HITS Annual Report

You can read and download the HITS Annual Report 2016 here.


This is a foreword to the annual report for 2016 but let’s first look back at the foreword to the 2014 annual report. It began with “The first start-up phase of HITS has been  completed” and went on to “Now that the institute has reached its ‘cruising altitude’”. So, in 2016, what did the “cruising altitude” look like?

On the management side, Gesa Schönberger began as  Managing Director of HITS in January 2016 and Andreas  Reuter stepped down in April following his retirement (see Chapter 10). Andreas Reuter, along with Klaus Tschira, built up HITS from its very beginning. His leaving is thus a significant loss for HITS but we are glad that he continues to advise in his role in the management of the HITS Stiftung. Rebecca Wade completed her two-year term as  Scientific Director at the end of 2016 and Michael Strube took over this role in January 2017. The HITS management is supported by the Shareholders Board and the Scientific Advisory Board (see Chapter 10 for a Who’s Who). Jeannette Wing stepped down from the Scientific Advisory Board after her three-year term and we thank her for her constructive and enthusiastic engagement.

At the beginning of the year, we were struggling to find desks for all the scientists and students who wanted to do research at HITS. In the summer, we were at last able to increase the number of desk spaces available to HITSters by expanding to use the whole of Villa Reiner and by opening a second site at the Mathematikon. We expect that the Mathematikon site will facilitate interactions between HITSters and scientists at the university and other institutes on the Neuenheimer Feld campus. The Scientific Databases and Visualization (SDBV, see Chapter 2.12) group led by Wolfgang Müller has moved to the offices in the Mathematikon where they are closer to some of their cooperation partners and next door to other institutions founded by Klaus Tschira or his foundation: EML European Media Laboratory GmbH, the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology (HeiGIT) and Heidelberg Mobil International GmbH. At year end, the HITS working space had certainly reached “cruising altitude” but, with the planned addition of a group in scientific visualization, as well as a gradual increase in the number of junior research groups, the empty desks can only be temporary.

At “cruising altitude”, we can expect research groups to come and go. Indeed, Christoph Pfrommer started his ERC-supported junior group in High Energy Astrophysics and Cosmology (HAC, see Chapter 2.6) in April 2016 but will move in April 2017 to take up a Professorship at the University of Potsdam and establish a research group at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam.

During the year, HITS continued to build its connections in a multitude of ways. HITS became a scientific partner of the Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation, thereby paving the way for a long-term synergistic cooperation. The HITS-Yale program in Astrophysics was established; it supports two postdoctoral “Tschira fellows” and exchange visits between HITS and Yale University in the USA (see Chapter 6). New research cooperations extended as far as Australia, with HITS scientists participating in the Australian Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (CAASTRO-3D) project. Amongst many outreach activities, the HITS open house event in July was very well attended and HITS scientists contributed to a successful series of lunch-time talks in St Peter’s church in the Heidelberg Old Town on maths-related topics. For the first time, a radio science reporter, Michael Stang, was this year’s “Journalist in Residence”, and we also hosted Alexander Mäder as a visiting science journalist (see Chapter 4).

Most importantly, the HITS scientists continued to carry out excellent cutting-edge research, some of which was recognized by a remarkable number of awards in 2016. While we leave you to decide from reading this report, we think it is fair to conclude that HITS has actually reached its “cruising altitude” but we won’t be surprised when the “altitude” changes in the coming years! Finally, we thank the Klaus Tschira Foundation for their continual support without which it would never have been possible to reach “cruising altitude” or to pursue our goal, to “think beyond the limits!”

Dr. Gesa Schönberger, Manging Director

Prof. Dr. Rebecca Wade, Scientific Director 2015-2016