonardo Senatore and has started as a Postdoctoral Fellow, Institut de Physique Theorique, (CEA), Saclay. His thesis entitled “The Effective Field Theory of Large Scale Structure in Cosmology”.

  • Simon Foreman completed his PhD with Leonardo Senatore and has started as a postdoctoral fellow at CITA. His thesis is entitled “An Effective Field Theory Approach to Cosmological Structure Formation”.

  • Jeff Jen completed a thesis with Blas Cabrera entitled: “Phonon Sensor Dynamics for Cryogenic Dark Matter Search Experiment: A study of Quasiparticle Transport in Aluminum coupled to Tungsten Transition Edge Sensors.”

  • Tony Li is completing his PhD with Risa Wechsler and Sarah Church and has accepted a position at Apple, where he will be working on topics in natural language processing.

  • Yao-Yuan Mao completed his PhD on “Modeling the Distribution of Dark Matter and its Connection to Galaxies” with Risa Wechsler.  He has started as the Langley Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Josh Meyers has joined the LSST Data Management team.  He is working with the Princeton group (but residing in the Bay Area) on developing algorithms to meet the PSF requirements. We look forward to continued interactions with Josh through KIPAC.

  • Robert Moffat completed his thesis work with Blas Cabrera with the thesis “Two dimensional Spatial Imaging of Charge Transport in Germanium Crystals at Cryogenic Temperatures.”  He continues working at Stanford with the CDMS group.  

  • Matt Sieth is completing his PhD thesis with Sarah Church. He is continuing as a postdoc with Sarah to reap the benefits of his hard work on the Argus instrument at the Green Bank Telescope.

  • Ondrej Urban defended his PhD thesis, entitled “New Insights Into Galaxy Cluster Astrophysics Using the Suzaku X ray Satellite.” He is working for a software startup HAL24K Data Intelligence Labs.  

  • Yajie Yuan’s thesis was entitled “Particle acceleration in magnetized, relativistic outflows of astrophysical sources.”  She defended successfully in the late Summer, and has started as a Spitzer Post-doctoral Fellow at Princeton.  

  • Bridget Bertoni left her postdoctoral position at KIPAC to join Acumen LLC to work among other things on data analytics to inform healthcare policy.


New arrivals:

  • Ian Czekala has developed a novel approach that combines spatially resolved sub-millimeter spectral line imaging and optical/near-infrared high resolution spectroscopy to derive the fundamental properties of a young star: mass, temperature, and radius. He is excited to exploit Alma and G-PI to further his studies here.

  • Alden Fan (Kavli fellow) As part of the DarkSide collaboration, Alden used a Time Projection Chamber filled with reduced-radioactivity liquid argon from underground wells to get the world’s best limit on WIMP dark matter interactions with argon nuclei. He also built and operated a table-top liquid argon detector to study the fundamental response of the detector medium, and looks forward to applying those techniques to liquid xenon detectors at KIPAC.

  • Gregory Green (Porat Fellow). Gregory has produced a three-dimensional map of dust reddening in the Milky Way, based on photometry from Pan-STARRS 1 and 2MASS. This involved inferring the distance, reddening and type of approximately 800 million stars, and using stars along small lines of sight to infer the dust reddening versus distance.  In addition to dust, he is currently working on PSF modeling and is interested in a wide range of topics in statistical inference from big data sets.

  • Pierre-François Leget joined Pat Burchat and her group in preparations for LSST science. Pierre-François is coming from CNRS/IN2P3, Laboratoire de Physique Corpusculaire de Clermont-Ferrand, where he worked on SNIa as a cosmological distance probe.  He is now turning his attention to weak lensing science.

  • Aaron Phipps (Kavli Fellow) As a member of the SuperCDMS collaboration, Arran has helped operate a deep underground array of cryogenic germanium detectors in an effort to directly detect WIMP dark matter. He has designed a fully-cryogenic HEMT-based charge amplifier with the best ionization energy resolution ever achieved with a CDMS detector. He has also developed an apparatus to study the fundamental charge transport physics which determine the ionization collection efficiency of these detectors. Arran is excited to apply his knowledge of dark matter detectors and low temperature electronics to search for axion-like particles with the Dark Matter Radio experiment.

  • Dan Wilkins (Einstein Fellow) has completed his PhD thesis covering interpretation of X-ray data for accreting black holes at Cambridge University:  this includes the full General Relativistic treatment of radiation from the accretion disk surrounding the black hole.  He intends to continue his work on accreting sources, but plans to also address the issue of formation of relativistic jets associated with accretion on compact sources.


Argus First Light

Congratulations to Sarah Church and her group for first light at the new Argus instrument at the Green Bank Telescope. Argus is a 16-pixel W-band focal plane array for millimeter spectroscopy, operating in the 85-116 GHz range. We will have a more detailed article on this in a future Newsletter.


Athena – the Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics

Athena is the second large (L-class) mission in the European Space Agency's Cosmic Vision 2015–25 plan. The mission is currently under formal study, with launch foreseen in 2028.


Athena is designed to probe two key astrophysical questions: how does ordinary matter assemble into the large-scale structures we see today? and how do black holes grow and shape the Universe?


To address the first question, it is necessary to map hot gas structures in the Universe – specifically the gas in clusters and groups of galaxies, and the intergalactic medium – to determine their physical properties and track their evolution through cosmic time.


To answer the second question, supermassive black holes (SMBH) must be revealed, even in obscured environments, out into the early Universe, and both the inflows and outflows of matter and energy as the black holes grow must be understood.


Because most of the baryonic component of the Universe is locked up in hot gas at temperatures of millions of degrees, and because of the extreme energetics of the processes close to the event horizon of black holes, answers to these questions require space-based observations in the X-ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. By combining a large X-ray telescope with state-of-the-art scientific instruments, Athena will make vital contributions toward meeting these goals.


As part of the NASA funded US contribution to the Athena mission, KIPAC researchers Steve Allen, Sven Herrmann, Kent Irwin, Roger Romani, and Greg Madejski are working with colleagues at KIPAC and other labs and universities to help develop the Athena instruments, and plan for Athena’s observations.. These instruments include an X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) for high-spectral resolution imaging, and a Wide Field Imager (WFI) for high count rate, moderate resolution spectroscopy over a large field of view. These groundbreaking instruments will enable a host of science discoveries, including the central mission goals, and many others beyond.