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New Gift from Science Philanthropist to Benefit Students at KIPAC

The Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC)—which seeks to understand the universe on all scales, from colliding galaxies to tiny unseen particles that constitute the lion's share of the universe—has received a new infusion of support from science philanthropist Fred Kavli and The Kavli Foundation.

The pledge of $7.5 million sets up an endowment that will sponsor Kavli Fellowships for promising graduate students and young researchers. Committed to securing the institute's future, Stanford is offering matching funds to help attract additional gifts to build the endowment to $20 million.

Based both at SLAC and on the main Stanford campus, researchers at KIPAC are working on a number of projects, such as designing and building the world's largest digital camera for a ground-based telescope—the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope—to map dark matter and explain the perplexing substance called dark energy. KIPAC also runs an operations and analysis center for the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, which will be launched by NASA this June. KIPAC led the design and construction of the telescope's major instrument.

"Fred Kavli's great foresight and generosity have made it possible for Stanford's astrophysics program to become a world leader in addressing fundamental questions about the nature of the universe," said Stanford President John Hennessy. "In an era of federal cuts to basic science, private philanthropy is crucial to continuing exceptional research at Stanford, and we are grateful for Fred's vision and commitment."

In 2003, Kavli and his foundation committed $7.5 million in seed funding to establish KIPAC and contribute to the Fred Kavli Building at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. In addition, they have started 14 other institutes at leading universities in the United States and abroad.

The new gift is being matched with funds from a $400 million gift made in 2001 by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in part to encourage endowment gifts to the School of Humanities and Sciences, which includes KIPAC. Richard Saller, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, allocated the matching funds because the money will support one of the school's highest priorities: retaining and attracting the best students and faculty. "This endowment, a wonderful expression of Fred Kavli's enduring support and wise counsel, will ensure the permanence of KIPAC as an exciting place for outstanding young people to pursue some of the most fascinating and deepest problems in 21st-century science," said Roger Blandford, the Luke Blossom Professor and Pehong and Adele Chen Director of KIPAC.

Growing up under the northern lights and bright stars of Norway, Kavli formed a lifelong fascination with the universe. Thanks to a business venture he and his brother ran as teenagers during World War II, he could afford to study physics at the Norwegian Institute of Technology. Several years later, he started an advanced sensors company in Southern California. Recently, he has devoted his time to advancing fundamental research in astrophysics, neurosciences, nanosciences and theoretical physics. Next month, his foundation will announce the first winners of the Kavli Prize in three of these areas. The prizes carry $1 million awards.

"I am pleased to see a firm foundation in place for KIPAC to advance its research and teaching well into the future," said Kavli, who lives in Santa Barbara. "Fundamental science ultimately has a positive, long-term impact on the human condition, and I am honored to support the pursuit of big discoveries by innovative scientists."

Heather Rock Woods, SLAC Today, May 7, 2008

Heather Rock Woods is a writer at Stanford's Office of Development. This article can also be seen in its original form in Stanford Report.

Above image: Fred Kavli