Student Chapters: A SIAM Success Story

October 26, 2004

Guest speaker Peter Norvig of Google (left) received a certificate of appreciation from Laurent Demanet, president of the Caltech chapter of SIAM.

Five years ago, not even a small handful of SIAM student chapters showed signs of life. Today, SIAM has 33 student chapters that, based on a session for chapter representatives held at the SIAM Annual Meeting in Portland, can be described with no exaggeration as lively and exciting. Members of several chapters have found creative ways to network, both with other students and with established professionals in the field, and to promote applied mathematics and computational science in general.

Chapter activities have included research forums, seminars on career opportunities in applied math and computational science, lectures by guest speakers, social functions, and field trips to industrial labs or SIAM meetings. For those considering the formation of SIAM chapters at their own universities, or for existing chapters looking for new ideas, a closer look at a few especially successful activities should be helpful.
One such activity was a student conference organized by the SIAM Gators, the University of Florida Chapter of SIAM. Called Advances in Applied Mathematics, the conference was held in March, as described in the article on the facing page.

How mathematics is used every day in industry is a subject of interest to a much wider audience than just the traditional community of applied mathematicians. This is what a small team of graduate students at the California Institute of Technology Chapter of SIAM concluded from the surprising turnout-close to 200 people-for a meeting they had organized, also for early March. The event featured a guest speaker---Peter Norvig from Google---and centered on the challenges of developing and maintaining Google as the leading search engine on the Web. A few Caltech alumni, now working at Google, also attended and interacted with the crowd. Encouraged by the success of the first event, the chapter plans to host "Meetings on Mathematics in Industry" every quarter.

Readers are encouraged to visit the SIAM chapter Web page at, which includes information about existing chapters and the procedure for starting new ones. Questions or suggestions can be addressed to Bill Briggs (, the current SIAM vice president for education, or Susan Whitehouse (, who joined the SIAM staff in January 2003 as membership manager, a new position created in part to reinvigorate the SIAM chapters.---JMC

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