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Prize Spotlight: Edward Ott

Edward Ott
Edward Ott of the University of Maryland was awarded the Jürgen Moser Lecture at the 2017 SIAM Conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems (DS17), held May 21-25, 2017 at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort in Snowbird, Utah. He delivered the 2017 Jürgen Moser Lecture, “Emergent Behavior in Large Systems of Many Coupled Oscillators,” on May 21, 2017.

The SIAM Activity Group on Dynamical Systems (SIAG/DS) awards the Jürgen Moser Lecture every two years to an individual who has made distinguished contributions to nonlinear science. Ott was recognized for his extensive and influential contributions to nonlinear dynamics, including seminal work on chaos theory and on the dynamics of physical systems, and for his service to the nonlinear dynamics community.

Edward Ott is Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics and a member of the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics at the University of Maryland, College Park. He earned his bachelor’s degree from The Cooper Union in New York in the field of electrical engineering and his master’s and doctoral degrees in electrophysics from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. After a postdoctoral year at Cambridge University, he became a professor of electrical engineering at Cornell University. In 1979, he joined the faculty of the University of Maryland, College Park. Before embarking on the field of chaotic dynamics, Ott did research in intense charged particle beams and the theory of plasmas. After joining the University of Maryland, he began to concentrate on issues in chaos while still carrying on his research in plasma dynamics.

Q: Why are you excited about winning the prize?

A: I am very excited to receive this prize because it is so closely associated with my fields of research interests, because it gives me the opportunity to lecture to an ideal audience of colleagues, and because I feel greatly honored to join the group of past recipients of this prize, all of whom I greatly respect.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about the research that won you the prize?

A: The prize recognizes my research on both the basic theory of chaos and on applications of chaos and nonlinear dynamics to various types of physical problems. Some examples of basic problems that I have worked on are transitions of chaotic systems as a parameter is varied, fractal basin boundaries, strange nonchaotic attractors, and low dimensional behavior of high dimensional systems of coupled oscillators. Some physical problems where I am applying these concepts are related to understanding the cosmic generation of magnetic fields by flowing plasma, the control of chaotic systems, and weather forecasting.

Q: What does your research mean to the public?

A: Chaotic dynamics is a great subject partly because its defining attribute, the extreme sensitivity of future states to small perturbations, is easy for nonspecialists to grasp, yet the technical analysis, applications, and implications of chaos are nontrivial and continue to offer valuable and surprising results in many areas.

Q: What does being a SIAM member mean to you?

A: For me, perhaps the most beneficial aspect of being a SIAM member is that SIAM, through its meetings and publications, provides the glue linking me with the community of researchers in my field and related fields, and especially with many individual colleagues with whom I interact and exchange ideas.

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