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May 12, 2014

IST Austria celebrates five-year-anniversary

Series of events commemorate opening of campus in June 2009 • Henzinger reviews successful development • Major events include Open Campus Day (May 25), Science Industry Talk (June 3) and IST Lecture (June 5) • Computer scientist coming from Disney Research to join IST Austria as new professor

In June 2009 the campus of IST Austria was officially opened and scientists began with their research. In May and June 2014 IST Austria will celebrate its quinquennial anniversary with several events addressing the general public and the scientific community. President Thomas Henzinger in his review summarized the past five years: “The story of IST Austria can be told in a few numbers: Then, in 2009, we were four professors and soon – selected from more than 5500 applications – we will be 31 professors, with 14 of them supported by the most competitive European research grants, provided by the ERC. We grew from then 20 to now 380 employees from more than 50 countries, among them almost 100 graduate students. To complement the initial building for theoretical science,two lab buildings for experimental science were built, with a third one to be completed in late 2015. So far we have acquired more than 50 million Euros in donations and research grants. Due to the steadfast support and long-term financial commitment by Austria’s federal government and the province of Lower Austria, IST Austria continues to grow on its trajectory to success”, Henzinger concluded.

The first event is a reference to the campus opening five years ago. On Sunday May 25, 12.00-18.00, the Open Campus Day will enable visitors from the region to discover the research institute on their own account. The guests are invited to experience the world of science at the interactive research islands prepared by IST Austria research groups. The Governor of Lower Austria, Erwin Pröll, will honor the winners of a school competition. Hands-on experiments will let children discover the fun of research and guided tours will take the visitors through the labs and the machine shop. Other events include a family lecture and science comedy with music as well as food rounding off the program.

The Science-Industry Talk on June 3, 17.00-19.00, jointly organized by IST Austria and the Federation of Austrian Industries (IV), is the fourth annual event in this series with the intention to strengthen the relationship between industry and basic research. This year’s talk will focus on identifying and fostering talent. The event will commence with opening words by the federal science minister Reinhold Mitterlehner and IV president Georg Kapsch. The panelists include Imperial College’s former „Pro Rector Enterprise“ Edward Astle, Stanford Professor Friedrich Prinz , Ashoka regional director Marie Ringler, pharmaceutical entrepreneur Helga Rübsamen-Schaeff, and venture capitalist Falk Strascheg.

On June 5, Iain D. Couzin will give an IST Lecture titled “From Democratic Consensus to Cannibalistic Hordes: The Principles of Collective Behavior”. IST Lectures aim to introduce eminent researchers presenting their work to a scientific audience and the general public and are given in English. Couzin, a professor at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University (NJ), is interested in animal groups such as bird flocks, fish schools, and insect swarms because they frequently exhibit complex and coordinated collective behaviors. This presents unrivaled opportunities to link the behavior of individuals with the functioning and efficiency of dynamic group-level properties. According to Couzin, emergent problem solving is the predominant mechanism by which mobile animal groups sense, and respond to complex environmental gradients.

All events mentioned above are open to the public, free of charge.

The Young Scientists Symposium 2014 on May 15 gives the post-docs and students at IST Austria the chance to display their scientific and organizational skills. Titled “Synchronize! Clocks, Rhythms and Communication across the sciences” the participants will discuss the emergence of regular patterns in initially disorganized systems, which appears all over science. Regularity can emerge both in time and space. The one-day multidisciplinary event will encompass six general talks and a panel discussion on diverse topics, including neuroscience, biology, physics, and computer science.

Finally, President Thomas Henzinger announced that computer scientist Bernd Bickel will join IST Austria in early 2015 as Assistant Professor, raising the total number of professors to 31. Bickel, born 1982 in Feldkirch (Austria), is interested in computer graphics and its overlap with animation, biomechanics, material science, and digital fabrication. His main objective is to push the boundaries of how digital content can be efficiently created, simulated, and reproduced using advanced 3D printing technology.

Bickel obtained his Master’s degree in Computer Science from ETH Zurich in 2006. For his PhD studies, Bernd Bickel joined the group of Markus Gross, a full professor of Computer Science at ETH Zurich and the director of Disney Research Zurich. From 2010 to 2012 Bickel was visiting professor at TU Berlin and then became a research scientist and research group leader at Disney Research Zurich, where he investigates approaches for simulating, designing, and fabricating materials and objects.

Bickel’s work focuses on two closely related challenges: (1) developing novel modeling and simulation methods, and (2) investigating efficient representation and editing algorithms for materials and functional objects. Recent work includes: theoretical foundations and practical algorithms for measuring and modeling the deformation behavior of soft tissue; simulating and reproducing fundamental properties, such as elasticity, surface reflectance, and subsurface scattering; and computational design systems for efficiently creating functional artifacts such as deformable objects and mechanical systems.


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