IMA Names New Director

April 9, 2001

Douglas Arnold, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University, has been named director of the Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications at the University of Minnesota. Arnold will succeed Willard Miller, who has been director of the now nearly twenty year old IMA since 1997.

"We're all very excited," says James Keener, who, as former chair of the IMA Board of Governors, headed the search committee. "Doug Arnold brings energy, innovation, and new perspective to the IMA, and it's clear from the things he's done at his university that he's an effective, dynamic leader."

At Penn State, Arnold is also co-director of the Center for Computational Mathematics and Applications, associate director of the Institute for High Performance Computing Applications, and a member of the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry. He lists his research interests as numerical analysis, PDEs, mechanics, and, in particular, the interplay between these fields. He has made major contributions to the numerical simulation of elastic plates and shells, and also of incompressible fluids. In the last several years he has taken up a new field of application, gravitational physics, and devoted much of his effort to the new discipline of computational relativity, with the long-term aim being the numerical simulation of massive astrophysical events and the resulting gravitational radiation emission.

"The IMA has had an enormous impact on applied mathematics during its first twenty years," Arnold says. "As the leading institute in the world dedicated to enhancing the role of mathematics in interdisciplinary research, it has played a major part in bringing about lasting changes to the scientific landscape."

Citing "the mathematization of materials science and the revitalization of industrial mathematics training over the last decades" as examples of developments that owe much to the IMA, he articulates what he sees as extremely important aspects of IMA activities: "The IMA has helped a tremendous number of mathematicians to strengthen their connections to important areas of application and to adjust the direction of their work so as to maximize its significance; and correspondingly, it has helped many scientists to advance their fields by connecting with significant mathematics."

Arnold has had a long association with the IMA, including two years in residence; he has served on its Computational Programs and Resources Advisory Committee and, for the last few years, the Board of Governors. Looking ahead to his new role, he says:

"We are entering a period in which mathematics should become a vital component of many fields and industries in which its presence has been limited until now-the life sciences and information technology, for example. In other areas, including the many fields of science and engineering trying to exploit the vast potential of the computational mode of inquiry, the level of involvement of mathematics in interdisciplinary research should greatly increase. So there are a wealth of new opportunities and challenges for the IMA in the coming years. I am greatly excited and honored by the chance to direct it through that period."

Along with the IMA appointment, Arnold becomes a professor in the university's mathematics department, as does M. Carme Calderer, his wife, also an applied mathematician. Naresh Jain, who chairs the department, describes Arnold as "an absolutely superb" choice, "with excellent credentials both as a mathematician and as an administrator." The department, Jain says, is elated at its doubly good fortune.


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