KIPAC Newsletter, Summer 2017

Dear KIPACers,

With this Newsletter, we review a series of exciting events and workshops that KIPAC has hosted in 2017, and welcome a new cohort of graduate students and postdocs.  We also bid adieu to those who are moving on to the next stage in their careers. See below for details. We’ve also included some dates for upcoming events, and courses of possible interest to KIPAC students, that will be offered in 2017/18. 

We had such a great time at our first KIPAC camp retreat at Fallen Leaf Lake and are happy to report we’ll get to go back to Fallen Leaf Lake next year, September 17-19, 2018, before the start of Fall quarter; please mark your calendars now! A lot of new ideas and suggestions were generated at the retreat. In addition, many of us have been working on white papers and suggestions to submit to Stanford’s Long-Range Planning process, which aims to engage all of us to submit ideas under the theme of “A purposeful University.”  There is still time through the end of June (this week) to submit your ideas. They can be as short as one sentence or described in as many as 3 pages. If you have ideas that are directly related to KIPAC that we may be able to work on, we encourage you to please submit them to Ziba so we consider them as well. President Eisenhower often gets quoted as saying “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” We agree that stepping back and thinking broadly to do some planning and generating new ideas is helping us keep KIPAC the fun and productive institute we like it to be.


Best wishes, from

Greg, Pat, Risa, Tom & Ziba


Meetings and Events:

We hosted a  stimulating workshop on “Blind Analysis in High-Stakes Survey Science: When, Why, and How?”, March 13-15, 2017, supported by KIPAC and the LSSTC Enabling Science program. The workshop is described in a KIPAC piece, “They blinded it for science”, by Lori White, and is featured in a Symmetry article, “The facts and nothing but the facts”, by Manuel Gnida.  Many thanks to Elisabeth Krause and all the members of the organizing committee for designing an interactive workshop that engaged a very broad set of scientists. You can view the Round Table summaries; informal proceedings are being drafted.

Another successful LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration meeting was hosted at SLAC, February 13-17, 2017. The DE School on Monday featured lessons on strong and weak lensing, null tests, and machine learning;  videos, slides, and other resources are available for all 22 lessons given at five DE Schools to date. Phil Marshall organized another productive Hack & Sprint Day on Friday. This DESC meeting also marked the kick-off for election of the next DESC Spokesperson. The elected spokesperson is -- dr.phil.marshall! A big thanks to Phil for taking on this new responsibility. To make room for his new commitments, Phil has handed off hack day organization to KIPAC alum Yao-Yuan Mao, now a postdoctoral fellow at PITT PACC. He also handed off his DESC Strong Lensing Working group convener role to Tom Collett and Chris Fastnacht.


The team planning for the next generation of Cosmic Microwave Background experiments met at SLAC February 27 - March 1. This workshop was a continuation of a successful series of workshops bringing together the CMB community to plan a coordinated “Stage-4” (S4)  ground-based CMB experiment. Themes of this workshop included a particular focus on galaxy clusters and small angular scale science goals, systems engineering and technical flowdown, and the discussion of the structure of a formal CMB-S4 scientific collaboration. The publicly accessible Web site describing the workshop content is in theWorkshop Wiki. Thanks to Zeesh and Kent for your efforts to organize the workshop!  


Dan Akerib, Maria Elena Monzani and Tom Shutt organized a collaboration meeting for the Lux/LZ direct dark matter detection experiment on March 9-12. Over 120 collaborators attended, making it the largest LZ gathering so far. The event was preceded by a 3-day long analysis workshop, which kicked off the preparations for the first LZ Mock Data Challenge (coming up in July). The visit was also the first opportunity for many collaborators to see the new LZ liquid xenon test platform at the IR2 hall at SLAC.  It was a terrific opportunity to showcase our experimental effort on the project - the efforts of the organizers are very appreciated!  

Daniel Gruen, Chris Davis, Pierre-François Léget and Josh Meyers organized a workshop on modelling the point-spread function and measuring galaxy shapes in the Dark Energy Survey and for LSST. Together with external participants, they had a  four day (February 1-13) hack session at Point Montara Lighthouse, where, among other things, they ran a Gaussian process PSF model and a fully Bayesian shear estimation code on real data for the first time. Thanks for your efforts in making this workshop happen!  

The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), an instrument designed to directly image giant planets and circumstellar disks around nearby stars, may be getting an upgrade. In late 2018, GPI will be removed from the Gemini South telescope in Chile in order to make way for a new instrument. But thankfully it is unlikely to be mothballed; the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii may have an open instrument slot.  On March 8-10, theGPI team held a workshop bringing together both the GPI instrument team and external experts who have built similar instruments to brainstorm about how to move GPI to the North and what upgrades might be considered as part of that process. Ideas ranged from simple maintenance to ambitious upgrades to GPI’s adaptive optics system and science camera. Proposals based off ideas from this meeting are in the works!  Many thanks to Vanessa Bailey, Andrew Norton, and Bruce Macintosh for their efforts in organizing the workshop.  


The first KIPAC Sierra Retreat was held at the Stanford Sierra Camp at beautiful Fallen Leaf Lake, May 9-11, 2017. The ~50 attendees included grad students, postdocs, research staff, faculty, and a few family members. The amazing scenery and fantastic weather facilitated a truly special venue for close interactions -- from “speed collaborating” at the picnic tables by the water and breakouts on the decks, to informal discussions on a not-so-easy hike through the rapidly melting snow-pack! See the summary google slides for findings and recommendations from the 16(!) breakout sessions, and a few photos of happy KIPAC campers.


The next KIPAC Sierra Retreat will be held Mon - Wed, September 17-19, 2018.  This is the early part of the week before instruction begins on September 24. This timing for the Retreat will provide an excellent opportunity for new members of KIPAC -- e.g., new postdocs and 2nd-year grad students who have settled with a KIPAC group -- to engage both intellectually and socially with the broader KIPAC family.


The next KIPAC Open House will be in May 2018.


SLAC Summer Institute will take place August 14-25.  This year, the focus is quite relevant to research conducted at KIPAC:  the theme is “Cosmic Opportunities.”  Please consider attending!  Note that you need to register to attend the plenary lectures.  See for details.  July 7th is the past day for the early registration rate, and regular registration will be accepted until August 7.  


Graduate-level Physics courses for next year for consideration by KIPAC Students:

Fall quarter:

PHYSICS 262 - General Relativity

PHYSICS 361 - Cosmology

PHYSICS 367 - **Instrumentation in Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology

Winter quarter:

PHYSICS 260 - Introduction to Stellar & Galactic Astrophysics

PHYSICS 211 - Continuum Mechanics

Spring quarter:

PHYSICS 252 - Introduction to Particle Physics

PHYSICS 261 - Introduction to Cosmology & Extragalactic Astrophysics

PHYSICS 301 - Astrophysics Laboratory


** Here are a few more details about PHYSICS 367, "Experimental Methods in Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology”, which Dan Akerib and Tom Shutt will teach again this fall as part of the special topics in astrophysics series. This 2-unit course will meet once per week for 10 weeks. The format will combine lectures on fundamental processes in detectors along with discussions of detector papers that are representative of the field. Weekly readings will be assigned in advance, along with notes to provide context. In addition to a few hours of reading per week, students will each select an experiment to research and present to the class late in the quarter. There will be significant overlap with the material covered in PHYSICS 367 in Fall quarter 2016.


Recent PhD Recipients:  

Harry Desmond defended his thesis in late May. He prepared his thesis: “Dynamical Constraints on the Galaxy–Halo Connection” under the supervision of Prof. Risa Wechsler. He is planning to take a post-doctoral position at Oxford this fall. Congratulations Harry and all the best wishes for your future from all of us at KIPAC.


Ashley Perko defended her thesis under the tutelage of Prof. Leonardo Senatore.  Her thesis is entitled “Field Theory for Cosmology: An Effective Approach,” and in the Fall, she will start a post-doctoral position at Dartmouth University.  

Incoming post-docs:  

Susmita Adhikari has finished her PhD at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign this year. She helped to understand the behavior of a newly detected feature in the outer density profile of dark matter halos known as the splashback radius. She has shown that this feature can be used as a probe for dynamical friction and found the first direct evidence for dynamical friction in galaxy clusters using SDSS data. We are looking forward to having her as a KIPAC postdoctoral fellow this Fall.


Arka Banerjee studies the cosmological large scale structure and in particular how to constrain the mass of neutrinos and their hierarchy, from existing and future galaxy surveys. He also intends to investigate different models of the dark sector and place constraints on some of the associated model parameters. His studies make use of large scale cosmological simulations and he has experience with Gadget, Nyx and ART. Arka finished his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign this year and will join us as a KIPAC fellow.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


Jeff Chilcote was part of the team that built the integral-field spectrograph for the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI). GPI is an extreme adaptive-optics, imaging polarimeter/integral-field spectrograph designed to directly image exoplanets—planets around other stars -- and was commissioned in early 2014. Jeff is also a member of the team that developed CHARIS, the Coronagraphic High Angular Resolution Imaging Spectrograph—an adaptive-optics imaging spectrograph that achieved first light in November 2016 on the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. After receiving his PhD from UCLA in 2014, he has been a Dunlap Fellow at the University of Toronto. He will join us as a KIPAC fellow this fall working with the exoplanet group.


Shawn Henderson will join KIPAC’s CMB team as a research associate this fall. He is wrapping up a postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University where he led the design of the 150 GHz/220 GHz dual-frequency CMB and galactic dust camera for the Advanced Atacama Cosmology Telescope in Chile.  At KIPAC, his work will extend into the BICEP program, as well as R&D towards the next-generation ground-based CMB experiment, CMB-S4. Prior to working on CMB cameras and analysis, Shawn was a WIMP hunter at MIT; his doctoral work was on directional dark matter detectors.


Daegene Koh is an expert in early structure formation and numerical simulations. He finished his PhD at Georgia Tech supervised by KIPAC alumni John Wise and will join us to continue his work on the physics of the earliest galaxies. He has worked on semi-numeric reionization models of the first stars and galaxies and on the amplification of magnetic fields by the turbulence driven in early HII regions and supernovae remnants. He intends to work on early chemical enrichment and heavy element mixing, and extend the work on magnetic field amplification on early galaxies. He will join us as a KIPAC fellow this fall.


Ioannis Liodakis Ioannis finished his PhD this year at the University of Crete with a thesis entitled “Unveiling the physics of the most active galaxies: connecting blazar theory and observations” and will join us as a KIPAC fellow this year. He intends to continue to work on innovative ways of probing blazar physics by taking maximum advantage of the progress achieved in his thesis work and new multi-wavelength observations. The ultimate goal is to create a single comprehensive model that will be able to reproduce distributions of all the parameters of the blazar paradigm while at the same time containing as much blazar physics as possible.                                                  


Yuki Omori has finished his PhD this year at McGill University with a thesis focusing on the CMB weak lensing map from SPT and Planck, and associated work on the relevant algorithms.                                                                                              

He intends to continue his work on the correlations between various cosmological probes, analyzing new data from the upcoming SPT-3G experiment, analyzing DES year1 to year 5 data, and building data analysis pipelines for future experiments.


Krista Lynne Smith is coming as an Einstein Fellow after finishing her PhD thesis from the University of Maryland, entitled: “A Multi-wavelength Portrait of X-ray Selected AGN, Infrared Detection, Circumnuclear Star Formation and Variability.”  She worked at both the University of Maryland and Goddard Space Flight Center. She studies the effects of AGN feedback on star formation in the nuclear regions of active galaxies, as well as Kepler-K2 optical light curves of active galaxies, to better understand the relationship between X-ray and optical emitting regions and the physical mechanisms underlying accretion onto supermassive black holes.


Yosuke Utsumi will be joining LSST as a Research Scientist in November. Yosuke has been in charge of HinOTORI, a robotic three-color simultaneous imager in Tibet, and more recently contributed very significantly to Hyper Suprime-CAM on Subaru. He will be part of the exciting effort of assembling, integrating and testing the LSST camera at SLAC.


Kim Palladino accepted a position as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin.  The focus of her research will continue to be the direct search for dark matter particles using cryogenic liquids.


Kate Follette accepted an assistant professor position at Amherst College in Massachusetts.  She will continue working on searches for planets around nearby stars.  


Other Announcements:

KIPAC was selected to be the host and Secretariat and Roger Blandford as the Chair of the Astroparticle Physics International Forum formerly hosted by the OECD Global Science Forum with Michael Turner as the chair.  


Phil Marshall was elected as the new spokesperson of the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration.


As always please feel encouraged to write us corrections and additions for this and suggestions for the next newsletters.