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Traditions and Transitions for SIAM in 2015

By Jim Crowley

New years are always times of transition. This year, Pam Cook becomes president of SIAM on January 1, and Irene Fonseca transitions to the position of past president, which she’ll occupy for one year. By the end of 2015, we will have elected the next president of SIAM, and that person will become president-elect, starting the cycle once again.

Irene Fonseca has been an energetic president, representing SIAM around the globe and encouraging the development of SIAM student chapters at many universities. She has also taken a keen interest in serving our industrial members, and many of her initiatives in that area will continue to be developed over the coming years. 

Making the transition from high-profile publishing positions within SIAM, Pam Cook (second from left) begins a two-year term as SIAM president on January 1. She succeeds Irene Fonseca (second from right), some of whose world travels on behalf of SIAM are documented in this and previous issues of SIAM News. Cook and Fonseca are shown here with predecessors, from left, Gil Strang (1999–2000), Doug Arnold (2009-10), and Nick Trefethen (2011-12). Photo by David Sytsma, Corporate Chicago Photography.
This year SIAM welcomes just one new member to the Board of Trustees: Russ Calflisch, whose three-year term begins January 1. In the fall elections the SIAM membership also returned Mary Ann Horn and Tammy Kolda to the board for an additional term. We take this opportunity to thank Kathryn Brenan, who completes her final term on the board at the end of 2014, having provided thoughtful service on several board committees.

As to the Council, Rachel Kuske returns for a second term, and Raymond Chan, Geoff McFadden, and Padma Raghavan were elected to open seats. We have three retiring Council members to thank: The final terms of Bruce Hendrickson, Michele Benzi, and Tom Hou all draw to a close at the end of 2014.

SIAM is grateful to all who agreed to run for office in our 2014 elections, and to those who agreed to serve. A special thanks to those who completed multiple terms in office; as we hope the remarks in the remainder of this article show, SIAM’s officers and committee members give generously of their time and expertise, and their efforts are greatly appreciated.



In Philadelphia for the December meeting of the SIAM Board of Trustees were departing member Kathryn Brenan and Tim Kelley, who was elected at the meeting to a third one-year term as board chair. Photo by Lois Sellers.
Members of the Board of Trustees and at-large (elected) members of the Council make up the governing bodies of SIAM; their responsibility is to ensure that SIAM remains healthy and responsive to the membership. It is the vice presidents who work directly, on a daily basis, with the portfolios of programs they oversee. As VP for education, Peter Turner has led an active Education Committee and initiated several new programs, notably the Modeling Across the Curriculum workshops as well as participation with our sister societies in several key activities in mathematics education. Turner completes his final term as VP for education at the end of 2014, with Rachel Levy succeeding him in that position.

At its December meeting, the Board of Trustees dealt mostly with routine (but consequential!) matters, such as appointments to board committees, including the Financial Management Committee, and approval of a SIAM budget for 2015. The group elected Tim Kelley to another term as board chair. 

As part of its routine business, the board reviewed reports from officers––in areas including publications, programs, and members––and from the executive director. The board approved the creation of the SIAM Activity Group on the Mathematics of Planet Earth, based on a petition received from a large group of SIAM members and submitted by Hans Kaper, who will serve as the group’s founding chair. 

Discussion topics ranged from how SIAM should respond to the Department of Energy’s recently released policy on providing public access to journals to how we might implement suggestions from the Joint Committee on Women in the Mathematical Sciences about ensuring a welcoming environment at SIAM conferences.

One additional area the board takes up is science policy. Like all the SIAM VPs, the VP for science policy (currently David Levermore) reports to the board on activities he oversees. 


David Levermore. Photo by David Sytsma.
As VP for science policy, Levermore runs the biannual meetings of the Committee on Science Policy. The group met most recently in Washington, DC, November 24 and 25, following the tradition of a fall meeting devoted to visits from representatives of agencies with programs of interest to SIAM.

Among the visitors this year were Michael Vogelius, director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation, and Steve Binkley, associate director of ASCR (Advanced Scientific Computing Research) in DOE’s Office of Science. NSF and DOE, which together provide a large portion of funding for research in applied math and computational science, play a major role in charting the direction of science.

Vogelius highlighted a few NSF programs of interest, among them the new Enriched Doctoral Training Program (EDT). Recognizing that many students in the mathematical sciences eventually take jobs outside academia, this program provides grants for pilot projects to train students for a broader range of activities. It is expected that EDT will continue next year.

Vogelius also discussed the MSII (Mathematical Sciences Innovation Incubator), which was created to support mathematical scientists who establish collaborations with researchers in other NSF-supported disciplines, such as data science. This program is in its second year and is expected to continue. 

On the theme of cross-disciplinary programs, Vogelius mentioned an initiative in mathematics and materials science, a priority area of the Obama administration, to which our community to date has responded less vigorously than anticipated. See the item below this article for information about related activities planned for the March 2015 SIAM Conference on CSE.

Workshops or minisymposia on such cross-disciplinary topics can be a means of fostering interest and interactions among scientists and mathematicians in other areas as well. A likely priority area in the near future is optics and photonics, clearly an area in which the mathematical and computational sciences have an important role to play.

Discussing ASCR, Binkley focused on its dramatic growth in recent years, mainly because of DOE’s exascale program. Much has been said about achieving exascale-level throughput with massive concurrency. As Binkley noted, though, it’s not just the hardware––advances in computer science and mathematics research are essential to achieve the program goals.

In a bit of history of ASCR’s applied math program, Binkley mentioned that data-intensive computing was recently added to the list of research topics covered, while pointing out that the program has always been rooted in numerical PDEs and solvers, along with linear algebra and optimization. Consistent with the DOE mission, topics like multiscale mathematics and multiphysics, stochastic systems, and uncertainty quantification have become important parts of the program. DOE tries to maintain a strong coupling of mathematics to applications within its mission, including subsurface phenomena, climate modeling, energy efficiency, and the electric power grid.

Also visiting the CSP were representatives from the Office of Naval Research (Wen Masters) and DARPA (Fariba Fahroo, who had recently left the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to join DARPA), as well as the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Peter Highnam). And the CSP’s continuing interest in data science and the National Institutes of Health came together in the person of Phil Bourne,  associate director for data science at NIH (an article based on his presentation appears here).

As mentioned previously in these pages, big data, data science, and data analytics seem to be themes that cross many programs.

   Jim Crowley is the executive director of SIAM.

NSF and SIAM Plan Symposium on Math in Materials Science for CSE ‘15

By Hans Kaper

Are you interested in the application of mathematics to challenging problems in materials science but don’t know where to start? Or where to apply for funding?

If so, join us at the SIAM Conference on Computational Science and Engineering in Salt Lake City, March 14–18, and reserve Saturday, March 14, for the one-day NSF–SIAM Symposium on Mathematical and Computational Aspects of Materials Science. Ten leading researchers from the materials science and mathematical sciences communities will offer their perspective on areas of research in which mathematicians and materials scientists can find exciting opportunities for significant collaboration. At a panel session during the symposium, the directors of the National Science Foundation’s Divisions of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) and Materials Research (DMR) will describe existing mechanisms for funding collaborations.

Hans Kaper, founding chair of SIAG/MPE and editor-in-chief of SIAM News, is an adjunct professor of mathematics at Georgetown University.