The Simons Foundation awarded the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics $2.5 million to fund the institute’s on-campus visits and conferences with renowned theoretical physicists.
The five-year renewable grant will allow KITP, founded by the National Science Foundation in 1979, to continue hosting visits from international figures in the physics field. The institute plans its programs at least a year in advance and typically features collaborations between theorists addressing ongoing and emerging topics such as the physics of biological structures, cosmology and astronomy.
KITP Director David Gross said the grant will allow the institute to help host visiting physicists, who are often deterred by high travel costs.
“We’re totally unable to pay people to come here, so they have to either use other monies or find some way to get [paid] leave and that’s sometimes quite challenging for them,” Gross said. “But it’s also sometimes impossible and we can now make up for the difference.”
The Simons Foundation aims to support university research in mathematics and basic sciences. KITP is currently planning programs for Summer Sessions 2013 and Fall Quarter 2014.
Gross said the program is receiving increasingly less state funding due to recent UC budget constraints.
The institute also created a ‘Family Fund’ in 2007 to provide money for financially constrained participants, although the fund has yet to reach its goal amount, according to Gross.
“For example, one thing we like to be able to do — and will now be able to do more of — is support younger participants [such as] people who have families [and those] who come and spend three to six months here,” Gross said. “That’s rather difficult for people with families and kids.”
Daniel Hone, director of outreach and education at KITP, said the funding will permit the institute to host physicists for extended visits, allowing it to continue offering cutting-edge information and resources.
“It’s a wonderful thing in the face of declining support,” Hone said. “It’s important for us to have people come for a fairly long time; most can’t do it for financial reasons.”
In prior years, some scientists would remain at the institute for up to four years, but now decreased funding only allows such visits to last up to six months. Gross said the average stay is three to four weeks, but said he hopes the grant will attract scientists for longer visits.