KIPAC Newsletter, Winter 2014

Dear KIPACers,

Welcome back to our newsletter. Lots of exciting things going at the Institute as always. This one comes just in time before our holiday party on Friday that I hope you all can make it to. We welcome a lot of new people and we can be very happy about all the progress we have seen in the last few months. Please also have a look at all the upcoming meetings we will host here and do think about other programs and workshops you might want to host here.

Warmest wishes and see you Friday,
for the KIPAC management team
Greg, Pat, Risa, Ziba

KIPAC Holiday Party:

Holiday party is this Friday, 5th of December at Sultana's in Menlo Park at 6:00 PM.  If you have not already RSVP’d, please do or contact Ziba (

More upcoming events (see details below):

  • DESI Science Readiness Workshop, January 9-10
  • LSST@SLAC, January 23
  • KahnFest, January 29-30
  • LSST DESC Collaboration Meeting, February 3-5; Cosmology School on Feb 2
  • Blazar Workshop, March 12-13, 2015
  • Fermi Collaboration Meeting, March 16-19, 2015

Workshop Proposals:

KIPAC welcomes proposals for workshops at any time. We are particularly interested in ideas for workshops that will broadly engage the KIPAC community. If you would like to host a workshop, see this page for guidelines and a link to the proposal form.

KIPAC Committees:

KIPAC activities are enhanced by a very active set of committees.  We review the goals of the committees here, and give the updated committee membership lists:  

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.
  • Members: Roger Blandford (co-chair), Steve Allen (co-chair), Roger Romani, Kent Irwin, Risa Wechsler, Peter Graham, Seth Digel, Becky Canning, Luigi Tibaldo (postdoc representatives), Adam Wright, Chris Davis (student 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.
  • Members:  Greg Madejski (co-chair), Phil Marshall (co-chair), Risa Wechsler, Roger Blandford, Matt Becker, Eric Charles, Seth Digel, Peter Graham (SITP), Yashar Hezaveh (colloq), Sam Skillman (colloq), Irina Zhuravleva (colloq), Kirk Gilmore (Instrumentation Seminar), Jamie Tolan (cosmo sem), Ryan Keisler (tea), Yao-Yuan Mao

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.
  • Members: Ziba Mahdavi (co-chair), Phil Marshall (co-chair), Andrea Albert, Christopher Williams, Debbie Bard, Becky Canning, Helen Craig, Kiruthika Devaraj, Amy Furniss, Mandeep Gill, Yashar Hezaveh, Tobias Jogler, Ralf Kaehler, Dmitry Malyshev, Josh Meyers, Eric Nielsen, Norbert Werner

News items:

  • We are very happy for our colleagues Richard Partridge, Blas Cabrera and the SuperCDMS team, and Tom Shutt, Dan Akerib, Bill Wisniewski, and Blair Ratcliff and the LZ team: both teams were successful in the recent DOE’s Dark Matter experiment downselect. They are working hard to provide the most stringent limits on how much dark matter may interact with regular matter.
  • The Gemini Planet Imager had first light in November 2013. The team has participated in five commissioning and performance-verification observing runs. Two science papers were led by KIPAC authors, one on first light and the orbit of Beta Pictoris b (Macintosh et al 2014) and one on the spectra of the HR8799c and d planets. Two papers by other team members covered polarimetry of the disk of dust orbiting HR4796 (Perrin et al 2014) and the spectrum of Beta Pictoris b (Chilcote et al 2014.) Community science verification also started in 2014. Overall GPI has had the most successful first year of any Gemini instrument. Now that GPI is commissioned, the team has begun a large-scale survey. Over 3 years, they will examine 600 young nearby stars to search for giant exoplanets and dusty debris disks. Simulations indicate that 20-40 planets could be discovered and characterized. Over the summer, undergraduate students Loren Amdahl-Culleton and Kyana van Houten worked with the group on analyzing GPI performance testing data, and simulating future observations with GPI or WFIRST.  Professor Macintosh is also active in the science planning for a possible coronagraphic instrument on the WFIRST-AFTA space telescope, and will be setting up a laboratory for advanced adaptive optics technology.
  • LSST received its official federal construction start on August 1, when the NSF authorized the LSST project for construction. This was followed later in August by an LSST project and community meeting in Phoenix. The LSST Camera Project successfully passed a major milestone on November 6-7: the DOE Critical Decision 2 (CD2) review. The LSST project has been launched!
  • The LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration (DESC) meeting was held in Philadelphia from June 17-19.   The next collaboration meeting will be held at SLAC, February 3-5, with a one-day "LSST Cosmology School" on Monday 2nd February, aimed at new DESC members.
  • An LSST@SLAC steering committee has been formed. Members are Steve Allen (chair), Pat Burchat, Richard Dubois, Steve Kahn, Steve Ritz, Aaron Roodman, Risa Wechsler. One of their first initiatives has been the organization of a new series of LSST@SLAC “micro-workshops” to draw a broad set of colleagues from Stanford and SLAC to hear about ongoing local LSST work. These take place three times per quarter, on Fridays at SLAC from 11:30 to 12:30.  Everyone is invited to join!  The next meetings will be on January 23, February 13, and March 13, 2015.
  • Astro-H is on track for launch in late 2015.  This Japanese-led satellite-based mission is aimed at studies of celestial sources over a broad X-ray band;  the US scientists are extensively involved in preparing flight hardware and in planning of the mission.  It will feature a novel, high-resolution X-ray spectrometer relying on a measurement of the energy of an incoming X-ray by measuring the temperature change in the sensor resulting from an absorption of the  photon.  The main goals of the mission will be studies of galaxy clusters, supernova remnants, and accreting compact sources.  The instruments are being integrated into the satellite, and this includes extensive testing of all subsystems.  Steve Allen, Greg Madejski, Norbert Werner, and Irina Zhuravleva are members of the Astro-H Science Working Group.  
  • DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopy Instrument) successfully passed the DOE Critical Decision 1 (CD1) Review September 9-11. The project is proceeding well and is on track to be taking survey data in 2019.  A precursor imaging survey called DECal began this fall; it will observe 6600 square degrees with the Dark Energy Camera and will have regular public data releases. The next DESI collaboration meeting, to be focused on developing a Science Readiness Plan, will be held at SLAC, January 9-10.  KIPAC members who have an interest in getting involved in DESI should contact Risa Wechsler (Co-Spokesperson for the DESI Collaboration).
  • Mandeep Gill has a new role that includes facilitating and publishing the KIPAC blogs.  Please contact him if you would like to contribute to our blog articles.
  • Lori White is working with KIPAC as a freelance writer, interviewing and writing a  series of blogs on KIPAC alumni. The first one about Matthew Turk is already online.
  • Kahnfest will take place on January 29 and 30th 2015.  Stanford/KIPAC/SLAC are organizing a conference in honor of Steve Kahn's 60th birthday. The symposium will cover a broad range of astrophysical topics enabled by new technology, from X-ray to gravitational waves to LSST. If  you have not done so already, please visit to view the program and register for the conference and banquet dinner.
  • Jason Hogan joined the Physics Department as a new Assistant Professor. He has some excellent ideas relevant to probing gravity and for gravitational wave detection.

Congratulations to:

  • Tom Abel, who was selected as a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science.  Well deserved!
  • Sarah Church was appointed by the Stanford Provost as a Bass Fellow for Undergraduate Education in recognition of “extraordinary contributions to undergraduate education”.
  • KIPAC alumna Nadia Zakamska, who is this year’s recipient of the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize for observational research by a young astronomer! Nadia is currently a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University.

New arrivals:

  • Hongjun An joined KIPAC s a post-doctoral fellow;  he has been closely associated with the NuSTAR project, developing the instruments for the mission, and after the successful launch of NuSTAR, has been working on interpretation of observations of neutron stars  
  • Tsuguo Aramaki has joined the CDMS team, and is working on the cryogenic system.
  • Tomasz Biesiadzinski joined the LUX/LZ team as a Research Associate; he will be working on the analysis of the LUX data, as well as testing LZ prototypes.
  • Christina Ignarra is a Research Associate with the LUX/LZ experiment to detect dark matter particles. Her current focus is on the xenon purification system, and LUX data analysis.  
  • Ashley King will join us as an Einstein Fellow in December.  Her work focuses on interpretation of observations of astronomical sources containing black holes.  
  • Elisabeth Krause joined as a Kavli Fellow.  She is working on many aspects of cosmology theory, including applications to the Dark Energy Survey, LSST, and other future surveys, towards the measurement of cosmological parameters.  
  • Ranjan Laha has joined KIPAC as a postdoctoral fellow.  His research currently involved studies of formation of dark matter particles in the early Universe.
  • Krzysztof Nalewajko is an Einstein Fellow, working on the physics of relativistic jets in active galaxies.  His work recently expanded in the direction of numerical modelling of particle acceleration in celestial sources.  
  • Toshiya Namikawa is working on the theory of Cosmic Microwave Background, and specifically on lensing signatures in the CMB
  • Kimberley Palladino has joined SLAC as a Project Scientist with the Lux/LZ team: she focuses on establishing the LZ test platform to scale up and test the LUX cryogenic + HV systems.  
  • Wing To is a Research Associate with the LUX/LZ experiments, and is involved in the analysis of the LUX data and the development of an improved system to remove radioactive krypton from the Xenon target.
  • Jamie Tolan has received his PhD from Stanford only a few months ago.  He will continue working on the instruments aimed at the measurement of B-mode polarization in the CMB.  
  • Marco Viero joined us as a postdoctoral fellow, and uses multi-band observations of galaxies to study the cosmic infrared background (CIB) which contains a fossil record of star formation and AGN activity throughout the Universe’s history.
  • Zvonimir Vlah arrived recently to join the KIPAC and the SITP.  He has been working on the theory of the early Universe.
  • Radek Wojtak joined us as a Porat Postdoctoral Fellow, working in the structure of clusters of galaxies inferred from the kinematics of galaxies.


  • Stefan Funk has taken up a chaired professorship at the University of Erlangen and provide leadership for the Cherenkov Telescope Array effort at their Center for Astro-Particle Physics.
  • Michael Busha has just started a position at elastica, working on data security in the cloud.
  • Carlos Cunha is now a Senior Data Scientist at Bosch here in Palo Alto.  
  • Persis Drell was appointed Dean of Engineering at Stanford University and took up her new role on September 1, 2014. We wish Persis all the best in her new role in the School of Engineering.
  • Yu Lu started a postdoctoral Fellowship at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena in September.
  • Rachel Reddick received her PhD in June 2014.  This past summer she was a AAAS Science Journalism Fellow, working at the Sacramento Bee.
  • Eduardo Rozo joined the University of Arizona as an Assistant Professor of Physics in September.
  • Paul Simeon has joined the Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford as an instructional consultant.  He is happy to help instructors in any way that he can!