New program supports research and discovery in theoretical physics with $10 million gift
A generous donation from James H. Clark will support postdoctoral and graduate student fellows.
A $10 million gift from entrepreneur and computer scientist James H. Clark will fund postdoctoral and graduate student Clark Fellows at Stanford’s Institute for Theoretical Physics (SITP) in the School of Humanities and Sciences.
“This generous gift allows Stanford to remain a leader in theoretical physics,” said Debra Satz, the Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences and Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society. “I am grateful to Jim Clark for making these fellowships possible to early career scholars which will allow for new conversations, research, and, ultimately, new scientific breakthroughs to occur.”
The Clark Fellows will be crucial to ensuring the constant flow of fresh ideas and perspectives that SITP relies on to solve complex problems. “Postdoctoral and graduate student fellows bring a perspective that’s been informed by current trends in physics,” said Shamit Kachru, chair of the Department of Physics and director of SITP. “Their perspectives are invaluable in asking new questions and seeing problems in a new light.”
SITP is a research institute comprising 20 faculty in physics and related fields, and includes approximately 100 graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and visitors. Clark said he believes physicists have a crucial role in communicating facts and information related to topics of importance to the health of our planet and humanity. Research within SITP includes a focus on fundamental questions about particle physics, gravity, cosmology and the early universe, and on the nature and applications of quantum field theory and string theory for examining these questions.
Postdocs, recruited from other institutions around the world, are scientists with their own lines of research and approaches. “Different places have a different spirit and feel, and there’s a difference in how they conduct their science, too,” Kachru said. “Some places are more mathematical while others are more free-form and creative. And when the postdocs come to us, they bring some of that style with them.”
As an associate professor of electrical engineering at Stanford from 1979–1982, Clark developed the Geometry Engine, a hardware accelerator for rendering computer images. The technology he developed was used to create early products at Silicon Graphics, a firm he founded, which dramatically altered the design process for everything from bridges and airplanes to special effects for movies.
A longtime donor to Stanford, Clark recently fulfilled his $60 million commitment to foster interdisciplinary research in the life sciences at the university, including support for graduate fellowships, professorships, and seed grants within Stanford Bio-X, Stanford Bioengineering, and the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute. This followed his gift of $90 million toward construction of the James H. Clark Center, a pioneering interdisciplinary biosciences facility and home to Stanford Bio-X.
Recruitment for the first cohort of Clark Fellows will begin in fall 2021.