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02/03/2012 - New Kavli Institute Announced at the University of Tokyo

Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe Receives Major Endowment from The Kavli Foundation, Joining Family of Kavli Institutes

(Originally published by the University of Tokyo)

February 7, 2012

(TOKYO, JAPAN) The University of Tokyo (Todai) announced today the establishment of an endowment by The Kavli Foundation for the Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU).

The Institute, which will now be known as the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU), probes the biggest mysteries in modern cosmology: How did the universe begin, and how will it end? What is it made of, and what laws govern its behavior? How did we come to exist? The Institute is seeking answers through collaborative research conducted by a wide range of scientists, including mathematicians, theoretical physicists, experimental physicists and astronomers. Together, they focus on topics such as dark matter and dark energy, which make up nearly 96 percent of the universe but today are completely unknown, and the possibility of a single unified theory that can explain the cosmos at the smallest and largest scales.

Read a roundtable discussion with the Director and Deputy Directors of the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, University of Tokyo, about research at the Institute and plans for the future. Click here.

"It is a great honor for the University of Tokyo that the world-renowned Kavli Foundation has chosen the Institute for the Mathematics and Physics of the Universe as the recipient of a major donation, and to become the newest member of the Kavli group of research institutes as the Kavli IPMU," said University of Tokyo President Junichi Hamada. "Mr. Kavli’s generous donation ensures a secure foundation for the Kavli IPMU today and guarantees that the institute will remain at the forefront of its field tomorrow. In addition, this donation has provided the occasion to reexamine and reform our systems for managing donated funds. Seizing this opportunity, I hope to build on this momentum and redouble our efforts to pursue reform at the University of Tokyo."

Hitoshi Murayama, Director of Kavli IPMU (Courtesy: University of Tokyo)Hitoshi Murayama, Director of the Kavli IPMU (Courtesy: University of Tokyo)

Said Daisuke Yoshida, Director-General, Research Promotion Bureau, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), “IPMU was established in 2007 and has been supported by the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) of the Japanese government. The WPI program is designed to promote world-class science in Japan and its international visibility. Within just four years, IPMU has established itself as a world-renowned institute starting from zero. I also congratulate IPMU for receiving wonderful recognition by such an international foundation supporting basic science as The Kavli Foundation. We believe that the prestige associated with the endowment will bring a wider global recognition and help sustain the long-term success of IPMU.”

The Kavli IPMU will be the first of the university’s Todai Institutes of Advanced Study (TODIAS), an initiative announced last year by President Hamada. The goal of TODIAS is to pursue excellence in academics and research, boost academic diversity, promote world-class science, and strengthen the university’s international ties.

“The establishment of the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe is a wonderful development,” said Sadanori Okamura, TODIAS director. “Kavli IPMU is presently the only institute under TODIAS, and this generous gift from The Kavli Foundation is a testimony that the Foundation appreciates the high quality of scientists at the Institute, assembled by Director Murayama. As the Kavli IPMU was established by the WPI, which currently limits funding to no more than 10 years, we are extremely grateful this endowment will provide income in perpetuity. This is an important step toward providing the institute a long-term financial base. I also sincerely hope that Kavli's generous gift has many positive effects on the University's efforts to ask for further contributions to the University Fund from the society at large.”

The Kavli Foundation, based in Southern California, sponsors research in astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience and theoretical physics at institutes across the globe, including China, England, Netherlands, Norway and the United States. Kavli IPMU is The Kavli Foundation’s 16th institute, its sixth in astrophysics and third in theoretical physics, and the first to be established in Japan.

“I am very glad to welcome the Kavli IPMU to our community of institutes,” said Fred Kavli, Founder and Chairman of The Kavli Foundation. “By bringing together disciplines ranging from mathematics to theoretical and experimental physics, the Institute is certain to inspire creative collaborations that will lead to exciting discoveries about the universe. I also hope that our support of science in Japan can demonstrate that the quest for knowledge has no boundaries, and that finding the answers to some of science’s biggest and most fundamental questions itself requires international collaboration.”

Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Courtesy: University of Tokyo)Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe. (Courtesy: University of Tokyo)

The Kavli IPMU is comprised of about 200 researchers from 15 fields, with almost half coming from outside Japan. Reflecting its dedication to multi-disciplinary collaboration, the Institute is embodied in a five-story research building at the Kashiwa campus, outside of Tokyo in Chiba prefecture, where researchers from different fields typically alternate offices, and the hallways gradually ramp from floor-to-floor to encourage informal connections.

“We are very excited by the vision for this institute,” said Robert W. Conn, President of The Kavli Foundation. “The Kavli IPMU is dedicated to attracting an international body of excellent researchers from many fields to focus on topics of science that are of profound interest to all humankind. This Institute’s program also fits with our focus on supporting four areas of science: Astrophysics, Nanoscience, Neuroscience and Theoretical Physics. The Kavli IPMU spans two of these four areas – Astrophysics and Theoretical Physics – and demonstrates that the pursuit of scientific knowledge very often requires collaborative efforts across many disciplines. We have been extraordinarily impressed by the leadership of Todai and IPMU, and wish everyone at the University the very best as they pursue some of the most fundamental scientific questions of our day.”

The Kavli IPMU director is Professor Hitoshi Murayama, a particle physicist from the University of California, Berkeley who, like the Institute he leads, works on a wide range of subjects. These include developing strategies for new particle collider experiments, dark matter theory, the genesis of ordinary matter in the universe, the theory of inflation, which postulates the rapid expansion of the universe in the first moments of the Big Bang, and models of physics beyond the standard explanation for the nature of the universe.

Deputy directors include Professor Hiroaki Aihara, a particle physicist who is working on a new survey of distant galaxies to learn about the nature of dark energy, and Professor Yoichiro Suzuki, who is deeply involved in an underground experiment to detect dark matter.

“I'm super-excited about the IPMU becoming a Kavli Institute,” Murayama said. “It brings an international visibility to the Institute that will help us recruit the best minds from around the world. Meanwhile, the connection to the other Kavli institutes will boost our collaborative research opportunities.”

IPMU was established in the fall of 2007 as part of the World Premier International Research Center Initiative, a program of the Japanese government to promote interdisciplinary science in Japan, its international visibility, and globalization of the Japanese universities. Proposed as part of the University of Tokyo, the IPMU was one of six research proposals around the country that won sponsorship from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Other WPI institutes are involved in materials research, cell biology, immunology, nanotechnology, and alternative energy development. IPMU receives funding support from the government and the university, but the Institute must eventually identify other sources of support to become a permanent research center.

IPMU PiazzaPiazza Fujiwara, a large open space that occupies the center of the building of IPMU from the 3rd floor and up. (Courtesy: Kavli IPMU)

“The endowment income will help sustain the research program at the Kavli IPMU beyond the current initiative by the Japanese government,” Murayama said. “Now we can press on to attack the most basic and biggest mysteries of the Universe!”

The Kavli IPMU’s research spans physics and cosmology from subatomic neutrinos and other fundamental particles to the cosmic web of galaxies that formed from the seeds of density perturbations in the Cosmic Microwave Background – the afterglow energy from the Big Bang that emerged less than 400,000 years after that event nearly 14 billion years ago.

Mathematicians at the Institute are working on, for example, new geometric tools to help string theorists, who propose that the smallest constituents of all matter are vibrating strings of energy, describe their ideas.

Particle physicists, such as Kavli IPMU Deputy Director Aihara, are working with astrophysicists at the Subaru Telescope atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii to study the nature of dark energy, the mysterious force that makes up more than 70 percent of the universe and is causing it to accelerate at an ever increasing rate. Meanwhile, researchers such as Kavli IPMU Deputy Director Suzuki are working on ambitious projects such as XMASS, a stunningly sensitive detector deep underground being designed to detect dark matter, which makes up nearly a quarter of the universe and permeates the cosmos like a scaffold upon which galaxies congregate.

Other researchers at the IPMU have published recent papers on the distribution of dark matter in the universe, vigorous star formation in one of the most distant and oldest galaxies yet seen, the growth of supermassive black holes, and other topics.

Astrophysicist Roger Blandford, director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and Professor at Stanford University in California, said IPMU has accomplished much since it was established less than five years ago. “I am thrilled that IPMU will become the Kavli IPMU,” Blandford said. “It has already become an outstanding cosmological research center, and this will allow it to contribute even more to this exciting field. My colleagues and I at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology look forward to many future collaborations and send our congratulations.”

About the University of Tokyo
The University of Tokyo, also known as “Todai,” was established in 1877 as the first national university in Japan. As a leading research university, Todai offers courses in essentially all academic disciplines at both undergraduate and graduate levels and conducts research across the full spectrum of academic activity. The university aims to provide its students with a rich and varied academic environment that ensures opportunities for both intellectual development and the acquisition of professional knowledge and skills. The University of Tokyo enrolls 28,000 students, evenly divided between undergraduates and graduates. More than ten percent of all students were from overseas in 2011, and more than 3,300 researchers visited the campus in 2010 for short and extended stays. More than 9,000 of the university’s researchers visited partner institutions around the world.

Original press release

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