One Week in Boston, Three SIAM Meetings

September 24, 2006

Peter Lax, professor emeritus at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University (left), and Richard Tapia of Rice University. Lax received SIAM's distinguished service award "in recognition of his lifetime of leadership and support of the applied and computational mathematics community." Among many contributions, Lax was cited for "his advisory roles in the DOE National Laboratories, and for his vision for the future role of high performance computing and leadership on the National Science Board." Not mentioned specifically is the 1982 "Lax Report," which has been praised as both prescient and remarkably concise: The multiagency Panel on Large Scale Computing in Science and Engineering, chaired by Lax, went right to the heart of the matter, recommending in about half as many words as subsequent reports investments in high-end computing, including algorithms and software, that with a few additional zeros are still valid today.

The 2006 SIAM Annual Meeting was held in Boston, July 1014, in conjunction with the conferences of two SIAM Activity Groups: Financial Mathematics and Engineering, and Analysis of Partial Differential Equations. By all accounts, the mix made for some exciting joint sessions (and a very heavy program book) and succeeded in sparking the synergy hoped for by the organizers.

High points for those at all the meetings included the I.E. Block Community Lecture, "Individual Choices, Cooperation and the Global Commons: Mathematical Challenges in Uniting Ecology and Socioeconomics for a Sustainable Environment," by Simon Levin of Princeton University (shown at bottom right with SIAM president Martin Golubitsky at the awards lunch, another of the week's highlights). Pictured at right, at the MathWorks-sponsored reception that followed Levin's talk, are Peter Lax, this year's recipient of the SIAM Prize for Distinguished Service to the Community, and Richard Tapia, who stepped in at the last minute (substituting for scheduled invited speaker Shirley Jackson) with a passionate presentation on ever present obstacles facing minorities in science.

Shown above are Annual Meeting organizing committee chairs Carlos Castillo-Chavez (left) of Arizona State University and Ricardo Cortez of Tulane University. Anyone unsure of the thanks owed the organizers might want to check out the "Guidelines for Annual Meeting Organizers," a lengthy document on the SIAM conference Web site, complete with a checklist (by date, beginning 20 months before the meeting). Castillo-Chavez and Cortez, having assembled an effective and hard-working committee (one of the 20-months-out tasks), rose to the occasion, orchestrating an impressive array of talks and a record-breaking meeting, with more than 1150 in attendance. At the same time, with Abdul-Aziz Yakubu of Howard University, Castillo-Chavez and Cortez also organized the 11th annual "Diversity Day," held on July 11 and 12.

Martin Golubitsky and Simon Levin.

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