Caltech Professor Hirosi Ooguri appointed new director of Kavli IPMU

October 15, 2018
Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU)


Hirosi Ooguri, Fred Kavli Chair in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics and the Founding Director of the Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has been appointed as the new Director of the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) at the University of Tokyo, the institute announced on October 15.

Read Hirosi Ooguri's Inaugural Address here

Ooguri began serving as the Director of the Kavli IPMU on October 15, 2018, assuming leadership of one of Japan’s most renowned research institutions and a member of the country’s elite selection of World Premier International Research Centers. The Kavli IPMU brings together physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the Universe.

Retiring as Director is Hitoshi Murayama, MacAdams Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley, who has served as its Founding Director for 11 years. During his tenure, Murayama has seen the institute grow from a concept to what is now an acclaimed institution with 200 researchers, with more than half arriving at the Institute from outside Japan. He will remain at the Kavli IPMU as Principal Investigator.

“I can’t imagine a better pick than Hirosi,” said Murayama. “In order to make sure the continued success of Kavli IPMU, my successor need to be a first-class scientist, internationally renowned and respected, and has experience with management and leadership. There is no question that Hirosi qualifies on all counts. He’s also been vital to Kavli IPMU since it was just a proposal, and has been instrumental in bringing physics and mathematics together, leading our string theory group, advised hiring decisions, and organizing conferences at the Kavli IPMU.”

Makoto Gonokami, President of the University of Tokyo, said: “When I became the President, there were two formidable tasks for Kavli IPMU ahead. One is to secure its financial stability beyond the WPI funding, and the other is the sustained leadership. Now I can say there is no problem to achieve the first one. For the other one, I was asking myself, how can I possibly replace a superhuman like Murayama? To my amazement, we managed to identify another superhuman: Ooguri.”

Ooguri is a world-renowned scientist who bridges physics and mathematics, as evidenced by the inaugural Leonard Eisenbud Prize for Mathematics and Physics from the American Mathematical Society, and he will receive the revamped Hamburg Prize in Theoretical Physics on November 7 with a three-day symposium at the University of Hamburg in honor of his scientific achievements. He has extensive leadership experiences as the Founding Director of Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics at Caltech and the President of Aspen Center for Physics. He has also been very effective in public outreach. His popular science books have sold over a quarter million copies in Japan, and one of them was awarded the Kodansha Prize for Science Books. The movie “The Man from 9 Dimensions” he supervised for the planetarium domes earned the Best Educational Production Award by the International Planetarium Society.

“I have known and worked with Hitoshi for over thirty years,” said Ooguri. “First when he was a graduate student in Tokyo, and then when we were both faculty members at UC Berkeley. For the last eleven years, I have been fortunate to have worked with him again at the Kavli IPMU and watched his leadership closely. Thanks to Hitoshi, the institute has grown and flourished beyond my wildest imagination. I am honored to succeed him. My priority now will be to enable our scientific staffs to perform at the highest level and to communicate their achievements to our partners and to the general public.”

Michael Turner, the Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) at the University Chicago, said of the succession: “Hitoshi Murayama succeeded in creating the IPMU as a world center, and six years ago brought IPMU into the Kavli family of world leading institutes. With the appointment of Hirosi Ooguri, a Japanese trained world leading researcher in string theory, as the next Director he has handed off IPMU to another visionary. We at the KICP have benefitted from collaborating with Murayama and the Kavli IPMU and look forward to working with Ooguri in the future.”


Kavli IPMU was founded on October 1, 2007 to address basic questions about the Universe based on a synergistic approach combining astronomy, physics, and mathematics. It was created from scratch with support by the World Premier International Research Center Program (WPI) from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), and is hosted by the University of Tokyo.

“On day one, there was no building, no scientists, no nothing. It was funded by soft money for a fixed-term, and hence no future. We’ve come a long way the last eleven years. Now we have a wonderful building with a beautiful interaction area, and host nearly a hundred Ph.D. scientists,” said Murayama.

Nobel Laureate and a former director of Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics David Gross praised the success of the Kavli IPMU during its 10th anniversary celebration.

“In my field of fundamental physics, I can certainly attest that, in this very short period of ten years, IPMU has become one of the top research institutes in the world and is widely known as such,” Gross said.

Stanford University Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) Cassius Lamb Kirk Professor in the Natural Sciences Steven Kahn said the Kavli IPMU had also succeeded in training and mentoring young scientists, and many of them have become leaders.

“We have seen a large number of outstanding young physicists, astronomers, and mathematicians come through the Kavli IPMU, and we have followed their remarkable achievements as they have distributed themselves over a number of distinguished sister institutions around the world,” Kahn said.

This year, the Kavli IPMU officially became a permanent entity in the University of Tokyo.


Media contact
Motoko Kakubayashi
Press officer
Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe
University of Tokyo
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