SIAM News Blog

What’s New at the DMS?

By Juan C. Meza

I thought I would provide the community with a short update as it’s been five months since I started my new position as Director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences.

Thanks to everyone who was kind enough to send me an email upon my appointment. It was truly humbling to see the many well wishes and I appreciate your thoughts. 

Up to this point I’ve been in what I call “listen and learn” mode. I’ve been speaking with all of the program officers and other staff at NSF. I’ve also had the opportunity to reach out to the leadership at the major professional societies to introduce myself and ask for their input. Luckily, the timing was good, and I was able to meet with many of the professional societies, including the American Mathematical Society and SIAM Science Policy Committees, the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, the board of the American Statistical Association, the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, and the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics. At these meetings I had the opportunity to hear directly from the societies, and the discussions yielded numerous suggestions that I will be following up. 

If you’re interested, all talks are posted on a new page on the NSF website. We plan to maintain a list of all public presentations to enable the community to learn more about DMS.

While I had always been aware of the many wonderful programs that DMS supports, I have been truly impressed by both the depth and breadth of the research portfolio. DMS funds about 63% of all basic mathematics research in the U.S.; with a budget of $233M in FY17 it turns out that there are a lot of programs to learn about. One of my goals is to provide DMS program highlights on a regular basis that I hope the community will find interesting. In the meantime, you can find information on all the DMS programs here

More importantly, please be aware that the proposal deadlines for many of the programs were changed this year. You can find the latest information on deadlines here

One recent exciting development was the creation of four new centers for Mathematics of Complex Biological Systems, each of which was funded for ten million dollars over five years. These centers are collaborations between DMS and the Biology Directorate at NSF, in close partnership with the Simons Foundation. The goal of these centers is to combine expertise from mathematicians, molecular cell biologists, and organismal biologists to study how genes translate into all of the diverse phenotypes we see today. 

Other exciting activities that we’re working on are related to NSF’s 10 Big Ideas. The Big Ideas represent cutting-edge research areas that will drive NSF’s long-term research agenda. In particular, Harnessing the Data Revolution, Quantum Leap, and Understanding the Rules of Life all have interesting and challenging mathematical problems. Dear Colleague Letters have already gone out on the Quantum Leap and Understanding the Rules of Life Ideas, while Harnessing the Data Revolution already has several ongoing activities. As these activities develop, I will follow up to alert you to upcoming opportunities. 

A new and exciting development on the horizon is the next step in the Big Ideas. We have recently announced the NSF 2026 Idea Machine, which is a competition that asks for community input on the next set of grand challenge questions for future research.  Any idea for future themes in science, engineering, and education research that go beyond NSF’s existing portfolio is welcome. A toolkit for the program–with a variety of outreach materials, such as, postcards, posters, slides, and an e-blast–are available on the NSF website. 

NSF will start accepting entries on August 31, 2018 and I encourage the mathematical sciences community to send us your best ideas. Winning entries will receive cash prizes and/or public recognition. See full details here

If you have any thoughts on what you’d like me to write about in the future, I urge you to send me an email.

Juan C. Meza is director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation.

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