NEW YORK, Aug. 31, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- With the goal of advancing science through computational methods, and further developing such methods, the Flatiron Institute is being dedicated in a ceremony on September 6, 2017. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo will keynote the dedication, which begins at 10 AM, at 162 5th Avenue in Manhattan, across the street from the Simons Foundation, the institute's parent organization.
By attracting some of the world's leading figures in such fields as astrophysics, biology, and quantum physics, and bringing them together with younger scientists, visitors and outstanding dedicated software engineers, the institute aims to create a collaborative environment crossing disciplinary boundaries. In many cases, the most senior of the researchers have joint appointments with neighboring universities such as New York University, Columbia University, Princeton University and Stony Brook University. Tying all this together is a common computing core, with extensive hardware and a team dedicated to supporting the research of all the institute's scientific units.
Employment by the Flatiron Institute relieves scientists of the necessity of applying for grants, which often require short term results. Instead, the researchers will be free to focus on deeper problems, where progress may take longer, but outcomes may be more profound. The institute's output should be important new scientific discoveries and new computational methods and algorithms, with the latter freely available to the entire community, providing important infrastructure for scientists around the world.
"Having made quite a decent living analyzing financial data, I understand the power of data in general and am delighted to support its analysis as it arises from all areas of natural science," said Jim Simons, co-founder, with his wife Marilyn, of the Simons Foundation. "New scientific instrumentation has created data sets of unprecedented size and scope, and this is the perfect time to establish an institute dedicated to its exploitation."
The Flatiron Institute is an extension of the Simons Foundation's mission to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences. However, unlike the Simons Foundation's grants to programs that support researchers elsewhere, Flatiron is an intramural research program and its working scientists are foundation employees. The institute will eventually be home to more than 200 professionals and have an $80 million annual budget.
"Adding internal researchers to our organization has been inspiring to all of us working at the foundation," said Marilyn Simons, the foundation's President. "Their creativity, dynamism and intellectual depth has transformed our environment and given us all the opportunity to share in the experience of scientific research."
The Institute's Structure
Presently the institute has two working units, biology and astrophysics, plus the common computing core. A third unit, quantum physics, will open this month, and a fourth unit is planned, with a mission yet to be determined.
Center for Computational Astrophysics
The next set of advances in astronomy will require understanding complex multi-scale physics and large astronomical datasets. CCA's mission is to develop the computational tools needed for these calculations, simulations and analyses. CCA will also hold conferences and meetings and is already on its way to serving as a focal point for computational astronomy around the world. Progress by members of this group will help other sciences that grapple with calculations of dynamic range, like climate science and physical oceanography. David Spergel, Ph.D., director of the CCA, is a world-famous theoretical physicist and MacArthur Fellow and, in addition to his role at the Flatiron Institute, is playing a leading role in the multi-billion-dollar space mission to develop a Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope.
Center for Computational Biology
CCB's mission is to develop modeling tools and theory for understanding biological processes and to create computational frameworks that will enable the analysis of the large, complex data sets being generated by new experimental technologies. While its primary focus is on basic science, progress by members of this group might lead, for example, to new drug therapies through the discovery of new pathways, biophysical control mechanisms, genetic interactions, or protein structures. Leslie Greengard, M.D., Ph.D., director of CCB, is a mathematician and computer scientist who co-invented one of the Top-10 algorithms of the 20th century.
Center for Computational Quantum Physics
The CCQ launched just days ago, on September 1. Its mission is to develop the concepts, theories, algorithms and codes needed to solve the quantum many-body problem. These new methods will be used to predict the behavior of materials and molecules of scientific and technological interest, and may lead to the discovery of materials with novel functionalities. Antoine Georges, Ph.D., director of the CCQ, is one of the co-inventors and developers of dynamical mean-field theory, and co-director Andrew Millis, Ph.D., has focused his work on the development and use of new numerical methods for the many-electron problems and the application of these methods.
Scientific Computing Core
The SCC's mission is to develop and deploy the computing infrastructure — including new computational and statistical methods and storage and data handling system support — necessary for carrying out the research missions of CCA, CCB and CCQ. The SCC handles the significant computing infrastructure needs for the institute, as well as some of the computation and data-intensive activities of the foundation. Nick Carriero, Ph.D., and Ian Fisk, Ph.D., formerly of Yale University and of CERN, respectively, co-direct the SCC.
"We are already becoming a place where people come to learn new algorithms and approaches. Because of the way we span fields, we have the potential to be a unique place in transferring information, approaches and techniques between areas," said David Spergel.
"The biological sciences have reached a stage where there is much to gain from computation," said Leslie Greengard. "One of the critical opportunities afforded by the Flatiron Institute is to provide a permanent home for professional scientists who are driven by the problem of developing, deploying and supporting state-of-the-art mathematical and statistical methods. Few existing academic institutions have developed a track for such people, especially at the scale of the Flatiron Institute. None have done so with such a broad scope in a single location."
"This is a unique place where top people sharing a common interest in the growing impact of computation on science will exchange ideas across scientific fields," said Antoine Georges. "This could lead to big leaps forward in both fundamental understanding and new algorithmic methods."
SOURCE The Flatiron Institute