Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

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Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (shortened to Perimeter Institute or simply PI) is an independent, resident-based research institute devoted to foundational issues in theoretical physics located in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Perimeter Institute was founded in 1999 by Mike Lazaridis. In addition to the research operations, Perimeter Institute also shares the importance of science, basic research and the power of theoretical physics with the wider community through its award-winning outreach program.

History and mission
Lazaridis' initial donation of $100 million was announced on October 23, 2000. A subsequent personal donation of $50 million was made on June 4, 2008. Research operations began in 2001. Along with its research activities, Perimeter Institute operates an international outreach program. It hosts the International Summer School for Young Physicists every summer, which is a physics camp for high school students. Under the stewardship of Howard Burton, the Institute's first Executive Director, PI initially operated out of Waterloo's historic post office on King Street. In October 2004, it moved into its custom-built facility on Caroline Street, across Silver Lake from Waterloo Park. The building was designed by Montreal architect firm Saucier + Perrotte, which received a Governor General's Medal for Architecture for the design in May 2006. The building next to PI, housing the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, won the same award for its architects in 1997. Perimeter Institute's building features an open glass facade along the north and west sides, contrasting with the slate-black metal walls of much of the rest of the building. Each researcher's office, as well as various lounge areas, features a full-wall blackboard for working out and theorizing in solo or group efforts. The Ontario budget, announced in March 2006, included a commitment to provide $50 million in funding to PI from the Ministry of Research and Innovation. In November 2008, it was announced that prominent physicist Stephen Hawking would take the position of Distinguished Research Chair, a visiting position, at the Institute. PI is building on its promising start with the goal of becoming one of the world’s leading centres for foundational theoretical physics. It seeks to act as a global resource for the field, promoting research excellence and stimulating major scientific breakthroughs.

Perimeter Institute is a major centre for theoretical physics research, attracting a diverse community of resident and visiting scientists from around the world. Since research operations began in the fall of 2001, Perimeter Institute has grown to include close to 100 resident researchers. Researchers at PI build on the two great revolutionary advances of 20th century physics ”“ the relativity and quantum theories: 1) Albert Einstein discovered that space and time are not separate entities, but are different aspects of a single geometrical entity called spacetime, which dynamically twists and warps as it dances with matter and energy. This dance, called gravity, governs the behaviour of the universe on large scales, from the solar system and galaxies to the entire cosmos as a whole. 2) The fathers of quantum theory, on the other hand, such as Neils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrödinger, discovered strange new laws that were eventually seen to govern the behaviour of all matter and forces on very small scales ”“ the atomic and subatomic worlds, with the exception of gravity, whose quantum nature continues to elude physicists. Both are profoundly powerful theories which not only explain, with extraordinary accuracy, many previously puzzling aspects of the universe, but have also successfully predicted a wealth of completely unexpected new phenomena, from black holes and gravitational waves to lasers and quantum teleportation. However, after decades of experience with these two theories, it is now widely recognized that they mark only the beginning. One of the greatest challenges for 21st century theoretical physicists, and the core of research at PI, is to find a single, deeper theory that unifies these two pillars of our understanding of the universe. In its endeavour to achieve this, PI's scientific operations involve cross-disciplinary research in Condensed Matter, Cosmology & Gravitation, Particle Physics, Quantum Foundations, Quantum Gravity, Quantum Information, Superstring Theory and related areas.

Perimeter Institute Recorded Seminar Archive (PIRSA)
Research activities at PI are accessible to the global scientific community via the internet through the Perimeter Institute Recorded Seminar Archive (PIRSA). PIRSA is a permanent, free, searchable, and citable archive of recorded seminars, conferences, workshops, and outreach events. On-demand seminars with video and timed presentation materials can be accessed in Windows and Flash formats and offer MP3 audio files and PDFs of the supporting materials. Viewers come face to face with a split-sceen image that enables them to watch the seminar from the perspective of an audience member, with the added advantage of being able to zoom-in, pause, and examine specific slides, equations, or figures more closely.

Outreach Programs
Educational outreach is a key component of Perimeter Institute’s vision and mission and has been since inception. In establishing Perimeter Institute, the founders were not only motivated to create a research centre of the highest international standing, they were simultaneously determined to strongly affect the prevailing culture by celebrating the importance and impact of scientific inquiry. There are few other physics institutes in the world with an explicit mandate for both top quality research and top quality outreach programming. PI has set itself the very ambitious goal of being the dominant international brand in physics outreach. As part of its outreach programming, PI hosts a number of outreach programs that include physics lectures, dinners and musical performances. Its Black Hole Bistro often hosts reservation dinners featuring jazz, baroque and other ensembles. PI's wide array of educational outreach activities are targeted for students, teachers and members of the general public in order to share the culture of scientific research, discovery and innovation. These include public lecture playbacks, in-class teaching resources, science camp, on location workshop opportunities.

Quantum to Cosmos: Ideas for the Future festival
Held in October, 2009, the Quantum to Cosmos: Ideas for the Future festival (Q2C Festival) took a global audience from the strange subatomic world to the outer frontiers of the universe. The events commemorated the 10th anniversary of Perimeter Institute’s creation, contributed to Canada’s National Science and Technology week activities, and provided one of the world’s most interesting destinations during 2009’s International Year of Astronomy. The festival content was on-site, online and on TV, the latter courtesy of TVO, Ontario’s public educational media organization and the official Presenting Media Partner for the Q2C Festival. The event was the largest and most comprehensive science outreach event ever held in Canada. The scope and scale included events and activities spanning: lectures, panel discussions, pub talks, cultural activities, a PI documentary premiere (The Quantum Tamers: Revealing Our Weird and Wired Future), sci-fi film festival, an art exhibit and the hugely popular Physica Phantastica exhibit centre, a 5,000 square foot space filled with demonstrations, hands-on activities, experiments and an immersive 3D tour of the universe narrated by Stephen Hawking. The Q2C Festival attracted some 40,000 attendees (including over 6,000 in the secondary school program that brought students from Ontario and New York State and nearly one million viewers ”“ and counting ”“ through online streaming, video-on-demand services and special television broadcasts. Special additions of TVO’s “ The Agenda with Steve Paikan”, filmed live in PI’s Atrium in Waterloo, Ontario attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers from across Canada with just five broadcasts. While the festival lasted 10 days, the impact continues ”“ individuals can still view archived Q2C Festival lectures online, download podcasts and animations, and order educational presentations.

The International Summer School for Young Physicists (ISSYP) is an outreach program that brings groups of fifty high school students at a time to learn about cutting-edge theoretical physics. Students are housed at the University of Waterloo, and spend hours each day with Perimeter's researchers, learning through interaction with their peers as well as from keynote speeches by prominent physicists. The program teaches both mathematics and physics in core sessions, and offers an introduction to the research experience through mentoring sessions with researchers at the institute. Keynote talks have come from both post-doctoral researchers and long-term researchers at the institute, including Lee Smolin and Fotini Markopoulou-Kalamara. Students have been introduced to topics such as: black holes, quantum space-time, string theory, spin networks, quantum computing, and quantum mechanics interpretations. Since its creation in 2003, the program has expanded from a group of twenty students from across Canada to two separate groups of fifty students each, from six continents around the world, in 2006. 82 students from 6 continents participated in ISSYP 2008. Besides studying the concepts involved in quantum physics, special relativity, general relativity and black holes, participants also visited various tourist attractions within Toronto and Ontario. Such attractions have included the CN Tower, and Niagara Falls.


Joint Masters Level Program
In partnership with the University of Waterloo, PI launched Perimeter Scholars International (PSI), a concentrated Masters level course for exceptional students who wish to become researchers in theoretical physics. The 10-month course, taught at PI by outstanding international lecturers, started in August 2009, and is expected to eventually draw 50 scholars per year. Participants are brought to the cutting edge of fundamental physics across a wide range of research disciplines, and conduct a specialized research project under the supervision of a faculty member at PI or one of the local universities. The Masters degree is issued by the nearby University of Waterloo. The convocation of the inaugural pilot class of 28 outstanding research trainees from 17 countries, including 6 women, was held at Perimeter Institute on June 20, 2010.

Doctoral Studies
Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics also hosts exceptional PhD students wishing to pursue full-time graduate studies under the supervision of a PI faculty member. PhD students receive their doctoral degrees from a university partner, such as the University of Waterloo.

Perimeter Institute offers a number of planned courses each year, including cross-listed programs with universities and mini-courses given by PI Faculty, Associate Faculty, and Visiting Researchers. In addition to providing excellent learning opportunities for young researchers at PI, the courses are made available to all students enrolled in surrounding universities. The popular courses are attended by students from University of Waterloo, University of Western Ontario, McMaster University, University of Guelph, University of Toronto, York University, and other centres.


Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter Institute
Designed by Teeple Architects, a new 55,000 square feet (5,000 m 2) expansion, the Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter Institute, is presently under construction and is the first building to which Stephen Hawking, a Perimeter Institute Distinguished Research Chair has ever lent his name. Though still under construction, The Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter Institute was honoured by leaders in the building industry as the first-ever Gold Seal-managed project in Ontario. The expansion is expected to be completed in Summer 2011. It is planned to attain LEED Silver certification

People as of September 2010

  • Yakir Aharonov -- Distinguished Research Chair; Wolf Prize (1998)
  • Dorit Aharonov -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Nima Arkani-Hamed -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Niayesh Ashfordi -- Associate Faculty Member(cosmology and gravitation)
  • Neta Bahcall -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Brian Batell -- Postdoctoral Researcher (particle physics)
  • Joseph Ben Geloun -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum gravity)
  • Hector Bombin -- Postdoctoral Researcher (condensed matter/quantum information)
  • Valentin Bonzom-- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum gravity)
  • Latham Boyle -- Faculty Member (cosmology and gravitation)
  • Alex Buchel -- Associate Faculty Member (superstring theory)
  • Cliff Burgess -- Associate Faculty Member(particle physics/cosmology and gravitation)
  • Freddy Cachazo -- Faculty Member (superstring theory)
  • Giulio Chiribella -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum foundations/quantum information)
  • Juan Ignacio Cirac -- Distinguished Research Chair; Benjamin Franklin Medal (2010); founding figure in quantum computing
  • Richard Cleve -- Associate Faculty Member (quantum information)
  • Roger Colbeck -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum foundations/quantum information)
  • Florian Conrady -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum gravity)
  • Keith Copsey -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation/superstring theory)
  • David Cory -- Associate Faculty Member (quantum information)
  • Sarah Croke -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum information)
  • Eleonora Dell'Aquila -- Postdoctoral Researcher (superstring theory)
  • Georgi Dvali -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Adrienne Erickcek -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation)
  • Cecilia Flori -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum gravity)
  • Laurent Freidel -- Faculty Member (quantum gravity)
  • Christopher Fuchs -- Visiting Researcher (quantum foundations)
  • Ghazal Geshniziani -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation)
  • Tom Giblin -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation)
  • Simone Giombi -- Postdoctoral Researcher (superstring theory)
  • Jaume Gomis -- Faculty Member (superstring theory)
  • Daniel Gottesman -- Faculty Member (quantum information)
  • Razvan Gurau -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum gravity)
  • Alioscia Hamma -- Distinguished Research Fellow (condensed matter/quantum foundations/quantum information)
  • Chad Hanna -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation)
  • Lucien Hardy -- Faculty Member (quantum foundations)
  • Stephen Hawking -- Distinguished Research Chair; Wolf Prize (1988); Copley Medal (2006); Dirac Medal and Prize (1987); Maxwell Medal and Prize (1976); Albert Einstein Medal (1979); Albert Einstein Award (1978); Eddington Medal (1975)
  • Patrick Hayden -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Janet Hung -- Postdoctoral Researcher (superstring theory)
  • Chris Isham -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Zhengfeng Ji -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum information)
  • Matthew Johnson -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation)
  • Leo Kadanoff -- Distinguished Research Chair; Wolf Prize (1980); Lorentz Medal (2006); Boltzmann Medal (1989); Buckley Prize (1977)
  • Adrian Kent -- Associate Faculty Member (quantum foundations/quantum information)
  • Tim Koslowski -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum gravity)
  • Raymond Laflamme -- Associate Faculty Member (quantum information); founding figure in quantum information theory
  • Louis Leblond -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation/superstring theory)
  • Jean-Luc Lehner -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation)
  • Renate Loll -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Fotini Markopoulou-Kalamara -- Faculty Member (quantum gravity)
  • Nicolas Menicucci -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum information)
  • Akimasa Miyake -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum information)
  • Leonardo Modesto -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum gravity)
  • John Moffat -- Senior Researcher Affiliate(cosmology and gravitation/particle physics)
  • Alberto Montina -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum foundations)
  • Michele Mosca -- Associate Faculty Member (quantum information)
  • Markus Mueller -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum foundations/quantum information)
  • Robert Myers -- Faculty Member (superstring theory)
  • Ashwin Nayak -- Associate Faculty Member (quantum information)
  • Joao Penedones -- Postdoctoral Researcher (superstring theory)
  • Malcolm Perry -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Federico Piazza -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation)
  • Sandu Popescu -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Piero G L Porta Mana -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum foundations)
  • Maxim Pospelov -- Associate Faculty (particle physics)
  • Josef Pradler -- Postdoctoral Researcher (particle physics)
  • David Rideout -- Postdoctoral Researcher (quantum foundations)
  • Subir Sachdev -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Natalia Saulina -- Postdoctoral Researcher (superstring theory)
  • Ashoke Sen -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Amit Sever -- Postdoctoral Researcher (superstring theory)
  • Philip Schuster- Faculty Member (particle physics)
  • Sarah Shandera -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation)
  • Yanwen Shang -- Postdoctoral Researcher (particle physics)
  • Parampreet Singh -- Distinguished Research Fellow (cosmology and gravitation)
  • Aninda Sinha -- Postdoctoral Researcher (superstring theory)
  • David Skinner -- Postdoctoral Researcher (superstring theory)
  • Lee Smolin -- Faculty Member (quantum gravity); founding figure in loop quantum gravity
  • Misha Smolkin -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation/ superstring theory)
  • Rafael Sorkin -- Senior Researcher (quantum foundations)
  • Robert Spekkens -- Faculty Member (quantum foundations)
  • Leonard Susskind -- Distinguished Research Chair; Sakurai Prize (1998); founding figure in string theory
  • Thomas Thiemann -- Associate Faculty (quantum gravity)
  • Natalia Toro -- Faculty Member (particle physics)
  • Michael Trott -- Postdoctoral Researcher (particle physics)
  • Neil Turok -- Executive Director (cosmology and gravitation); Maxwell Medal and Prize (1992)
  • Bill Unruh -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Guifre Vidal -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Pedro Vieira -- Faculty Member (superstring theory)
  • Xiao-Gang Wen -- Distinguished Research Chair
  • Mark Wise -- Distinguished Research Chair; Sakurai Prize (2001)
  • Tom Zlosnik -- Postdoctoral Researcher (cosmology and gravitation)

Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC)
The Scientific Advisory Committe (SAC) is an integral oversight body, deliberately created to assist the Board of Directors in ensuring objectivity and a high standard of scientific excellence. The SAC advises on matters of scientific policy, appointments and renewal of scientific staff, performance reviews of the scientific staff, outreach initiatives and general structural concerns. The SAC meets on an annual basis. It is composed of eminent scientists drawn from the international community. SAC Members
  • Gerard Milburn, Chair
  • Abhay Ashtekar
  • Sir Michael Berry
  • Matthew Fisher
  • Brian Greene
  • Gerard 't Hooft
  • Igor Klebanov
  • Renate Loll
  • Michael Peskin
  • John Preskill
  • David Spergel
  • Erik Verlinde
  • Birgitta Whaley
Past SAC Members
  • Ian Affleck (2001 - 2004)
  • Artur Ekert (2001 - 2008)
  • James Hartle (2001 - 2003)
  • Chris Isham (2001-2005), former Chair
  • Cecilia Jarlskog (2001 - 2006)
  • Sir Anthony Leggett (2004 - 2008)
  • Sir Roger Penrose (2001-2007)
  • Joe Polchinski (2001 - 2004)
  • Jorge Pullin (2003-2007)
  • Paul Steinhardt (2003-2007), former Chair
  • Scott Tremaine (2001-2006), former Chair
  • Neil Turok (2008)
  • Frank Wilczek (2003-2007)

Board of Directors
Perimeter Institute is an independent not-for-profit corporation governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. The Board approves and monitors strategic plans and is the final authority on all matters of substance related to the general structure and development of the Institute Directors
  • Mike Lazaridis, Chair
  • Cosimo Fiorenza, Vice-Chair
  • Donald Campbell
  • Peter Godsoe
  • Kevin G. Lynch
  • Steven MacLean (astronaut)
  • John Reid
Founding Directors Emeriti
  • Ken Cork
  • George Leibbrandt
  • Lynn Watt
  • Douglas Wright
Past Director Emiritus
  • Robin Korthals