A Word form the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI!

Dear visitors of our web site,

I hope you had a good and relaxing summer! 

Actually, the Swiss summer as in many parts of Europe was exceptionally sunny, dry and warm. Together with the increased number of unusually warm seasons this decade, it is widely regarded as a consequence of climate change. Quite fittingly, ISSI’s Game Changers Seminar series this spring dealt with aspects of climate change, including the risks to the water budget and how to fight the crisis. Interested, but missed the talks? They are recorded and available here like all the other previous Game Changers Seminar talks. 

This fall – starting this Thursday – the Game Changers Seminar series will be dedicated to “Captivating Cosmology: From the Big Bang to Tomorrow”. The first talk will be by philosopher and physicist Tim Maudlin, who will speak about his ideas on the origin of the relativistic structure of space-time. 

Cosmology and space observation in general received a big boost last Christmas with the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. The JWST observes at unprecedented resolution and will look deeper into space and thus further back in time then any other telescope before, including the Hubble Space Telescope. ISSI celebrated the first release of JWST images and data on July 12th as the Swiss node of a worldwide network of events. The event at ISSI included presentations by Swiss scientists who either contributed to the JWST hardware or had successfully competed for observing time. The event was broadcast on our Youtube channel and the recording is available. As is the tradition on such happy occasions, the day closed with the Swiss institution of an Apéro reception.

At the moment, ISSI is running its program at an estimated 150% of its capacity, with many weeks with three teams in attendance, plus other meetings in parallel, rather than the usual two. The ISSI directorate is exceedingly thankful to the staff for taking on this extra work load. With the increased number of visitors comes an increased risk of infection, however, and therefore ISSI continues to ask visitors to wear masks on its premises. These measures helped keeping the transmission of COVID under control.

Also in the spring, ISSI was evaluated by a Visiting Committee of internationally renowned scientists, chaired by Dr. Stephan Ulamec of DLR. Their very positive report boosted the motivation of the entire ISSI staff in these demanding times.

With the beginning of September, ISSI once again has a complete staff. Prof. Thierry Dudok de Wit started his term as Space Science director at ISSI on September 1st. Also, Dr. Roland Hohensinn joined the team as Earth Science post-doctoral fellow, working with Earth Science director Michael Rast on climate related remote sensing data and uncertainties in climate variable time series, for which he will use machine-learning methods. On June 1st already, Prof. Rumi Nakamura joined as discipline scientist, helping the institute with her expertise in plasma physics. Finally, on May 15th Dr. Christian Malacaria started his post-doc fellowship in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Christian will work with Astronomy and Astrophysics director Maurizio Falanga on high-energy astrophysics of black holes and neutron stars.

ISSI welcomes the new staff members and is extremely thankful to them for making themselves available. 

Stay safe and come to meet at ISSI anytime soon!
All the best
Tilman Spohn  
ISSI executive Director