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Unprecedented Turnout in Salt Lake City As CSE Conference Marks 15th Year

By Lois Curfman McInnes, Hans De Sterck, and Chris Johnson

The SIAM Conference on Computational Science and Engineering has seen dramatic growth since its inception in 2000. CSE15, held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, was in fact the largest SIAM conference to date. The 1687 registered attendees reflect a 23% increase over CSE13 – and a four-fold increase since 2000.

A celebration of the 15th anniversary of the SIAM series was a highlight of the program. Linda Petzold gave a featured presentation on the history of SIAG/CSE, beginning in 2000 with a petition to the SIAM Board of Trustees from Steve Ashby, Paul Boggs, David Keyes, Tom Manteuffel, Linda Petzold, and Gil Strang. Their vision and leadership have enabled SIAG/CSE to be a catalyst for advancing the principles of CSE and penetrating the academic and industrial world, with prominent roles in advancing research and innovation and providing interdisciplinary education.

The CSE15 program offered an enormous diversity of topics across computational science and engineering. Popular themes among the 301 minisymposia included CSE software, big data analytics, physics-compatible numerical methods, high-accuracy numerical methods, and compressed sensing. SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing, in conjunction with CSE15, will devote a section of an upcoming issue to the two special themes, CSE software and big data analytics (see "Data Science: What Is It and How Is It Taught?"): Guest-edited by Hans De Sterck, Chris Johnson, and Lois Curfman McInnes, the section will feature high-quality scientific computing papers in one or both of these areas.

Slides with synchronized audio1 are available for most of the talks mentioned in this article, including the invited plenary talks with their inspiring examples of CSE in real applications. The talk on extreme-scale multigrid by Rob Falgout of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is an example (a slide from the talk appears in the image gallery); another interesting application surfaced in the talk of Anna Michalak, who drew on mathematical, statistical, and large-scale computing to show that emissions of methane from cattle were nearly double those estimated by EPA (see "Data Science: What Is It and How Is It Taught?").

To promote cross-disciplinary education for both students and experienced CSE practitioners, CSE15 featured two hands-on minitutorials on the conference’s special themes. Python Visual Analytics for Big Data, led by Jonathan Woodring (Los Alamos National Laboratory), covered interactive plotting, the building of web visualizations, mapreduce, and NoSQL. Lab Skills for Scientific Computing, led by Greg Wilson (Software Carpentry Foundation), introduced test-driven software development and the use of Git and GitHub for open collaboration. Wilson explained how by integrating these practices, researchers can get more done in less time, and with less pain.

CSE15 introduced several features designed to make poster sessions more useful for networking and sharing ideas, and as a means to handle conference growth. Poster presenters were invited to include demos with their posters, using their laptops to demonstrate CSE simulations and software. The CSE15 poster call also included a new submission category: a “minisymposterium” (that is, a minisymposium of posters), a collection of three or more posters by different presenters with a central theme. CSE15 poster sessions included 14 minisymposteria on a broad range of themes, with four to 16 posters per group. An online “poster sizzle” video shows that CSE15 poster sessions fostered a vibrant exchange of ideas.

CSE15 organizing committee members Luke Olson, Pavel Bochev, and Tom Bartol coordinated the teams of judges who selected the recipients of poster prizes from nearly 300 candidates – a new CSE conference record. Monetary awards for poster prizes were generously sponsored by HP. Eight prizes were awarded in three categories:

  • Best Poster Awards: Computational Methods to Study the Coordination of Mechanical Forces Involved in Amoeboid Cell Migration (Calina Copos, University of California, Davis); Computational Homogenization for the Modeling of Soft Matter Materials (Christian Linder, Stanford University); The Sparse Grid Combination Technique for Solving Eigenvalue Problems (Christoph Kowitz, Technische Universität München); Dolfin-Adjoint (Simon Funke, Simula Research Laboratory).
  • Best Minisymposterium Awards: Scalable Finite Element Assembly, chaired by Irina Demeshko and Eric Cyr (Sandia National Laboratories), seven posters by various presenters; CSE Software, chaired by Anders Logg (Chalmers University of Technology), 16 posters by various presenters.
  • Best Poster Design and Presentation Awards: Finite Element Methods for the Evolution Problem in General Relativity (Vincent Quenneville-Belair, University of Minnesota); Inducing Approximately Optimal Flow Via Truthful Mediators (Ryan Rogers, University of Pennsylvania).

CSE15 also introduced Featured Minisymposia, solicited by the CSE15 organizing committee to provide overview presentations on fundamental advances in fields related to the conference themes.  Featured minisymposium topics and organizers were Big Data Analytics (Han-Wei Shen, The Ohio State University); CSE Software (Hans Petter Langtangen, Simula Research Laboratory and University of Oslo); Distributed Methods for Optimization (Wotao Yin, UCLA); Fast Multipole Methods Maturing at 30 years (Lorena Barba, George Washington University); Modeling and Computing Complex Flows (Gretar Tryggvason, University of Notre Dame); and Physics-compatible Numerical Methods (Mikhail Shashkov, Los Alamos National Laboratory).  

A highlight of CSE15 was its engagement with SIAM student members through Student Days, organized by the SIAM Education Committee (chaired by Rachel Levy, Harvey Mudd College). Student Days are designed to encourage student participation in SIAM, help students learn more about applied mathematics and computational science both as fields of study and as careers, and provide a forum for emerging mathematicians to learn about their field from professionals. Events included a career panel and full-day career fair featuring non-academic employers, professional development sessions and a reception, presentations by student chapter representatives, a student lounge, sessions on undergraduate research, and a session for students with selected conference invited speakers; a pilot program, Broader Engagement, also engaged many students and early-career CSE researchers. The SIAM Student Chapter at the University of Utah helped with conference operations. We were thrilled to see the next generation of computational mathematicians, scientists, and engineers so energetically involved.

Going into the conference, the organizers had concerns regarding the large attendance, which resulted in an unprecedented 27 parallel sessions running for a full five days. The actual conference atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive, however, reflecting the upside of a large conference – a great variety of session topics to choose from at all times, and excellent networking opportunities, given the significant portion of the community in attendance.

The CSE15 organizers gratefully acknowledge conference sponsorship by Intel, HP, Mathworks, Kitware, KAUST, and the University of Utah’s Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, which contributed to the energizing conference atmosphere. The SIAG business meeting saw a vigorous discussion of the future of the CSE conference, including possible structural changes that may be needed if the conference continues to grow. How that plays out remains to be seen at CSE17.


1 Via the CSE15 website

Lois Curfman McInnes is a senior computational scientist in the Mathematics and Computer Science Division of Argonne National Laboratory. Hans De Sterck is a professor of computational mathematics and scientific computing in the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Waterloo. Chris Johnson is director of the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute and a Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at the University of Utah.