SIAM News Blog

Meet SIAM’s Newest Leadership: Board and Council

Following SIAM’s recent elections, we are pleased to announce our new Board and Council Members. Thank you to the entire slate of outstanding candidates for your willingness to serve the SIAM community in this capacity, and the SIAM members who cast your vote in the election.


Kathryn E. Brenan
Kathryn E. Brenan, The Aerospace Corporation*

Candidate Statement: My career as an industrial mathematician has been shaped by my work at The Aerospace Corporation, which operates a nonprofit Federally Funded Research and Development Center for the U.S. government. I have strived to solve real-world problems of interest to my customers in the defense and national security arenas through the development and application of numerical algorithms. By staying involved with SIAM in a variety of ways over the years, I have been able to foster new connections as well as maintain old connections with other applied mathematicians & computational scientists in academia, industry, and the national labs.  At Aerospace, I have worked to form a community of SIAM advocates by promoting the benefits of SIAM Corporate membership, distributing SIAM News, and encouraging the hiring of applied mathematicians and computational scientists. 

My passion for SIAM, its members and its activities, was born during my graduate school days when I first delved into the study of differential-algebraic equations. I was charmed by the inclusiveness of SIAM members, namely SIAM’s diversity that enveloped students, professors, researchers, and industry practitioners all together. As the facets of diversity (e.g., gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, age, industry/academia) of SIAM members has evolved tremendously over the years, it is critical that we work to improve diversity in SIAM leadership (Board, Council, Committees) and conferences (speakers, organizers, students). 

SIAM already supports many programs such as the Visiting Lecturer Program (VLP), Career Fairs, and Student Chapters which could be utilized to build new connections between industry and academia. Student Chapters should be encouraged to invite speakers from the VLP at least once a year. SIAM can also help by identifying individuals (advocates) at SIAM Corporate Institutions to help build these relationships as well. For example, SIAM Corporate Institutions should be a source of new speakers for the VLP, and should be encouraged to invite speakers from the VLP to their company. 

I would like to continue to serve SIAM members by working as a member of the SIAM Board of Trustees and associated committees. If re-elected, I promise to work to insure that financial & operational decisions are guided by SIAM’s mission in applied mathematics and computational science: “to advance research and applications, to foster communication among mathematicians, engineers, and scientists, to build this community, and to support the next generation.

Linda Petzold
Linda Petzold, University of California, Santa Barbara*

Candidate Statement: This is a time of amazing opportunity for the mathematical and computational sciences. The availability of data in all areas of science, engineering and medicine is both unprecedented and growing extremely rapidly. The need for tools to analyze the data, models to facilitate understanding and prediction of the underlying processes, and algorithms and software to enable modeling, data analysis, and data manipulation, has never been greater. At the same time, there are some enormous challenges for science and for scientific societies, including SIAM. As a society, we need to become more effective in identifying new results with potential for impact to society, and find effective ways to communicate them to the general public. And, we need to strive for inclusiveness in SIAM’s leadership and in all of its activities. I am running for SIAM Board because I believe these are critical challenges that will require fundamental change. I would like to try to help facilitate thoughtful discussion and actions on issues that will affect all SIAM members.

Alison Ramage
Alison Ramage, University of Strathclyde

Candidate Statement: SIAM's outstanding publications, excellent conferences and inclusive policies have made it a leading international professional organization in applied mathematics. Moving forward, it is important that the SIAM Board is strategic in thinking about future opportunities for, but also threats to, these and other key SIAM services. I would also like to see the continuation and expansion of the help and encouragement offered by SIAM to students, younger career mathematicians and minority groups. SIAM provides a unique forum for facilitating interaction between new and established researchers in academia and industry and those opportunities should be exploited as fully as possible. I think that it is important that bodies such as the Board reflect the fact that an increasingly large proportion of SIAM members live outside the U.S., and I believe that SIAM should continue to strengthen its international links with continued initiatives such as holding joint conferences outside North America and extending the possibility of reciprocal membership with other mathematics societies worldwide.


Natalia Alexandrov
Natalia Alexandrov, NASA Langley Research Center

Candidate Statement: SIAM’s invaluable service to its worldwide community of researchers and practitioners, as well as to the domain of applied and computational mathematics, is evident. Therefore, I will limit my statement to a description of a problem to which, I believe, SIAM has an opportunity to make a critical contribution.

 Self-adjusting systems (SAS) and adaptive systems, in general, are spreading from well-defined activities, such as manufacturing, to complex activities with multi-faceted human interactions and decision making, such as those involved in piloting an aircraft. SAS’ ability to solve large problems of certain types far exceeds that of humans’. However, until SAS are proven and perceived to be as or more adaptable than humans, and resilient in the face of unanticipated faults and variable conditions, humans remain in ultimate control of decision making, while supported by machine-based information and advice. If the human is to remain the ultimate resolver of a problem, the problem must not be more complex than the human can solve. Which raises the question of a machine’s role. Moreover, human-machine interaction in many domains has numerous well-known and well-documented difficulties, including lack or excess of trust, both of which can lead to serious problems, especially in time-critical and safety-critical domains. Given the increasing complexity of such domains, e.g., the skies dense with anticipated unmanned aerial vehicles and air taxis, SAS will acquire growing decision-making authority. When should machines have authority? Under what circumstances is machine decision making trustworthy?

Traditional validation and verification (V&V) approaches do not answer these questions for SAS. A popular view holds that these problems will be resolved in the domain of autonomous surface transportation. However, despite impressive advances, arguably, the current safety case for autonomous cars is “keep your hands on the wheel”. Airspace is less forgiving. 

Understanding the properties and effects of autonomous computational decision making in safety-critical environments requires a close collaboration of applied and computational mathematicians with colleagues in specific engineering domains, such as airspace. SIAM can play a vital role in promoting practical partnerships with domain researchers through active interaction with societies, such as the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Calling the attention of faculty and students in applied mathematics departments to numerous unsolved problems in autonomous systems carries not only valuable educational benefit, but a wider societal benefit as well. After all, everyone will have to coexist with decision-making machines.

Peter Benner
Peter Benner, Max Planck Institute Magdeburg

Candidate Statement: SIAM is the worldwide leading organization in applied and industrial Mathematics. Beyond its obvious role in structuring the research and funding landscape inside the U.S., it has an increasing impact internationally through its international sections, student chapters, and co-operations with other applied mathematics organizations. Being located in Europe and having been/being actively involved in the governance of GAMM (2010-16) as well as the International Council for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (as GAMM representative) and the EMS (as council member since 2012), I believe outreach activities should be continued and strengthened. This should, e.g., include joint conferences with mathematical organizations outside the U.S. and supporting activities in underdeveloped countries, in particular those having none of their own applied math organizations.

The SIAM Student Chapters are a very attractive instrument for outreach for doctoral students. Activity groups structure the research areas covered by SIAM. International and national sections provide special opportunities for joint regional activities. There might be a need to also have special instruments appealing to postdoctoral researchers in their early career.

Another important issue for the future of SIAM is to steer the successful and excellent publications program through the current turbulent transition phase in the scientific publication world. It is necessary to embrace new areas in applied and industrial mathematics, like SIAM did most recently with the data sciences by launching the SIAM Journal on Mathematics of Data Science. SIAM should continue to define the highest scientific standards in the editorial and reviewing processes, and should transfer this high quality publishing philosophy to new journals and potential other scientific dissemination platforms. SIAM should serve as a role model in this process, and can set standards that would hopefully also be followed by traditional publishing houses at some point. But SIAM also needs to discuss and potentially implement new elements of electronic publishing, like online reviewing and/or commenting functionality, running computational experiments reproducing published results online, etc.

Xiaoye Sherry Li
Xiaoye Sherry Li, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory*

Candidate Statement: SIAM has been the most important professional society that brings together applied mathematics and computing to solve many real-world problems. It fosters the rapid growth of the interdisciplinary fields in computational science and engineering, with journals and conferences of the highest standard.  As a Council member for two and a half years, I have participated in fruitful discussions about improving SIAM Activity Groups, conferences, journals, and prize and award programs. I visited a number of SIAM Student Chapters at various universities. I believe SIAM can play a more prominent role in (1) facilitating closer collaboration between theoreticians and practitioners through joint appointments, conferences, and publications, (2) providing more opportunities to involve graduate students and junior scholars, and promoting diversity, (3) nurturing nontraditional areas that require cross-cutting technologies, such as analysis of experimental data from scientific instruments. In my capacity as a Council member, I would like to continue working with the SIAM community in developing better approaches in these areas.

Joel A. Tropp
Joel A. Tropp, California Institute of Technology*

Candidate Statement: This is an exciting time for applied and computational mathematics. Traditional areas (such as computational science & engineering) have made and continue to make significant contributions to society. At the same time, younger parts of our field (such as mathematics of data science) have been steadily increasing in importance.

One of the great opportunities for SIAM is to promote both the younger and older branches of our field and to establish a rapport between them, both in our research and educational programs. I also think it is important to support the careers of younger scientists so that we can establish the next generation of leaders in our field.

As a first step in this program, I worked with Tammy Kolda to establish the SIAM Journal on Mathematics of Data Science (SIMODS), which will publish its first issue in the fall. I am also serving as the co-chair of the first SIAM Conference on Mathematics of Data Science, to take place in 2020. 

At the same time, we do face a few serious challenges, such as uncertainty about federal research funding and the maintenance of our journals as publishing models evolve.

With these opportunities and challenges in mind, I am grateful to be considered for re-election to the SIAM Council.

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