Obama Names Eric Lander Co-chair of PCAST

January 10, 2009

A forward-looking John von Neumann lecture at SIAMís 50th Anniversary Meeting, Philadelphia, July 2002.

To his many titles---founding director of the Broad Institute, member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, professor of biology at MIT---Eric Lander adds a prominent new one in mid-January: In assembling his science team, Barack Obama chose Lander to serve as co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, or PCAST.

Lander accepted with alacrity: "I can't think of a time when the problems and challenges facing the country---environment and energy, health care, education---had more to do with science and technology than they do today."

In 2002, recognizing Lander for his contributions as a geneticist, molecular biologist, and mathematician (his PhD, from Oxford University, is in mathematics), SIAM named him the John von Neumann lecturer for its 50th Anniversary Meeting. Lander knew his audience: In the lecture, "The Human Genome and Beyond," he called for new algorithms, not just for new computers, identifying mathematical and computational analysis as the rate-limiting step in genomics.

Six years later, "beyond" has arrived, and the importance of the mathematical and computational sciences in solving the big problems of science and technology has become even more clear. In December, shortly before taking office as SIAM president, Doug Arnold wrote to Lander of his PCAST appointment: "I know from experience the tremendous gains that can come from bringing mathematical research and analysis to bear on the pressing problems facing our society, and am passionate about fostering the connections and the community needed to confront the tremendous challenges we now face. Recalling your outstanding John von Neumann Lecture at SIAM's 50th Anniversary Meeting, I am sure that our views have much in common in this." SIAM will "very much welcome a chance to involve the community" and its resources in any way it can be of service, Arnold concluded.

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