New Research Areas
In its new strategic plan, ICTP announced three new research areas it will pursue in fields related to existing ones which could have significant interdisciplinary research potential, especially in their possible impact on developing countries. Those fields are:
Energy and Sustainability
Energy is a topic of key importance for developing countries, which have special needs for energy use and production. This new ICTP research area will concentrate on different sources of energy (with a focus on renewable energy) and their impact in the developing world. The area complements current activities of the Earth System Physics and Condensed Matter Physics sections, in particular the latter section's computational modelling of different materials relevant for energy conversion and storage. The hope is that such research could be implemented in collaboration with other local and national institutions.
Theoretical physics and mathematical methods are playing an increasing role in biological systems. In particular, the large volumes of data becoming available from sequencing of species require quantitative techniques more familiar to physicists and mathematicians than to biologists. Quantitative biology is the understanding of biological processes from data and quantitative analysis, computational and/or mathematical. This work is important for the developing world because of its relevance for epidemics, genetic diseases, cancer, etc.
The systematic study of algorithmic processes that create, describe, and transform information and its applications in computing systems is an ever-growing field that somehow now mirrors the role that theoretical physics used to play years ago when ICTP was founded. It has direct impact on society as a whole, and can be implemented in developing countries through improved access to computers via the internet. It is directly related to development and has important financial implications. This activity could be considered as a natural extension of the mathematics group to more applied areas. Expanding the scope of this new group to include quantum computing could also link with current research interests at ICTP and the University of Trieste.
A local cluster of computers would provide a world-class facility for the Centre's scientists and visitors. This will be needed for independent computational resources at ICTP for the existing groups (mostly Condensed Matter and Earth System Physics) and for the proposed new sections mentioned above.