SIAM News Blog

Copper Mountain Conferences: A Long History and a Bright Future

By Susanne C. Brenner, Robert D. Falgout, and Scott P. MacLachlan

2023 marks 40 years since the first instance of the Copper Mountain Conferences on Iterative and Multigrid Methods, which take place annually at Copper Mountain, Colo. This conference series has become a fixture in the iterative and multigrid methods research communities and is known for its friendly atmosphere, high-quality program of interesting talks, and opportunities for a bit of skiing on the side. The meeting upholds many longstanding traditions, beginning with tutorials on day one that introduce first-time attendees (who might not be as familiar with the field) to the methods and jargon that await them throughout the week. A typical day starts with early-morning talks and proceeds with parallel sessions until midday (there are no plenary speakers). A lengthy lunch break allows time for skiing, networking, and research discussions with colleagues; additional talks then commence in the evening.

Program committee members of the 2023 Copper Mountain Conference on Multigrid Methods, which took place in April, gather for a group photo. From left to right: Tom Manteuffel, Kirk Jordan, Hans De Sterck, Ulrike Meier Yang, Eric Cyr, Robert Falgout, John Ruge, Scott MacLachlan, David Moulton, Susanne Brenner, Jacob Schroder, James Adler, Luke Olson, and John Shadid. Photo courtesy of Susanne Brenner.
Steve McCormick and Ulrich Trottenberg organized the first of these gatherings at Copper Mountain from April 5 to 8, 1983. This inaugural meeting focused on multigrid methods (it was advertised as an “International Multigrid Conference”) and attracted 80 attendees. Given its success, the organizers held subsequent multigrid conferences in 1985, 1987, and 1989. The iterative methods conference then joined the lineup in 1990. Moving forward, the series was hosted annually in an alternating fashion—with multigrid methods in odd-numbered years and iterative methods in even years—until the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation in 2020. The conferences convened virtually in 2021 and 2022, and the 21st Copper Mountain Conference on Multigrid Methods—which took place from April 16 to 20, 2023—marked the meeting’s return to its traditional in-person format. The 2023 rendition was the 20th multigrid conference to occur in person and the 37th meeting of the joint series.

Student participation is a key element of both the iterative and multigrid conferences. At the in-person meetings over the past decade, students comprised nearly 40 percent of the total attendees. Remarkably, more than 30 percent of these students hailed from institutions outside of the U.S. The unique format of the Copper Mountain Conferences aims to place students on equal footing with all other participants; winners of the annual student paper competition deliver the only plenary-like talks of the week during a special session right before the conference banquet. In fact, many of the established researchers at each conference first attended the meeting as students — including much of the current program committee. During the banquet, the conference chairs routinely ask current students to stand, then invite everyone who initially attended the meeting as a student to rise as well. At the conclusion of this exercise, most people in the room are standing; the 2023 meeting was no exception.

The Copper Mountain Conferences have a long history of cooperation with SIAM. SIAM published a proceedings volume for the 1989 multigrid meeting, and the SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing (SISC) released its first special issue in 1992 in response to the 1990 iterative methods conference. Since then, SISC has housed a Copper Mountain iterative methods special issue in even-numbered years; it even published a special section in 2021 with the work of would-be conference attendees for the canceled 2020 meeting. In 2022, the multigrid methods conference also began to publish a special section in SISC

Tom Manteuffel (left) and Steve McCormick—founding chairs of the Copper Mountain Conference series—unite at the 2023 Copper Mountain Conference on Multigrid Methods, which took place in April. Photo courtesy of Susanne Brenner.
Steve McCormick and Tom Manteuffel (now both professor emeriti at the University of Colorado Boulder) chaired the conferences from their inception and provided management services through their company: Front Range Scientific Computations, Inc. The duo played a major role in the conferences’ growth and within associated research communities over the years, first as conference co-chairs (until 2002) and then as members of the program committees. The series’ continued popularity and vibrancy is a testament to McCormick and Manteuffel’s dedication to both the academic quality of the meetings and the welcoming atmosphere that encourages repeat attendance year after year.

With the completion of the 2023 meeting, we look forward to wherever the conferences may take us! The current co-chairs of the iterative methods series—Luke Olson (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and John Shadid (Sandia National Laboratories)—are already planning for the 2024 in-person meeting; more details will be announced in the coming months.

Susanne C. Brenner is a professor of mathematics at Louisiana State University and a Past President of SIAM. Robert D. Falgout is a distinguished member of technical staff at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and current co-chair of the Copper Mountain Conference on Multigrid Methods. Scott P. MacLachlan is a professor of mathematics at Memorial University of Newfoundland and current co-chair of the Copper Mountain Conference on Multigrid Methods.

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