SIAM News Blog

Prize Spotlight: Volker Mehrmann

Volker Mehrmann of Technische Universitaet Berlin was awarded SIAM’s 2018 W. T. and Idalia Reid Prize in Mathematics. The prize is awarded annually to recognize a member of the scientific community for outstanding work in, or other contributions to, the broadly defined areas of differential equations and control theory.

Volker Mehrmann

Mehrmann received the award at the 2018 SIAM Annual Meeting AN18, held July 9-13, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. He delivered the Reid Prize Lecture, “Modeling, Simulation, and Control of Differential-Algebraic Port-Hamilton Systems,” on July 11, 2018.

The 2018 Reid Prize honors Mehrmann for his fundamental contributions to the broad area of differential-algebraic equations, their control and optimization, and their practical applications. He has been part of the very important SLICOT project and also of other projects leading to important toolboxes in MATLAB, addressing issues related to differential-algebraic problems and control systems theory. Together with a large group of students, postdocs, and collaborators, he has interacted strongly with industry, being able to solve concrete problems posed mainly by German and European industry.

Volker Mehrmann is a full professor at Technische Universitaet Berlin, where he has been on the faculty since 2000. He received his diploma in mathematics, his PhD, and his habilitation (1987) from Universitaet Bielefeld. After two years as a visiting full professor at RWTH Aachen, he was a full professor at Technische Universitaet Chemnitz until 2000. Mehrmann is a member of acatech (the National Academy of Science and Engineering) and Academia Europaea. He has been President of GAMM (International Association of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics), Vice President of the European Mathematical Society, chair of the MATHEON Research Center and editor of its publication, Mathematics for Key Technologies, and chair of the Einstein Center for Mathematics Berlin. He is editor of several journals in numerical analysis and Editor-in-Chief of Linear Algebra and Its Applications. Mehrmann is a Fellow of SIAM. 

Q: Why are you excited about winning the prize?

A: It is really exciting to win the Reid Prize: first of all to be in line with so many great mathematicians; second because my contributions to control and differential equations, small as they may be, are recognized by the community; and third because the field is really important in theory and in industrial applications. 

Volker Mehrmann (right) Technische Universitaet Berlin was awarded the W. T. and Idalia Reid Prize in Mathematics from SIAM President Nick Higham (left) at the 2018 SIAM Annual Meeting.

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

A: Modeling, simulation, and control/optimization based on differential-algebraic systems (DAEs) is important in many applications fields, most prominently in electrical, power, and gas networks, where the Kirchhoff Laws lead to algebraic conditions, and in multibody systems such as robotics, where algebraic constraints are standard. I have worked on the theory of these equations, in particular, on new techniques for regularization of under- and overdetermined systems as they arise in control systems, to make them feasible for numerical simulation and optimization. Together with my colleague Peter Kunkel and many students and postdocs, we have built a systematic framework for the analysis, the simulation, and in particular the control of these systems. We have put this into open source software and in commercial developments as well. These methods are particularly useful in modern automated modeling approaches that employ prefabricated modules that are connected in a network.

Q: What does your research mean to the public?

A: It is, as usual, under the surface, but these techniques are common in chip design, infrastructure networks, and everywhere in the design of vehicles like cars, airplanes, or trains. Everyday life would be very different without DAEs. Particularly in circuit simulation and control, the current state could not have been achieved without these techniques. 

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

A: I have been a member of SIAM since the late 1970s, and I do not think that my career would have flourished without it. At that time, it was extremely helpful to have, within the mathematical community, the organized support of a group of colleagues from applied mathematics. I have met most of my coauthors at SIAM conferences, which are a constant source of inspiration for me and my work. Also I like the SIAM attitude and support towards young people very much -- and the great publications, the journals and books. 

Learn more about the W. T. and Idalia Reid Prize in Mathematics.


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