Lars Bildsten

University of California, Santa Barbara

Candidate for Chair-Elect, Nominating CommitteeLars Bildsten

Biographical Summary

Lars Bildsten is a Permanent Member of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics and a Professor in the Physics Department at University of California, Santa Barbara.  He received his PhD in theoretical physics from Cornell University in 1991, where he held a Fannie and John Hertz Graduate Fellowship. Bildsten was at Caltech for three years as the Lee A. DuBridge Research Fellow in Theoretical Astrophysics and received a Compton Fellowship from NASA in spring 1994. He was an assistant and associate professor in both the Physics and Astronomy departments at University of California, Berkeley from January 1995 through July 1999. While there, he was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship in 1995 and a Hellman Family Faculty Fund Award in 1997. The Research Corporation designated him as a Cottrell Scholar in 1998. In 1999, he was awarded the Helen B. Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Society. Bildsten was the 2000 Salpeter Lecturer at Cornell University, the 2004 Biermann Lecturer at the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics and is a Foreign Associate of the Cosmology and Gravity Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

During the previous Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics , Bildsten served on two Panels: High Energy Astrophysics from Space and Theory, Computation and Data Exploration. He was an elected member of the Executive Committee of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society in 2000 and 2001 and the Executive Committee of the Division of Astrophysics of the American Physical Society from 2003-2005. He has served on many recent NRC panels, including the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics from 2001 to 2005 and the Panel to Review the Science Requirements for the Terrestrial Planet Finder and Committee on Review of Progress in Astronomy and Astrophysics toward the Decadal Vision in 2005. He was a member of the NSF's Mathematical and Physical Science Advisory Committee from 2004 until 2007. In 2008, he began his service on Astro2010: The Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey committee.

Bildsten has placed substantial efforts in education, both at the college and K-12 level. His upper division physics course: "Physics of California" has brought fluid dynamics and continuum mechanics back into the curriculum for physics majors at UC-Santa Barbara. He is also part of a collaborative effort in Santa Barbara to dramatically strengthen and enhance science and engineering education in grades 7-12. As a member of the Board of Directors of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation, he has worked to raise over $2,000,000 in funding for a new facility, and funds that have allowed for nearly 20 math tutors to be placed in 7th-8th grade classrooms throughout the county.

Bildsten's theoretical research spans the fields of stellar astrophysics, gravitational wave phenomena, and stellar explosions. His current efforts are focused on the physics of accreting white dwarfs, with a special focus on the thermonuclear instabilities that lead to explosions, both the remarkably bright Type Ia supernovae and newly discovered faint explosions.  This encompasses the theoretical study of many different physical phenomena, including thermonuclear instabilities, nuclear reactions, propagating combustion fronts and stellar oscillations. Bildsten also works closely with observers to gain knowledge on these objects from observation, especially focused now on supernovae of all types. He has maintained a strong interest in the prospects for detection of accreting neutron stars in our Galaxy and merging neutron stars at cosmological distances with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory and is presently chair of the LIGO Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Panel.

Candidate's Statement
Physics remains at the center of our society, from educating students to yielding technological innovations, and, of course, revealing the secrets of our universe. We have more discoveries to make! A large part of the American Physical Society's mission is to reveal the excitement in our field to a broad populace and ensure that the funding agencies (both public and private) have what they need to 'make the case' that physics is an integral part of our nations' continued progress.

Leadership matters, and I will work to identify those capable of addressing the breadth of issues facing society today, from educating our youth, to ensuring that scientific breakthroughs continue to sprout from our colleges, universities and national and private laboratories. Candidates for election to leadership positions in the APS must have this breadth.

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