Annual Report

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The HITS Annual Report 2023 – Foreword

Sometimes, an outside perspective helps to put things into focus: “You deliver the vision of your founder Klaus Tschira, making it a reality.” This quote from Olexandr Isayev (Klaus Tschira Visiting Professor at HITS in spring 2023) serves as both an impulse and an affirmation for us.

We are proud of what our scientists and research groups achieved last year and are pleased to be able to give you a brief overview of the scientific highlights below:

At the beginning of the year, Friedrich Röpke – leader of the Physics of Stellar Objects (PSO) group – received an ERC Advanced Grant for his project “ExCEED: Explaining Common-Envelope Evolution and Dynamics in binary stellar systems.” That means that six out of thirteen research groups at HITS were working with ERC grant funding in 2023.

Moreover, Alexandros Stamatakis – leader of the Computational Molecular Evolution (CME) group – founded the Biodiversity Computing research group on Crete in January 2023, which is funded by the EU’s ERA Chair Program for a period of five years (see Chapter 2.3). During this time, Alexandros will continue to supervise his group at HITS from Crete and will participate in the HITS activities as an associated group leader.

In addition to the successful acquisition of third-party funding, the quality of the Institute’s research is also reflected in the staff who join and leave HITS as well as in the guest researchers. Our second Independent Postdoc, Fabian Grünewald, took up his position at HITS in the fall of 2023 and works with the Molecular Biomechanics research group on developing computer-assisted high-throughput protocols that can enable the design of RNA nanoparticles as therapeutics (see Sections 2.14 and 6.2). Furthermore, our two Klaus Tschira Guest ProfessorsOlexandr Isayev from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA) and Philipp Podsiadlowski (Oxford, UK) – used their time at HITS last year to intensify their collaboration with the research groups of Ganna (Anya) Gryn’ova (Computational Carbon Chemistry) and Fabian Schneider (Stellar Evolution Theory) (see Chapter 6.1).

Another highlight in 2023 was Indian-American science journalist Anil Ananthaswamy’s stay at HITS as Journalist in Residence, starting in April. During his time at the Institute, he gave a very well-attended public lecture on large language models such as Chat GPT (“ChatGPT and its ilk”) at the Heidelberg Mathematics Informatics Station MAINS (see Chapter 4).

We also had to say a fond farewell last year to Anna Wienhard, head of our associated Groups and Geometry (GRG) group, who accepted an appointment as Director at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzig in fall 2022. We officially bid her farewell and honored her as a HITS Fellow at a special mathematics colloquium on 8 July 2023 (see Chapter 5.3). We are grateful to Anna and proud of her time at HITS, where she worked as a group leader for seven years. We wish her all the best in the next chapter of her career.

At HITS, we are highly dedicated to sustainability. We are aware that our research – and especially high-performance computing – consumes resources and energy. In fact, well over 50% of the electricity consumption at HITS is currently used for high-performance computing. By analyzing our energy consumption and raising awareness among our employees, we were able to take first steps toward future-oriented and more sustainable research. Since March 2023, we have been supported by a sustainability advisor with a focus on high-performance computing. Test runs for power limiting the HITS compute cluster were designed, carried out, and evaluated together with our IT group.

Reducing energy consumption is one thing, but actively investing in climate protection is another. That’s why HITS has been offsetting air travel since 2021 and car travel for business purposes since 2023.

Last year, a team of astrophysicists at HITS playfully approached the topic of sustainability by developing a board game called Habitable, in which the aim is to create a planet that remains habitable despite changing environmental conditions. With this concept, the team was among the winners of the “Our Universe” competition – which is organized by Wissenschaft im Dialog – and won a prize for the further development and implementation of the game (see Chapters 2.12 and 4).

We are delighted that sustainability is attracting a great deal of interest from our researchers. This can also be seen in the lively participation in colloquium lectures and scientific seminars on topics such as the carbon footprint of astrophysical research (Jürgen Knödlseder, IRAP, GAHEC, Toulouse, France), probabilistic forecasts for climate change (Adrian Raftery, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, see Chapter 5.2), and energy-aware coding (Vincent Heuveline, HITS DMQ group).

There is no doubt that all this is just the beginning. Furthermore, we will continue to do everything we can in the coming decades to enable, facilitate, and support sustainable and excellent research in order to realize the vision of our founder, Klaus Tschira: Think beyond the limits!

We hope you enjoy reading our Annual Report 2023!

Dr. Gesa Schönberger, Managing Director

Prof. Dr. Tilmann Gneiting, Scientific Director 2023 & 2024

Read/download the HITS Annual Report 2023 online here (PDF):

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