July 16, 2004  


Festivities Kick-start Kavli Institute

By Davide Castelvecchi

The ground breaking ceremony held June 28 for the Fred Kavli Building quite literally marked the foundation of a new era of scientific inquiry on the SLAC premises.

Commemorating this event (pictured left to right): David Auston of the Kavli Foundation, Pierre Schwob, Stanford provost John Etchemendy, Fred Kavli and Jonathan Dorfan. (Photo by Diana Rogers)

In the words of SLAC Director Jonathan Dorfan, the building will be the centerpiece of the newly established Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), as well as to the entrance to the SLAC campus.

“Let us dedicate this house of science to further our understanding of some of the most fundamental questions,” said Fred Kavli to an audience of about 200.

Through the Santa Barbara-based Kavli Foundation, Kavli donated $7.5 million last year to help establish the Institute, one of nine research institutions across the country now named after him.

Activities in the 25,000 square foot building will champion the increasing convergence of particle physics—the science of the extremely small and astrophysics—the science of the very large. KIPAC will address the great unanswered questions on the cosmos, including: What are dark matter and dark energy?

Watershed discoveries of the last 10 years suggest that dark matter and dark energy constitute 96 percent of the Universe, while the ‘stuff’ we see and understand, such as light and ordinary matter, makes up a mere 4 percent.

Also at the ceremony was Pierre Schwob, the Palo Alto entrepreneur whose $1 million donation will fund KIPAC’s Pierre R. Schwob Computing and Information Center, dedicated to the computational and large-scale visualization aspects of KIPAC research. In his speech, Schwob said, “The center will confront the challenges that are presented by the literally astronomical amount of data that KIPAC will deal with when storing, analyzing and sharing the science that will come out.”

Inaugurated just over a year ago, KIPAC is affiliated with SLAC and with four Stanford departments and programs. “The Kavli Institute sets a standard for collaboration between a research university and a research laboratory,” said Stanford provost John Etchemendy in his brief address. “I know I speak for [Stanford] President [John] Hennessy when I say that I am thrilled with the progress that has been made to date,” he said.

Dorfan and Etchemendy, along with KIPAC director Roger Blandford, expressed gratitude to the donors and to DOE, which will be a major supporter of the Institute’s occupants and of its operating costs.

Dorfan then invited Kavli and Etchemendy to join him in the ceremonial ground breaking by digging up the first few shovelfuls of dirt, thus symbolically beginning the foundation of the Kavli building.

Construction teams will follow suit in October and the building is scheduled to be completed in November 2005, according to the project’s head architect Steve Dangermond of San Francisco firm Esherick Homsey Dodge & Davis (EHDD). The firm worked closely with Blandford and other KIPAC staff to design a building that would address the scientists’ needs. “We have tried to make the building as collaborative as possible, with interaction spaces in the center,” Dangermond said. EHDD has designed several buildings at universities such as UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz.

“The Institute is blessed with exceptional leadership and has already attracted a cadre of young talent,” Dorfan said. KIPAC has already hired more than 20 new members and plans to hire seven more, said KIPAC deputy director Steve Kahn. “There will be a lot of new faces and intellectual thrust,” he said. 



The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Friday July 16, 2004 by Emily Ball