Recalibrating a Successful SIAM Program

June 22, 2010

Talk of the Society
James Crowley

This year, as reported in the May issue of SIAM News, SIAM welcomes its first class of elected fellows. The members of this distinguished group make us all proud to be part of SIAM; their accomplishments reflect on SIAM as a society and on all who work in our discipline. But a quick inspection of the demographics of the new class reveals some imbalances. Changes that would re-dress these imbalances---a more active nomination process in which all SIAM members could participate---would make the SIAM fellows program even more effective.

Many eligible SIAM members were nominated for the 2010 class of fellows---enough, in fact, that only a small fraction could be selected. The problem is that few of those nominated were from industry or government labs, and only a small percentage were women. While I was not privy to the discussions of the selection committee, it is my impression that the SIAM leadership and the committee members, aware that the career paths and markers of success for people in industry and labs differ in some respects from those of academics, were receptive to nominations of people from the sparsely represented groups.

A few statistics make the point: People from industry accounted for less than 4% of all nominations. National labs fared even worse, with only two nominees---one each from national labs in the U.S. and Europe. Only 7.7% of those nominated are women, and women make up nearly 9% of the new class---i.e., selections were in rough proportion to nominations.

I believe that the demographic balance of future classes of fellows would benefit from larger numbers of qualified nominees from each of the groups mentioned here.

2011 Nominations Now Open
The next fellows selection committee will be identified in July and will begin its work in the fall, but members are encouraged to submit nominations for the 2011 class of fellows now. The fellows website ( is open and accepting nominations.

Nominations of eligible people remain active for two calendar years. Any valid nomination considered by the 2010 selection committee, in other words, will come before the 2011 committee (half of whose members will be new); nominations eligible for re-consideration can be updated.

Sad News
With great sadness we note the passing of two distinguished SIAM members: Paul Garabedian of the Courant Institute and Chris Byrnes of Washington University in St. Louis. Both were members of the initial class of SIAM fellows.

Chris received the Reid Prize in 2005 for his work in robust control of nonlinear systems. He was a long-time active member of the SIAM Activity Group on Control and Systems Theory and of the editorial board for SIAM's Advances in Design and Control book series. He died suddenly in Stockholm on February 11.

Christopher I. Byrnes

Paul Garabedian, a lifetime member of SIAM, died on May 13. In 1983 he received the Birkhoff Prize for important contributions to partial differential equations and to the mathematical analysis of problems of transonic flow and airfoil design, and for the application of scientific computing to problems of fluid dynamics; in 1989 he received the von Kármán Prize. Phil Davis, who conducted and wrote up interviews with many of the early pioneers of numerical analysis, made an unprecedented second trip to New York to get the full story of this brilliant applied mathematician. We encourage readers to visit or revisit Phil's story (

Paul R. Garabedian

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