SIAM News Blog

“Big Data” and “Planet Earth” Take Leading Roles at SIAM CSE Conference

By Karen Willcox and Hans Petter Langtangen

The SIAM Conference on Computational Science and Engineering has seen dramatic growth since its inception in 2000. CSE13, held in Boston, was no exception—it was in fact the largest SIAM conference to date. The registered attendance of 1370 reflects a 65% increase over CSE11 and a four-fold increase in attendance since the 2000 conference.

The program for CSE13 offered an enormous diversity of topics across computational science and engineering. Popular themes among the 270 minisymposia included methods for multiscale and multiphysics problems, numerical methods for PDEs, high-performance computing, scientific software, fast algorithms, numerical linear algebra, model reduction, uncertainty quantification, optimization, inverse problems, and CSE education. The 61 presentations in the poster session ranged across a similar set of themes.

The conference had two special themes: Computational Mathematics for Planet Earth and Big Data. These themes were chosen to reflect the designation of 2012 as a year of emphasis on Mathematics, Statistics, and the Data Deluge and of 2013 as the year of Mathematics of Planet Earth. SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing, in conjunction with CSE13, will devote a section of an upcoming issue to the themes Planet Earth and Big Data;  guest-edited by Tamara Kolda (Big Data) and Irad Yavneh (Planet Earth), the section will feature high-quality scientific-computing papers in one or (optimally) both of these areas.

The invited plenary talks at CSE13 were a chance to see inspiring examples of CSE in real applications: medicine (Natalia Trayanova), astrophysics (Joshua Bloom), reservoir simulations (Jan Dirk Jansen), and computational chemistry (Emily Carter). Invited plenary speakers also presented cutting-edge methods in reduced-order modeling (Jan Hesthaven), multiphysics problems (Barbara Wohlmuth), and big networks (Tamara Kolda), and provided forward-looking thoughts for the challenges of exascale (William Gropp, Paul Fischer). The articles in this and upcoming issues of SIAM News expand on some of these highlights.

A particular success of CSE13 was its engagement with SIAM student members.The conference attendance numbers include 250 registered students. Special events for students included a lunch-time CSE careers panel sponsored by The MathWorks and IBM, which drew more than 100 students (a student’s-eye view of the event can be found here). The MIT Center for Computational Engineering sponsored a prize for the Best Student Poster, and the Bavarian Graduate School of Computational Engineering (BGCE) Prize competition was held for the fourth time. Local SIAM Student Chapters from MIT and Tufts were actively engaged in helping with conference operations, and the students also organized tours to the MIT campus for those willing to brave the wintry Northeast weather. 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 unexpected large attendance, which resulted in an unprecedented 20 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 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 CSE15.

Karen Willcox is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and co-director of the Center for Computational Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hans Petter Langtangen enjoys a shared position between Simula Research Laboratory and the University of Oslo.

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