After almost eight years officially serving as director of the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC), Diego F. Torres is stepping down as ICE-CSIC Director, effective on 11 September 2023. While a new director is appointed, ICE-CSIC Deputy Director Aldo Serenelli will serve as Acting Director.
Diego F. Torres is an ICREA Research Professor at the ICE-CSIC and IEEC, and he joined the institute at the end of 2005 to start a research group on high-energy astrophysics. Prof. Torres became ICE-CSIC’s director in March 2016. During his directorship, the institute established a new management and organisational scheme, created distributed executive structures, produced written internal regulations, organised the Advanced Engineering Unit, and established the ICE-CSIC International Advisory Committee.
During his directorship, the institute experienced a substantial growth in personnel, for instance the number of tenured scientists increased from 14 to 31 (more than 100%) and the administration, due to the creation of the new services (like the Communication & Outreach office or the laboratory management support) and the enhancement of others, by more than 200%.
This was possible thanks to the evolution of the institute’s resources and management grants. Grants and contracts managed by the institute averaged 5.5 million euros per year in this period, and grew from 4.2 in 2016 to 7.37 million euros in 2022. Among those, the institute was recognised as one of the top research centres in Spain and received the María de Maeztu Seal of Excellence from the Spanish Government in 2021, which included an award of 2.8 million euros. Concurrently, the average yearly amount in contracts with industry or ESA that was acquired by our personnel in the period increased five-fold compared to 2016. More than 6 million euros were acquired and invested to improve ICE-CSIC’s global infrastructures and research in this period.
Under Torres’s directorship, ICE-CSIC created its Summer School Program (over 300 international students during its six editions so far), the ICE-CSIC Strategy retreat (5 sessions organised, including 2 days discussion of ICE-CSIC research and future), strengthen participation in the Postgraduate Program of High Energy Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology (half the students continue in ICE-CSIC every year, with the institute offering several bridge fellowships for students to continue PhD studies), and started several other programmes, like the Thematic Cores, Outgoing professorships, Students and fellows best contribution awards, and more. Off-topic seminars and Debate series were also created to foster ICE-CSIC’s social life.
Another important aspect of his tenure as ICE-CSIC director has been fostering the public engagement actions of the institute with the creation of the ICE-CSIC Communication & Outreach Office and the participation of several public engagement initiatives, most notably the Magnet programme, where ICE-CSIC collaborates in the 2021-2025 period with a school in Igualada (Spain) to fight school segregation using astronomy. In addition, during his directorship, the institute has advocated the importance of equity actions, including establishing a Gender-balanced Strategy Committee and in decision bodies of all internal positions; the creation of the ICE-CSIC Equity Committee and posts of Ph.D. & Postdoc representatives; and the promotion of the bottom-up ‘ICE-CSIC Code of Conduct’, approved by the institute’s Board.
ICE-CSIC is today at the forefront of research in Spain, usually found at the very top places in scientific productivity (both per research and as a whole, regardless of the institutional size).
An outstanding research career on high energy astrophysics
Prof. Torres is a Doctor in Physics from the National University at La Plata (1998) and his research focuses on compact objects and cosmic rays. As a researcher, he develops models for some of the most energetic phenomena known in astrophysics and tests them with observations using ground-based telescopes and satellites. He leads the ICE-CSIC participation in the Cherenkov Telescope Array Observatory (CTAO) and NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
He received several awards including the Chinese Academy of Sciences Presidential Fellowship, the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Award of the Humboldt Foundation of Germany, the Shakti Duggal Award on Cosmic Ray Physics of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, the NASA Group Achievement Award, and the Guggenheim Fellowship. He also shared the Rossi prize given to the Fermi-LAT collaboration.