National Academy of Sciences Elects New Members

June 15, 2009

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, created during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln to advise the federal government "upon request, in any matter of science and technology," held its annual meeting in Washington at the end of April. On the agenda, as always, was the election of new members. Representing SIAM among the 72 newly elected U.S. members are John Hopcroft of Cornell University, Thomas J.R. Hughes of the University of Texas, Austin, and Gilbert Strang of MIT.

A computer scientist, Hopcroft has been at Cornell since 1967. Apart from a foray into administration---mainly as dean of engineering, from 1994 to 2001---he has been a member of the computer science department, where he is currently the IBM Professor of Engineering and Applied Mathematics. Most recently, he has been studying information capture and access. Hopcroft chaired the SIAM Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1995; also a longtime member of the Financial Management Committee, he has helped keep SIAM fiscally stable through times both prosperous and turbulent. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1989 "for fundamental contributions to computer algorithms and for authorship of outstanding computer science textbooks."

Hughes is also a member of NAE, having been elected in 1995 "for contributions to the development of finite element methods for solid-structural and fluid mechanics." A professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, he is currently a member of the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, known as ICES, at UT Austin. Among his recent research interests are variational and multiscale methods in studies of turbulence, in particular in large-eddy simulations---the subject of an invited talk he gave at the second SIAM Conference on CSE---and patient-specific cardiovascular modeling and simulation. His work has been recognized by many awards, including the 1997 John von Neumann Medal of the U.S. Association for Computational Mechanics, of which he is a founder, fellow, and past president.

A professor of mathematics at MIT, Strang expressed thoughts about his books on linear algebra and computational science in a recent interview with SIAM News (April 2009). Through MIT's OpenCourseWare project, he has made lectures in those fields freely available to anyone in the world. As president of SIAM (1999–2000), he introduced applied and computational mathematicians worldwide to SIAM programs and ideas. The first Su Buchin Prize, which he received at ICIAM '07 in Zurich, recognized him in part for his visits to Asia (of which a tangible result is creation of the East Asia Section of SIAM), as well as to developing countries in other parts of the world. Among his other awards are the Henrici Prize, also presented at ICIAM '07, and the 2005 USACM John von Neumann Medal in computational mechanics, in recognition of his book (with George Fix) on finite elements.

Other mathematical scientists among the new members include Sun-yung Alice Chang, a professor of mathematics at Princeton, Percy Deift, a professor of mathematics at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, John Morgan, a professor of mathematics at Columbia, and Christos Papadimitriou, a professor of computer science at UC Berkeley.

The newly elected members were notified a day too late to be present for another highlight of the NAS meeting: President Barack Obama, addressing the members in attendance, announced new initiatives and investments in scientific research---with top priority for alternative energy and climate change---and in education. Along with support for high-risk, high-return research and for research by young scientists and engineers, he affirmed his administration's commitment to doubling the budgets, over the next ten years, of the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science. He also announced the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy---a DOE version of the Defense Department's DARPA. Only the fourth U.S. president to address the National Academy, Obama called for increasing the percentage of the federal budget allocated to R&D to 3%, from the current 2.7%.

John Hopcroft

Thomas J.R. Hughes

Gilbert Strang


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