HITS Annual Report

You can read and download the HITS Annual Report 2015 here.


2015 could be defined as a year of firsts, transformation, and continuity for HITS. In other words, there is much to report and the pages that follow this foreword are full of interesting science and impressive achievements. But first, let’s reflect on what defined 2015 for HITS.

Firsts: This is the first year that, following the establishment of the new HITS charter at the end of 2014, HITS has been under the dual leadership of a Managing Director and a Scientific Director. Over the year, we have worked out together how to share and divide the tasks previously carried out by Andreas Reuter and Klaus Tschira as Managing Directors. The new charter has also initiated new procedures, such as the first scientific evaluation by external reviewers coordinated by the Scientific Advisory Board. The first evaluation was of our three biologically oriented research groups, Computational Biology (CBI), Molecular and Cellular Modelling (MCM), and Molecular Biomechanics (MBM).  The plan is to review different, thematically related clusters of about three research groups every year. The review process and the annual meetings of the Scientific Advisory Board are intended to assist in ensuring scientific excellence at HITS. Already this year, they have provided valuable impulses.

Transformation and continuityKlaus Tschira’s untimely death in March was obviously a watershed for HITS. But at the same time, HITS’ new structure has enabled us to steadfastly continue to follow our agenda of multidisciplinary computational research. Indeed, HITS has continued to expand, its newest addition being the Physics of Stellar Objects group (PSO) headed by Fritz Röpke, who came from the University of Würzburg to join HITS in January 2015. Christoph Pfrommer won an ERC Consolidator grant to set up his own Junior Research group, High-Energy Astrophysics and Cosmology (HAC), which will start work in April 2016. Thus, HITS has a very strong presence in theoretical astrophysics and astronomy with four research groups active in these fields. In June, the Groups and Geometry (GRG) group led by Anna Wienhard was established as an associated research group. Anna, who also holds an ERC Consolidator grant, will retain her primary position as a professor at the Mathematics Department of Heidelberg University, but her affiliation with HITS will enable her to expand her research on symmetry, geometry, and topology in new, interdisciplinary directions. Furthermore, we are in the process of recruiting a Scientific Visualization group in conjunction with Heidelberg University. This will be part of a virtual center for Scientific Visualization with KIT, Heidelberg University, and HITS as the participating organizations.

It is five years since HITS saw the light of day and we moved into the ‘new’ building that this summer officially was named the “Klaus Tschira HITS Building.” The “Mathematikon,” a new building for Mathematics and Computer Science built with the support of the Klaus Tschira Stiftung on the Heidelberg University campus, opened at the end of the year. It will be home to the new scientific visualization group – and (by mid-2016) to our colleagues from EML, thus freeing up space on the HITS campus for some of HITS’ 120+ scientists.

In January 2015 we marked HITS’ 5th birthday with a symposium as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Klaus Tschira Stiftung. (see chapter 5.3). In November, we held a symposium in honor of Andreas Reuter (see chapter 5.9), who will step down as Managing Director at the end of March 2016 after an overlap period with our new Managing Director, Gesa Schönberger, who started at HITS in January 2016. Andreas Reuter will remain Managing Director of the HITS Stiftung and senior professor at Heidelberg University, moderating a task force dedicated to developing a blueprint for a future IT infrastructure accommodating the needs of the research institutions in the Heidelberg-Mannheim-Karlsruhe region.

We are confident that with all these changes HITS is well-positioned for its consolidation phase, which is expected to start next year.