SIAM News Blog

For New SIAM President, The I’s Have It

By Irene Fonseca

As green energy technologies mature and cloud computing transforms our digital world, and as new materials upend our manufacturing and healthcare industries, SIAM finds itself at an unprecedented crossroads. We have the unique opportunity, as the world’s foremost organization for applied mathematics and computational science, to lead in cutting-edge interdisciplinary research and, working with industry, in the development and use of innovative technologies. By acting as a principal facilitator in bridging academia—where fundamental and applied research thrives—and industry—where real-world applications flourish—SIAM can do its part to respond to key challenges now facing society.

While SIAM’s central activities remain healthy and strong, I believe we need to re-energize and reinforce our efforts with what I call the two I’s of SIAM: Partnering with industry and deepening our international (and particularly student) network. During SIAM past president Nick Trefethen’s term, the SIAM Industry Committee was revitalized, a clear signal of where we are headed. Though this undertaking remains in the early stages—after all, SIAM’s 14,000 members include just six from Google and none from Apple—increasing ties with successful, real-world practitioners must be a critical part of the SIAM mission. This will not only help disseminate the meaningful research conducted by our members, and supported by our excellent journals, books, and conferences, but will also encourage more flow-through between academia and industry. Such constant conversation between the two is essential, particularly in informing and driving future applied research.

On the international front, we can look to Nick Trefethen, a fellow at Balliol College at Oxford University, for inspiration. Under his tenure, SIAM added the 100th student chapter to its worldwide collection. SIAM remains the only truly international society for industrial and applied mathematics and computational science. But geographic (and, yes, disciplinary) barriers persist, demanding to be torn down. SIAM must continue its efforts to better connect the world’s leading mathematicians, computational scientists, statisticians, and other STEM researchers, while also striving to attract new scientists from the next generation; we can do this in part by increasing the number and visibility of SIAM student chapters throughout the world. With just five chapters in fast-growing Asia, one in the Middle East, and two in Latin America, the potential for growth in this area is staggering. This is also true for the general SIAM membership, in Asia and China in particular, where former president Doug Arnold made an important push in 2009.

Lastly, I pledge to continue Nick Trefethen’s vital effort to streamline SIAM’s world-class journals, especially the time it takes to assess and revise manuscripts. SIAM publications are crucial to our global reach and our members’ scholarship.

Growing SIAM’s industrial and international partnerships and presence will take some time, to be sure, but this is an opportunity we do not want to miss. We can look to the European Commission’s ambitious Europe 2020 growth agenda, which also calls for tackling tough challenges through excellence in research, innovations in industry, and the nurturing of a new generation of minds. What I propose for SIAM over the next two years is no less ambitious, but just as necessary to prepare us for the exciting future that awaits our discipline and SIAM.

Irene Fonseca is the current president of SIAM, the Mellon College of Science University Professor of Mathematics, and director of the Center for Nonlinear Analysis at Carnegie Mellon University.

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