Interestingly, the concept of this new center seems to be to move away from Princeton’s traditional emphasis on particle theory (and more recently, string theory) as the central topic of theoretical physics, in favor of a much broader concept, bringing “together faculty, postdoctoral fellows and students from science departments across campus to study topics ranging from the Big Bang to quantum computing to evolution.”
In recent years Callan has been spending much of his time working on biology, and the idea seems to be for the center to encourage this sort of work by theoretical physicists in other disciplines. Callan says:
“A motivation for the center is the growing realization that some very exciting challenges in theoretical science arise when we ask what theoretical physics can do to help comprehend the new phenomena and enormous amounts of high-quality data that other disciplines are now producing.”
“In discussions among a group of faculty over the last year, we came to the conclusion that Princeton is remarkably well-placed to foster such developments: It is a leader in theoretical physics and it has an unusual number of faculty in other departments — including chemistry, engineering, molecular biology and genomics — who are trained in theoretical physics,” he said. “The purpose of the center is to create a framework in which these people can work together to expand the boundaries of theoretical science.”
The associate director will be cosmologist Paul Steinhardt, and the other faculty associated with the center include condensed matter theorists Ravindra Bhatt and Shivaji Sondhi, string theorist Igor Klebanov, astrophysicist David Spergel, biophysicist William Bialek, and materials scientist Salvatore Torquato. The center will open in the fall of 2006 with thematic programs in cosmology and quantum computation starting in 2007.
Across town at the IAS they’re not branching out into other subjects but sticking to pure string theory, recently announcing that next year’s Prospects in Theoretical Physics summer program will be devoted to training graduate students and postdocs in string theory.