Impressions of ICIAM 03

October 31, 2003

With a stirring performance of an ancient dance, Aboriginal artists made the opening ceremonies memorable for all, including front-row spectators (from left) Ian Sloan, who chaired the International Program Committee for ICIAM 03; Olavi Nevanlinna, president of the International Council for Industrial and Applied Mathematics; and congress director Noel Barton.
Talk of the Society
James Crowley

Summer conference calendars are always jammed with meetings, including the SIAM annual meeting. We held our meeting in June this year (highlights appear throughout this and the previous issue of SIAM News), far in advance of the usual July time slot, to free SIAM members for ICIAM.

Held every four years since 1987, ICIAM (the International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics) took place this year in Sydney, Australia, July 7-11. The goal of ICIAM is to provide a forum for the presentation of new and emerging research developments in applied mathematics and its industrial applications---much like a SIAM annual meeting, only larger in scale.

A total of more than 1650 mathematical scientists (delegates and students) traveled to Sydney to sample a wide array of talks. The Australians supported the Congress by turning out in large numbers. The U.S. sent the next-highest number of participants (309), followed by the U.K. (115), Japan (97), and Germany (80). While the SARS scare may have deterred some from attending, neither the quality of the talks nor the experience of Sydney was at all diminished. Based on the attendance figures, the Congress successfully addressed one of the organizers' main goals: to provide a special focus on applied mathematics in the Pacific Rim and South-East Asia.

As with any conference of this size, the program reflected a diversity of themes and invited talks (three of which were often scheduled in parallel). In light of the many choices to be made at almost every time slot, readers will realize that the following impressions are those of one individual who hadn't figured out a way to be in three places at once. A few of the talks I particularly enjoyed were Nancy Kopell on rhythms of the nervous system, David Donoho on geometric multiscale analysis (taking multiscale analysis into the geometric domain), and Marsha Berger on grid generation and flow solvers (concluding with a video simulation of the recent shuttle disaster).

A highlight for many was David Donoho's invited talk on geometric multiscale analysis.

The array of topics covered in the invited talks---and in fact throughout ICIAM 03---was very diverse: Tom Leighton on the delivery of content on the Internet, Mark Davis on hedging and valuation in incomplete financial markets, Michael Ortiz on microstructure and macroscopic behavior of materials, Rupert Klein on meteorological modeling, George Papanicolaou on imaging, communication, and time-reversal, Philippe Toint on nonlinear optimization, Tom Hou on multiscale modeling and computation, and Peter Deuflhard on biomedical applications. Again, keep in mind that this is a small, personal sample of the 26 invited talks. (Part of my pleasure in attending the talks, and in having such a wide-ranging selection, may be a result of the strong sense of deprivation I usually feel at SIAM meetings, where committee meetings seem to be proliferating faster all the time.)

Akamai founder Tom Leighton's invited talk was on content delivery on the Internet.

At the request of the ICIAM 03 organizers, SIAM has agreed to publish the 26 invited talks in a special volume, which will appear early in 2004.

The organizers included several innovations in this Congress. One was a set of "embedded meetings"; another was "Industry Day." Industry Day showcased the application of mathematics in key industry sectors. This was accomplished through a set of Special Technological Workshops featuring speakers from industry, research laboratories, and academia who looked at the current state of the art as well as the demand for and supply of mathematical expertise.

Industry Day sessions targeted the automobile industry, shipbuilding (with a focus on design tools for high-speed vessel hydrodynamics), biotechnology and medicine, environmental modeling, aerospace (including multidisciplinary design optimization, or MDO, for unmanned vehicles), and the extraction industries (mining and petroleum). Mathematical topics covered ranged from methods for analyzing large data sets to simulation to optimization; each session had a particular focus, with speakers describing the role played by mathematics or computation in the specific industry or technology sector.

In one of these sessions, SIAM vice president for industry Kirk Jordan talked about the emerging area of systems biology and defined a role for mathematics in that area. In the automotive session, Howard Lovatt of CSIRO talked about hybrid electric vehicles and the role of mathematics and computational simulation in their design.

Congress director Noel Barton strongly suggests that Industry Day be retained in future congresses. Speaking of which, the next ICIAM is scheduled for July 2007 in Zurich, on the campus of ETH.

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