For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas; in just a few more decades, the world’s population will exceed 9 billion, 70 percent of whom will live in cities. Enabling those cities to deliver services effectively, efficiently, and sustainably while keeping their citizens safe, healthy, prosperous, and well-informed will be among the most important undertakings in this century. I will review how we are establishing a center for urban science and focus on bringing informatics to the study and operation of urban systems. I will touch on the rational, the structure, and the substance of the Center’s work and the ways in which it will enrich NYC and contribute to global issues. Taxis, lights, sewers, phones, and buildings will all enter into the discussion in novel ways.
Steven E. Koonin was appointed as the founding Director of NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress in April 2012. That consortium of academic, corporate, and government partners will pursue research and education activities to develop and demonstrate informatics technologies for urban problems in the “living laboratory” of New York City.
He previously served as the U.S. Department of Energy’s second Senate-confirmed Under Secretary for Science from May 19, 2009 through November 18, 2011. As Under Secretary for Science, Dr. Koonin functioned as the Department’s chief scientific officer, coordinating and overseeing research across the DOE. He led the preparation of the Department’s 2011 Strategic Plan and was the principal author of its Quadrennial Technology Review. Dr. Koonin particularly championed research programs in High Performance Simulation, Exascale Computing, Inertial Fusion Energy, and Greenhouse Gas Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification. He also provided technical counsel on diverse nuclear security matters.
He joined the California Institute of Technology’s faculty in 1975, was a research fellow at the Niels Bohr Institute during 1976-1977, and was an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow during 1977-1979. He became a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech in 1981 and served as Chairman of the Faculty from 1989-1991. Dr. Koonin was the seventh provost of Caltech from 1995-2004. In that capacity, he was involved in identifying and recruiting 1/3 of the Institute’s professorial faculty and left an enduring legacy of academic and research initiatives in the biological, physical, earth, and social sciences, as well as the planning and development of the Thirty-Meter Telescope project.
As the Chief Scientist at BP from 2004 to early 2009, Dr. Koonin developed the long-range technology strategy for alternative and renewable energy sources. He managed the firm’s university–based research programs and played a central role in establishing the Energy Biosciences Institute at the University of California Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Dr. Koonin is a member and past chair of the JASON Study Group, advising the U.S. Government on technical matters of national security. He has served on numerous advisory committees for the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense, including the Defense Science Board and the CNO’s Executive Panel. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Trilateral Commission and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences . In 1985, Dr. Koonin received the Humboldt Senior U.S. Scientist Award and, in 1998 the Department of Energy’s E.O. Lawrence Award for his “broad impact on nuclear many-body physics, on astrophysics, and on a variety of related fields where sophisticated numerical methods are essential; and in particular, for his breakthrough in nuclear shell model calculations centered on an ingenious method for dealing with the huge matrices of heavy nuclei by using path integral methods combined with the Monte Carlo technique.”