SIAM News Blog

Prize Spotlight: Juan Restrepo

Juan M. Restrepo
Congratulations go to Juan M. Restrepo of Oregon State University, who was awarded the SIAM Activity Group on Geosciences Career Prize! The award was given at the SIAM Conference on Mathematical and Computational Issues in the Geosciences (GS17) held September 11-14, 2017 at the University of Erlangen-Nuremburg, Germany.

The SIAM Activity Group on Geosciences (SIAG/GS) awards the SIAG/GS Career Prize every two years to an outstanding senior researcher who has made broad and distinguished contributions to the field of geosciences. The prize recognizes Restrepo for his leadership in mathematical modeling and numerical simulation of oceanography and climate dynamics, which has had substantial impact in computational geosciences. Restrepo delivered his prize lecture, “How Warm is it Getting? And Other Tales in Uncertainty Quantification,” at GS17.

Restrepo is Professor of Mathematics at Oregon State University, with courtesy appointments in Statistics and in the Physics of Oceans and the Atmosphere, in the College of Earth Oceans and Atmospheric Sciences. Prior to joining Oregon State he was Professor of Mathematics at the University of Arizona, with appointments in physics and atmospheric sciences, and he created the Uncertainty Quantification Group there in 2006. He received his PhD in Physics in 1992 from the Pennsylvania State University, he was a DOE/ORISE Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow, and he won a DOE Young Investigator Award. He has worked in national laboratories and in industry as well as in academia. His primary areas span theoretical, computational, and experimental geophysical fluid dynamics and data-driven computing, as applied to the geosciences.

Q: Why are you excited to be awarded the prize?

A: The career prize is particularly meaningful to me, given my unusual scientific career. That colleagues, with well-earned distinction and career accomplishments, deemed my work worthy of a career prize, is humbling. Given that SIAG/GS as a group has pretty high technical expertise, it is also inspiring.

I've managed to work with some really great collaborators and it is safe to say that no prize would have materialized without them.

I feel that I've been an effective ambassador for applied and computational mathematics in the several fields of geoscience. I've made a point to publish in geoscience journals. I think that by doing so I have been able to show geoscience practitioners how developments in applied mathematics can bring progress in their field.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your research and what it means to the public?

A: My work on oceans involves deciphering how waves contribute to Earth's circulation and how that affects ocean transport of nutrients, pollutants, and heat. In climate science my work has suggested important ocean pathways critical to the carbon cycle, the role played by oceans in the thermal balances of the Snowball Earth Scenario, and advective effects in the meridional ocean circulation. In the nearshore, my work has demonstrated the effect of waves on shore connected sand ridges, on a possible explanation for the slowing down and parking of pollutants bound for the beach. I’ve worked on experiments and computation relevant to the dynamics of salt plumes and sedimentary beds. The transport model for ocean oil spills my team is developing will someday help abate oil spill disasters.

My work on assimilating data and models, taking into account their inherent uncertainties, has focused on nonlinear dynamics problems, and on the development of specialized assimilation strategies for Lagrangian dynamics, topological corrections, and for projecting data forward in time in order to permit Bayesian estimation of future events. Advances in data assimilation strategies should lead to improvements in climate and weather predictions. I am presently working on adaptive resilience associated with flooding of coastal communities and hurricanes: this work blends the physics of floods and hurricanes, the abatement response of civil authorities, and data from observation platforms, cell phones, power networks, etc. The goal is to produce a response to a disaster that leads to quicker and perhaps cheaper community recovery.

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

A: SIAM is a welcoming community of scientists who value inter/trans-disciplinary thinking and research. I also belong to the American Physical Society and the American Geophysical Union. I am a listener and a learner at SIAM meetings. On the other hand I am often a speaker and a teacher at APS and AGU meetings.

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