Since its founding in 2004, the Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC) at Harvard University has served as a center of excellence with a primary objective of integrating conceptual theory with computational modeling. It has become the largest center for theoretical astrophysics in North America with over 90 affiliated scientists, including 22 faculty members, 20-30 postdoctoral fellows and about 40 graduate students each year. Over 225 scientists from other institutions visited the ITC in 2015-2016 to give talks and collaborate with its members.
The ITC fosters interaction between observers and theorists, and its members have provided theoretical foundations for observational projects, including 21-cm cosmology, which led to Harvard's participation in the MWA project; the predicted silhouette structure of black holes, which guided mm-VLBI imaging of SgrA* and M87; the predicted properties of the first stars and galaxies, which provided important motivation for JWST and the GMT; and the modeling of the emission spectrum of accretion disks, which enabled a new census of black hole spins in the local Universe.
The ITC Postdoctoral Fellowship has become one of the most selective fellowships in astrophysics; in 2015, 176 candidates applied. ITC Fellows have gone on to win faculty positions and Hubble, Einstein, Sagan, NSF, Harvard Society of Fellows, and other prize fellowships at institutions across North America and Europe.
Computational resources at the ITC include its cluster, consisting of 16 nodes each with 2 Intel 18-core E5-2699v3 Haswell processors with 7.1 GB of RAM per core, for a total of 256 GB of RAM per node. This gives a total of 576 cores available for use and 4 TB of RAM. The nodes are interconnected with FDR Infiniband and is part of the larger Odyssey2 Infiniband network.
The ITC organizes multiple weekly talk series, including the ITC Luncheon attended by over 100 scientists, the ITC Colloquium, the ITC Pizza Lunch series in Spring, and various seminars. It also organizes the biennial Sackler Conferences in Theoretical Astrophysics, whose past topics have covered First Generation of Cosmic Structures, Gamma-Ray Bursts, Astrophysics of Planetary Systems, History of Nuclear Black Holes in Galaxies, 21cm Cosmology, Dynamics from the Galactic Center to the Milky Way Halo, the Transient Sky, the Nature of Dark Matter, and Testing General Relativity with Astrophysical Systems.
Avi Loeb, Director, Institute of Theory and Computation