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12/22/2010 08:00:00

New Year's Message from President Jean-Lou Chameau

Dear Members of the Caltech Community:

Happy Holidays!  To mark the season, I would like to share with you the following New Year's message from Albert Einstein, delivered upon his arrival in California for his first visit to Caltech in December 1930, and recently translated by researchers at Caltech's Einstein Papers Project: 

"To you all, my American friends, I wish a happy 1931.  You are well entitled to look confidently to the future, because you harmoniously combine the joy of life, the joy of work, and a carefree, enterprising spirit which pervades your very being, and seems to make the day's work like blessed play to a child."

In many ways, Einstein was describing Caltech itself, both as he found it 80 years ago and as it remains today.  Caltech is a place where faculty, staff, and students collaborate in a rigorous intellectual environment, tackling the biggest challenges of their time.  It is also a small community, where people share a great joy in the wonder and possibility of science and technology, creating the right conditions for creative talent to thrive.  

Awards and accolades we take for granted at Caltech are big news at other universities.  Although it is not in our culture to boast of such things, let me highlight one such honor: the National Medal of Science awarded by President Obama to Amnon Yariv for his pioneering work in optoelectronics.  Dr. Yariv became the 55th recipient of the Medal among our faculty and alumni.  When congratulated after receiving the highest honor bestowed on scientists by the U.S. government, Professor Yariv commented that he owed much of the award to his students for coming up with such creative problems to solve throughout his career. 

Among many examples of students and postdocs engaged in revolutionary and highly relevant research, students in the new DOE-sponsored Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) are working with faculty to develop game-changing methods of generating fuel directly from sunlight.  This example also highlights Caltech's major initiatives in the areas of energy and the environment.  To support these efforts, our physical infrastructure continues to evolve.  A few months from now, we will celebrate the opening of the renovated Linde + Robinson Laboratory, future home of the Linde Center for Global Environmental Science, and in early 2011 we will initiate the renovation of the Jorgensen Laboratory.  The Jorgensen Lab will house the Resnick Sustainability Institute and JCAP.  In another DOE solar project, Caltech undergraduate students were selected to take part in the biennial Solar Decathlon.  Teams from around the world will converge on the National Mall in September and compete to construct the most cost-effective, energy-efficient, and livable solar-powered house.

In addition to continued strength in all of our core disciplines, Caltech is taking a leadership role in important interdisciplinary areas such as energy, translational medicine, and information science and technology, among others.  Along these lines, we recently initiated the new Center for Exotic Quantum Systems in partnership with the Moore Foundation, which will bring together researchers from PMA and EAS to collaborate in this emerging field. 

Construction work, such as the Jorgensen renovation, always brings some level of disruption to campus.  However, having an enjoyable and supportive physical environment is important to our work.  Caltech has been widely recognized for its efforts in constructing high quality and energy-efficient buildings, and I want to commend our facilities staff for their role in making this success possible.  Progress also continues toward creating a campus that is more aesthetically engaging.  In one example, we will use the opportunities afforded by the renovations of Jorgensen, and later the Winnett Center, to engage the community in enhancing the landscaping and meeting areas in front of the Chandler cafeteria.  

A supportive environment encompasses more than a beautiful campus.  A recent study by a committee chaired by Professor Dianne Newman highlighted a number of improvements Caltech should consider making to its child care facilities.  We will do our best to follow up on its key recommendations in the coming years.  For example, funding has already been approved to create additional space for infants and toddlers in our child care facilities. 

Caltech explores new worlds, some in the laboratory and some far away.  JPL engineers are currently preparing the Mars Science Laboratory's rover ("Curiosity") for its launch in the fall of 2011.  In the first month after a public webcam of the rover construction site debuted, more than a million unique visitors logged on to watch the preparation of Curiosity!  Our JPL and campus researchers are well positioned to support the nation's space program in coming years, and the enormous impact we have had on space exploration for more than 50 years will continue.  To that end, we are further leveraging the campus-JPL partnership through the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS), which is dedicated to new planetary, earth, and astrophysics mission concepts and technology. 

Finally, despite continuing economic challenges facing the country, both the campus and JPL continue to attract the resources needed to excel in our research and education missions.  In fiscal year 2010, our overall expenditures topped $2.3 billion.  JPL continued its great partnership in innovation with NASA and recorded expenditures of almost $1.7 billion.  On the campus, our faculty received nearly $330 million in new research awards.  Private support remained strong, with more than $100 million in additional commitments, as well as the second-largest percentage increase in alumni giving of any school in the country.  Caltech's endowment also recovered and was back above $1.6 billion.  Because of these accomplishments, as well as the hard work and leadership of its staff, the campus ended the fiscal year with a balanced budget.

Our faculty, researchers, staff, and students make all of Caltech's many successes possible.  Because of you, recalling the words of Einstein, Caltech should look confidently to 2011 and the years ahead.  

Yours in discovery,


Written by Jean-Lou Chameau