Fourth SIAM/ACM Prize in CSE Awarded in Miami

April 13, 2009

The 2009 SIAM/ACM Prize in Computational Science and Engineering was awarded to Cleve Moler in “recognition of his individual research in numerical analysis and the efficacy of his invention, MATLAB, which has had a transformative impact on the ability of the applied mathematics, engineering and computer science communities to prototype rapidly and to execute reliably numerical simulations in ever-expanding domains of science and engineering.” Photo by Susan Whitehouse.

Close to a decade ago, the first SIAM Conference on Computational Science and Engineering drew 445 people to Washington, DC, eager to affirm the prominence of CSE within the SIAM community by forming an activity group and making the conference a regular event. This year, close to 775 people made their way to Miami during the first week of March for the fifth SIAM Conference on CSE. Organized by the SIAM Activity Group on CSE---the largest, by far, of the SIAGs---the conference had a dense, varied, and lively program that was liberally punctuated with special activities.

A highlight among the highlights was the awarding of the SIAM/ACM Prize in Computational Science and Engineering to Cleve Moler. David Keyes, who presented the prize, described Moler as "a mathematician specializing in numerical analysis, who is proud to be introduced as a computer programmer."

Moler's expertise is notable for spanning "so many layers," Keyes continued. "On one hand, he has created an intuitive programming environment, at the human–machine interface, in which many professionals spend a good portion of their lives. On the other, he is concerned about parallel computer architecture and microprocessor architecture, and how these can support scientific kernels. In between, he is vitally interested in algorithms, particularly numerical linear algebra."

Moler is among the creators of LINPACK and EISPACK, which date to the mid- to late 1970s. It was at about that time, "to give his students easy access to these libraries," Keyes said, that Moler invented MATLAB. In 1984, he co-founded The MathWorks with Jack Little to commercialize this program. "The rest is history."

For audience members not familiar with Moler's extra-MathWorks career, Keyes touched on his many years as a professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of Michigan, Stanford University, and the University of New Mexico, and in the computer industry---at Intel (the HPC Division, where he worked on the iPSC Hypercube) and Ardent Computer Corporation.

Long an active SIAM member, Moler was president of SIAM in 2007–08 and is now past president. He holds a special place in SIAM's book program, as a co-author of one of SIAM's all-time bestsellers: the LINPACK Users' Guide, with Dongarra, Bunch, and Stewart (1979). He is also the author of Numerical Computing with MATLAB, published by SIAM in 2004 (also available online for free). Keyes also cited Forsythe–Malcolm–Moler, "one of the best loved of all numerical analysis texts."

In conclusion, Keyes expressed a single regret: "This particular prize is not accompanied by a lecture, which is a pity since Cleve gives a captivating one, with a mixture of live demos, historical remarks, and inevitably at least a couple of applications that the worldwide community of MATLAB users has found for linear algebra that hadn't occurred to you before." But with Moler scheduled to give the Past President's Lecture at the SIAM Annual Meeting in Denver this summer, Keyes pointed out, "on that occasion we can hope to get at least a portion of his latest MATLAB lecture."

Established jointly in 2002 by the Association for Computing Machinery and SIAM, the SIAM/ACM Prize in CSE recognizes "outstanding contributions to the development and use of mathematical and computational tools and methods for the solution of science and engineering problems." Moler is the fourth recipient; his predecessors are John Bell and Phil Colella (joint recipients in 2003), Achi Brandt (2005), and Chi-Wang Shu (2007).

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