SIAM Thrives on a Mix of the Traditional and the New

May 17, 2010

Talk of the Society
James Crowley

Having just returned from the SIAM Conference on Imaging Science, I must remark on the amazing groups of people who attend SIAM conferences. Each conference has its own character, derived from the community it serves. Imaging science is a youngish field, mathematically speaking, and the people at the conference reflected that characteristic. They work in an interesting mix of disciplines, anchored in mathematics, and in a variety of environments---academia, labs, institutes, and companies.

Speakers at the conference covered both traditional and newly emerging areas. Bill Symes talked about an old problem in imaging---reflection seismology. Although an academic, he brought in strong industrial connections with his description of current practice among modelers in the oil industry who try to obtain images of underground geological structure from reflected seismic waves. The talks and sessions on compressive imaging and sensing showed that to be a hot area. Certainly, the whole idea of sparsity---using a small set of objects to efficiently represent a signal---received a lot of attention from speakers working in various areas. And, of course, we learned of ongoing contributions from developments that began with wavelets only two decades ago---ideas that have already led to contributions but continue to be developed and extended.

Guillermo Sapiro's invited address ("Data Don't Lie: Image Processing via Learned Efficient Representations"), for example, also featured an in-depth discussion of the use of sparse modeling from overcomplete dictionaries to obtain an efficient representation, as well as the use of learning techniques to obtain efficient models of classes of images. Sapiro, the editor-in-chief of SIAM Journal on Imaging Sciences, encouraged the community to submit papers to the journal.

Does any conference offer a better selection of beautiful pictures and the mathematics used to produce them? Finding oil, restoring motion-picture films, imaging for surveillance and security, and medical imaging are but a few of the applications covered. And the range of mathematics---from wavelets to PDEs---was equally diverse.

Thanks to the organizers (especially Adel Faridani, Oregon State University, and Stacey Levine, Duquesne University, who co-chaired the committee) for their work in putting together the program for such a successful conference.


Another impressive SIAM group deserves mention here as well: Thirty-four SIAM members were chosen for the new (2010) class of SIAM fellows by a selection committee made up of 2009 fellows. The 2010 group is the first elected class of SIAM fellows---the inaugural class having been selected on the basis of objective criteria rather than a nomination/election process.

The 2010 fellows, who will be officially recognized in July at the SIAM Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, are a diverse group of men and women who have made significant contributions to applied mathematics and computational science. These individuals have, among other things, shown excellence in research, industrial work, educational activities, or other activities directly related to the goals of SIAM. By honoring them as fellows, SIAM acknowledges them as leaders in their fields.

The committee made its selections from nominations submitted by SIAM members; members are thus encouraged to nominate deserving individuals for future classes. SIAM members will receive a reminder later this year, but the process for nominating 2011 fellows is already under way.

Meanwhile, congratulations to those in both the 2009 and 2010 classes. Readers can find their names, along with nomination procedures, at Many of the names in both groups will be familiar---we believe that this is so in part because the work of many of these individuals has been featured over the years in SIAM News. The present issue is no exception: Carlos Castillo-Chavez, the author of the first article in the new column Expanding our Scope (he's also the column editor), is one of the 34 newly elected SIAM fellows. And former SIAM president Hirsh Cohen, whose movie review from more than 20 years ago in a sense set the stage for the column, was one of the inaugural fellows.


The recipient of an e-mail message from David Keyes, dean of the Division of Mathematical and Computer Sciences & Engineering at KAUST, might expect a glimpse of an exotic new environment. KAUST, as most readers will know, is the brand new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a well-funded and -provisioned (with resources including the 0.222 petaflop/s computer Shaheen) enclave within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

But a recent message from Keyes describing "a typical day at KAUST" mentioned its being "a little more SIAM-ish than usual." Indeed, the agenda for the day featured the beginning of a three-day workshop on source inversion validation in seismology---"an exascale simulation project if there ever was one"---and of a four-day workshop on complex fluids; Gil Strang was also there for the day with a pair of seminars on wavelets and CSE. Many readers will recognize the names of other workshop speakers as well: Olivier Pironneau, Omar Ghattas, Alfio Quarteroni. . . .

All this was happening in parallel, Keyes wrote---"quite a nuisance for our students, who also have classes to attend today!"

Classes began in September for KAUST's 400 graduate students and 70 faculty. An inaugural symposium, Sustainability in a Changing Climate, held in September, touched on themes central to KAUST's mission. We can probably hope for many equally stimulating messages, perhaps even with a touch of the exotic, as KAUST moves into full swing.

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