SIAM News Blog

The SIAM Industry Committee: What We Do and How You Can Engage

By John Abbott, Sharon Arroyo, Kevin Bongiovanni, Amr El-Bakry, and Lalitha Venkataramanan

Where can you learn about the latest mathematical advances that inspire the development of new algorithms to reduce business costs, improve product designs, and increase safety? How can you meet colleagues who will introduce you to novel avenues of research? Or perhaps you want to influence the next generation of industrial mathematicians by exposing students to industry and government careers that stimulate their curiosity and creativity while simultaneously providing value to companies and laboratories. The SIAM Industry Committee is here to enable all of these goals.

The SIAM Industry Committee was formed in 2010 and has 11 members who serve three-year terms, with the possibility of up to three terms of total service. In 2020, we added 15 ad-hoc members to enhance committee diversity and extend our scope. The committee pursues the following three focus areas:

  • Increasing industry member participation within SIAM
  • Improving SIAM services for industry members
  • Providing education support related to careers in industry.

Each committee member focuses on one or more of these areas and attends monthly meetings that allow them to share ideas and collectively chart committee progress.

In 2018, the Industry Committee sent a survey to nearly 5,000 SIAM members who work in non-academic settings (e.g., industry/business, government laboratories, nonprofit organizations, self-employed, and other). We received more than 600 replies that expressed respondents’ needs from SIAM.  The subsequent survey highlights helped drive recent committee activity:

  • The majority of respondents indicated a desired focus in data science, machine learning, and computer science.
  • Members rated SIAM journals and SIAM Review as the most valuable SIAM products, followed closely by conferences and workshops.
  • Survey responses indicated high levels of enthusiasm for resources that identify candidates for job openings, new books in specific areas, and newly formed joint conferences with other societies.
  • Young members expressed an interest in mentoring, guest speakers, training, and job listings.

Given these findings and other objectives, the Industry Committee maintains several routine initiatives. For example, every year at the SIAM Annual Meeting, a member of the Industry Committee hosts a career panel of four to six individuals from a variety of industries and laboratories with a mix of experience levels. Participants provide overviews of their backgrounds and answer questions about their career trajectories. Each panel has an associated theme; the theme at the 2020 SIAM Annual Meeting (AN20) was entrepreneurship. A well-attended virtual mixer after the session encouraged further interaction with the panelists. Inspired by the success of these panels, the Industry Committee hosted another virtual event about industrial and entrepreneurial careers in October 2020 that attracted over 200 participants. We are planning additional panels to serve student needs in 2021.

Here we outline several other recent accomplishments:

  • The Industry Committee developed and hosted a tutorial session at AN20 on emerging research areas, in coordination with the SIAM Education Committee
  • Student chapters in Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, and Texas connected with local industry mathematicians, allowing chapter members to pose questions about industry and business. 
  • Members of the Industry Committee continue to participate in SIAM’s Visiting Lecturer Program, which promotes topics that are of interest to developing professional mathematicians.
  • The committee updated information on SIAM’s website that concerns industry, with a focus on industry careers. 
  • The Industry Committee consistently provides input to the Committee on Programs and Conferences and the Career Opportunities Committee, and shares industry perspectives during committee discussions.

In addition, the committee closely partners with the BIG Math Network, with a particular focus on the Tondeur Initiatives. In 2018, Philippe and Claire-Lise Tondeur made donations to SIAM, the American Mathematical Society, and the Mathematical Association of America to support U.S.-based mathematicians who are interested in business, industry, and government (BIG) careers. SIAM is proud to work with the BIG Math Network and its fellow mathematics societies to implement the Tondeurs’ vision and facilitate career pathways for students in the mathematical sciences.

In October 2020, the Industry Committee hosted a nine-hour workshop over two days with more than 30 participants from the committee, SIAM staff, SIAM leadership, academia, and industry. The workshop aimed to develop essential elements of a three- to five-year strategic plan for non-academic membership, accounting for the 2018 survey and other recent activity.

As a result of the workshop’s outcomes, SIAM and the Industry Committee are currently working on the following projects:

  • Teaming up with the SIAM Major Awards Committee to develop a SIAM Prize for Industry, which will recognize significant accomplishments in the use of mathematics to provide value in industry and business settings
  • Planning to advertise SIAM’s benefits to industry members so they utilize SIAM resources more fully
  • Developing a community lecture for future Annual Meetings to offer insights into exciting industrial careers for the broader community.

In the future, SIAM and the Industry Committee plan to (i) increase industry participation in other SIAM committees to ensure the inclusion of diverse views, and (ii) expand grassroots efforts to connect industry members with local student chapters.

We will also explore a number of other longer-term initiatives. Such initiatives include expanding SIAM’s reach and programs for data scientists with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, creating an Industry Activity Community, reviewing the Fellows Program and mid-career support, developing an enhanced marketing strategy, and evaluating the corporate benefits model.

The SIAM Industry Committee remains active and maintains a strong vision for servicing our community. We welcome your insights and feedback — together we will meet these aforementioned challenges and strengthen SIAM’s connection with industry. Please submit your name to the SIAM Leadership Suggestion Form if you are interested in getting involved.

John Abbott is a development fellow in the Modeling, Software, and Analytics group at Corning Incorporated. Sharon Arroyo is a Technical Fellow at The Boeing Company and the Vice President for Industry at SIAM. Kevin Bongiovanni is a systems engineer at Raytheon Technologies. Amr El-Bakry is a senior Computational & Data Science Advisor at ExxonMobil Upstream Integrated Solutions Inc. Lalitha Venkataramanan is a data science advisor at Schlumberger. All of the authors are members of the SIAM Industry Committee.

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