KIPAC Newsletter, Spring 2014

KIPAC Newsletter #4

After a long hiatus we are excited to share KIPAC’s Newsletter # 4 to catch up with the many wonderful things that have been happening this year! As you all know we had very exciting news here, including the BICEP 2 announcement and a number of events associated with it. We couldn’t be more proud of Chao Lin-Kuo and his group on their discovery. We welcomed Bruce MacIntosh as a new KIPAC faculty member and got to see the beautiful first-light results from his planet imager GPI on Gemini. Also we will have Professors Dan Akerib and Tom Shutt joining the SLAC and KIPAC faculty this summer.  Both are experimental physicists extensively involved in the direct search for dark matter, as members of the LUX and LZ experiments.  Things continue to move forward in fantastic ways. As you will see, this newsletter again contains many other items of good news and I could not be more happy about our progress here in the last few months. Let’s keep it up folks!

Warm wishes,
on behalf of the KIPAC management team
Greg, Pat, Risa, Ziba

BICEP2 Experiment Publishes their First Results on the B-mode polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background

KIPAC held a special colloquium on March 19 to discuss the results and interpretation of the BICEP2 experiment.  It is available as a streaming video here:

The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) saw first light on January 7, 2014.

The PI of GPI is Professor Bruce Macintosh, who officially joined the Physics Department faculty in March.  Welcome Bruce!  We look forward to seeing many more new pictures and spectra of planets around other stars.

Jazz Legend Wayne Shorter and Band visited the Vizlab and spent almost three hours with us getting inspired for their concert later the same evening.

New Faculty members at SLAC / KIPAC

Professors Dan Akerib and Tom Shutt will be joining the SLAC faculty this summer.  Both are experimental physicists extensively involved in the direct search for dark matter, as members of the LUX and LZ experiments.

KIPAC Open House on Saturday evening, May 3.

Between 500 – 600 people participated in this year’s KIPAC open house on May 3.  Thanks to our enthusiastic volunteers, the event was a tremendous success.  The Kavli Building and the surrounding grounds were buzzing with people of all ages and backgrounds.  We are still receiving emails thanking us for providing such and exciting and educational event.  There’s a nice article on SLAC Today about the open house and you can view some pictures on KIPAC FB site or Flickr.

Incoming Postdoctoral Fellows

We are excited that a number of postdocs have accepted positions at KIPAC this coming fall:

Honjun An, Ashley King (Einstein and Kavli Fellow), Elisabeth Krause (Kavli Fellow), Ranjan Laha, Krzysztof Nalewajko (Einstein Fellow), Zvonimir Vlah, Marco Viero, Radek Wotjak (Porat Fellow) and Laurence Perreault Levasseur (Rouse Ball Travelling Fellow).  We look forward to welcoming them soon.

Incoming Graduate Students

This year, the Physics Department made offers to 15 applicants to the PhD program who indicated astrophysics or cosmology as their primary interest. We are very pleased that 11 of these prospective graduate students have chosen Stanford and look forward to welcoming them to KIPAC! This includes Dongwoo Chung who has also received KIPAC’s Gidding’s Graduate Student Fellowship.


Andrea Albert has provided the first (non-Newsletter) posting for KIPAC’s new blog:  How special is "3 sigma"? If you have a blog idea, contact the Outreach Committee at

KIPAC Hack Day

The first KIPAC Hack Day will start at 5 pm on evening of May 16th and will run all of Saturday. Bring your best ideas and collaborate to get something useful done quickly. For more information, contact …  


KIPAC members are regular contributors to special events at the California Academy of Sciences.  Several KIPAC members donned “Ask an Astronomer” T-shirts for the opening showing of The Dark Universe, which includes beautiful footage from Ralf Kaehler and Tom Abel.  The next upcoming event is the CalAcademy Astronomy Day on May 10th.  Please contact Sam Skillman if you would like to join!

Friday Afternoon Computing

KIPAC is now hosting Friday Afternoon Computing (FAC) -- a forum for sharing computing tools and experiences:

Roughly every two weeks, a KIPAC member or visitor addresses a topic they have found useful -- ranging from visualization and google tools, to methods employed in the analysis of the BICEP2 CMB B-mode polarization data.  Thanks to Sam Skillman for organizing this popular new event!

Latest KIPAC Workshop a success!  

A KIPAC workshop on gravitational lensing was held during the week of April 7, and it was a great success.  It paves the way for such future workshops.  The next one will take place in July, and will cover the field of clusters of galaxies. Such workshops are small meetings targeted to address specific important questions in contemporary astrophysics and cosmology.  

Please suggest your own ideas for workshops by sending email to

Bunyan Lecture

The 2014 Bunyan Lecture was delivered by Prof. John Carlstrom of University of Chicago on February 25th.  The title was “Exploring the Origins of the Universe from the Bottom of the World.”  The lecture was recorded - see  John also gave a standing-room-only seminar at SLAC on “Cosmology with the Cosmic Microwave Background: New Results and Future Prospects.”

KIPAC Faculty Retreat

KIPAC faculty enjoyed a one-day retreat at Hidden Villa on April 11 to consider major future opportunities. The venue was perfect for discussing exciting prospects and potential opportunities.

Congratulations to Risa Wechsler, who was recently elected co-spokesperson of the DESI collaboration (, along with Daniel Eisenstein of Harvard.  DESI, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, will be a 5000 fiber spectroscopic instrument, to be installed on the Mayall Telescope at Kitt Peak.  DESI plans a spectroscopic survey of about 30 millionobjects, which will achieve a 1-2 percent measurement of the distance scale out to redshift ~2.  To learn more please consider attending the DESI collaboration meeting May 28-30 at Lawrence Berkeley Lab.

The Dark Energy Survey ( completed its first year of data taking in February.  KIPAC scientists are heavily involved in analysing the data and working towards a first set of science papers.

LSST Updates

LSST has passed nearly all its milestones to begin official construction on July 1, 2014. The project had a very successful Final Design Review in December, and the Omnibus Bill passed by Congress and signed by the President in January provided the funding required to begin construction on both the NSF and DOE sides.  The final step will be the formal approval by the National Science Board at its meeting on May 6.  As summarized by LSST Director Steve Kahn, "We have waited a long time for this major event on the Project and are eager to transition into the construction phase."

Departures and transitions:

Congratulations to Julie Hlavacek-Larondo, who will join the faculty of University of Montreal in July, and to Daniel Green, who will join the faculty at the University of Toronto this summer.


Shri Kulkarni from Caltech May 12 - 14 (Hosts Steve K. and Roger R.)
Steffen Heß from AIP visiting a few days in May (Host: Tom)
Ichinohe Yuto from ISAS (Host: Norbert)  May 15 - August 15
Ángeles Moliné from Centro de Física Teórica de Partículas in Lisbon (Host: Miguel) May 1 - July 31

Upcoming Astrophysics Colloquia:

Chris Reynolds (Campus) on May 1, Dragan Huterer (SLAC) May 8, George Chapline (SLAC) May 15, Jenny Greene (SLAC) May 22, Heather Jacobson (Campus) May 29

SLAC Summer Institute

The 42nd annual SLAC summer institute will be held August 4-15, with the topic “Shining Light on Dark Matter”.  There is a great lineup of speakers and  we encourage all interested people to register!

Desktop Support at SLAC

Please call the IT helpdesk at X4357, email to or complete the online form: for any desktop support issues at SLAC. This includes problems with equipment, purchasing large or small items, conference room and videoconference troubles, etc.

Particle Fever -- The Movie!

This new documentary -- Particle Fever -- follows six physicists (including our own Savas Dimopoulos) through the turn-on of the Large Hadron Collider and the discovery of the Higgs boson. The movie was directed by physicist-turned-director Mark Levinson and edited by Walter Murch (Apocalyse Now, ...) and is now playing at the Aquarius Theatre in Palo Alto:

Other links of interest: KIPAC’s most famous backpack! Summary of SLAC/PPA/KIPAC cosmic frontier strategy for DOE-relevant programs.