It has been a remarkable year, full of difficult challenges but also many rewards. I want to thank all of you for pulling together through these extraordinary times. The spirit and determination of our community has maintained scientific research at the forefront, has brought our students back to campus and provided them the best possible learning and research experiences, and has maintained collegiality and a positive and inclusive environment in the face of difficult circumstances. All of this speaks to our resilience as a community. It is hard not to be dismayed by the specter of a new Covid variant causing yet another surge in cases, and the risks this brings to our well-being, along with the accompanying fatigue and anxiety. We will get through this. It should be gratifying to all of us that many of our Caltech colleagues, largely (but not exclusively) in other divisions, are at the forefront in helping the Nation to understand the characteristics of the various mutations, and to determine how to combat them.
We are a resilient community, and there is much to look forward to in the coming years. I want to highlight some exciting developments that we have to look forward to and remind everyone of some of the amazing accomplishments of the last twelve months.
The Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Center for Quantum Precision Measurement, and the Institute for Fundamental Quantum Sciences
I am excited to announce that in early January we are kicking off the detailed design and construction of a new building, the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Center for Quantum Precision Measurement (CQPM). This center will be constructed on the old Sloan Annex site, and will bring the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM), currently located in the EAS Annenberg building, and quantum experiment and precision measurement together in one location, uniting a community pursuing new quantum strategies with applications ranging from gravitational wave detection to quantum materials and computation. A preliminary study was performed last year led by a faculty committee with Dave Hsieh as chair, including Caltech facilities, and an architectural firm. Their hard work enabled us to develop the concept, and raise the funding for the new building. We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg for their lead gift making the building possible, and for the major gift to construct the laboratories, to be named in honor of our colleague Kip Thorne, from the Fairchild Foundation.
Thanks to another generous gift from an anonymous donor, we are also able to extend beyond CQPM and establish a larger Institute spanning the new building, labs in Downs-Lauritsen and Linde, with connective elements below and above ground allowing for sharing of equipment and easy movement throughout the relevant intellectual centers. With these additional resources we will rethink the utilization of space for theory and experiment across the new Institute, guided by the goal of maximizing collaboration and interdisciplinary activities centered around the exciting forefronts of quantum science and precision measurement.
Transformative Gift for Keck Instrumentation
The W.M. Keck Observatory (WMKO), with its two 10-m telescopes, is one of the most productive astronomical observatories in the world. The Observatory is jointly run by Caltech and the University of California, and many of our faculty in PMA and GPS have observational research programs centered around using WMKO to explore the Solar system and the cosmos. New instruments are crucial to maintaining Keck’s prominence and keeping its capabilities on the cutting edge. This year an anonymous donor pledged ~70M$ that will support the construction of several major new Keck instruments. These will enable Caltech astronomers and planetary scientists to explore planets orbiting other nearby stars in our galaxy, to complement the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope to probe distant galaxies as they grow and evolve over cosmic time, and to provide rapid follow-up of LIGO and ZTF-discovered transients.
Graduate Fellowship for Outreach, Education and Diversity Efforts The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force led by Dimitri Mawet (Astronomy), David Hsieh (Physics) and Prof. Matilde Marcolli (MA), and including student, postdoc and staff members, recommended that PMA have a graduate fellowship that can fund PMA students for a term so that they can offset TA or other duties to engage in public outreach, to promote STEM education in public schools, or to engage in campus-focused projects aimed at diversity and inclusion. Thanks to generous funding from the Heisings-Simons foundation, we are able to establish this fellowship in Spring. The division is focusing on raising additional matching funds to convert this to a permanent endowment for three students/year, each for a term. An announcement will go out soliciting applications this winter, for the inaugural fellowship to begin Spring term.
Looking through the accomplishments of 2021, even with the challenges of Covid, PMA researchers have continued to define scientific frontiers and set the bar for excellence.
My best wishes for the holidays, and for many new discoveries in 2022.
Harold A. Rosen Professor of Physics
Kent and Joyce Kresa Leadership Chair