Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

Letter from the Director, December 2020

Dear friends,

I hope you and yours are doing well, as this year draws to a close finally …

Looking back on the last nine months, I’m in awe of the grit of our research community. The fact that the Simons Institute has been able to run two vibrant large-scale research programs in a fully remote environment is a testament to your perseverance and passion, as well as your flexibility. I am forever grateful for the organizers and participants in our Fall 2020 programs on Probability, Geometry, and Computation in High Dimensions and on Theory of Reinforcement Learning, and for our outstanding staff, who made these convenings possible. 

I’m happy to be able to announce that the Simons Institute will be opening for limited in-person collaboration starting in January. We have been approved to participate in an outdoor pilot program on campus, allowing the long-term participants in our Spring 2021 programs to meet for research collaboration meetings in the outdoor areas surrounding Calvin Lab. Workshops and other larger gatherings will continue to take place online for now. You can read more about our reopening plans here.

In other news, Simons Institute Senior Advisor Jelani Nelson has launched a new summer research program for undergraduates, in collaboration with colleagues at Stanford and UCLA. The David Harold Blackwell Summer Research Institute aims to increase participation of African American students in the mathematical sciences. You can read more about the Blackwell Institute and watch the SimonsTV interview with Jelani here.

Also in our SimonsTV corner this month, we have a talk by Science Communicator in Residence Brian Christian about his recently released book, The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values. And in our Cooks, in Theory corner, we have a primer on preparing Thai curry, from Daniel Mitropolsky.

Happy holidays, and for 2021, my wishes are clear: may we see each other face-to-face, talk, laugh, and bond as we were meant to.

Best wishes,