Reflections on Successful Summer Meetings

September 13, 2001

Thomas Hou (right) of Caltech received the James H. Wilkinson Prize in Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing from SIAM president Tom Manteuffel. The committee cited Hou for both theoretical and practical contributions in computational fluid dynamics, especially his work on convergence of the point vortex method, spectral methods for fluid-interface problems, and problems involving multiple scales.
Talk of the Society
Thomas Manteuffel

This year's annual meeting was a great success. It was held in San Diego, July 9-13, in conjunction with the SIAM Conference on Control and Its Applications (July 11-14). Nearly 950 members attended the joint meetings. The large turnout was due in part to the location, in part to the overlap with the control meeting, and in part to excellent scientific programs at both meetings.

The Town and Country Hotel had a very nice conference facility, and the sleeping rooms were spread out in a compound that included numerous swimming pools and inviting spots to sit and visit. Sea World and the beach were only a 15-minute drive, and a trolley adjacent to the hotel made Old Town and downtown San Diego an easy ride. Many members brought their families along for a vacation.

The invited lectures were excellent, ranging in topic from sound in the ocean (Michael Porter) to Voronoi diagrams (Max Gunzburger) to swimming worms (Lisa Fauci). Electromagnetics, bio-mathematics, and multiscale methods were major themes of the meeting, as reflected in several invited presentations---on electromagnetic scattering (Lawrence Carin and Uri Ascher), control and biological systems (Eduardo Sontag, in his Reid Prize lecture), and multiscale computation (Tom Hou, in his Wilkinson Prize lecture). I especially enjoyed David Donoho's von Neumann Lecture, a very accessible talk about math beyond wavelets.

I want to mention here one event that I hope will grow into a standard feature of SIAM annual meetings. On Monday evening, a panel of industrial mathematicians described the skills and training that companies look for when they hire mathematicians. (Thanks to Kirk Jordan, SIAM's vice president for industry, for organizing the session.) The panel discussion was followed by a reception and job fair for SIAM student members. Perhaps a half dozen companies and national laboratories had booths, staffed by SIAM members who described job opportunities to the students. By all accounts the event was quite successful, and we hope to expand on this format for the next annual meeting. Giving our student members the chance to become familiar with the many job opportunities in computational and applied mathematics in a relaxed and informal setting is a service that may draw more students to the SIAM annual meetings---and result in new SIAM members.

Of course, the annual meeting is a time for the SIAM Council and Board of Trustees to meet. One lively debate at the council meeting was sparked by a report on the pros and cons of establishing a SIAM Fellows program, the work of a committee chaired by David Keyes. After thorough discussion, the council decided not to pursue the matter further. One of the major factors in this decision was the perception that SIAM is a very open and collegial society, and the concern that a Fellows program might jeopardize those qualities.

Also held in San Diego this year was a meeting of the SIAM Activity Group chairs. SIAM vice president-at-large Linda Petzold chaired the meeting, which was attended by representatives from all but one of the activity groups. The meeting provided a useful forum for the exchange of information among the activity groups and helped the SIAM leadership to better understand the needs and concerns of the activity groups. We plan to make this too an annual event.

Before moving to another topic, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organizers of both meetings for excellent programs. Margaret Cheney and Mac Hyman chaired the organizing committee for the annual meeting, and Tony Bloch and Bill Hager, with SIAG chair Roger Brockett, led the effort on the control program. Thanks are also due to the SIAM conference staff for selecting a terrific location and providing wonderful support.

In closing, I would like to give you a brief update on the funding picture for NSF's Division of Mathematical Sciences for the next fiscal year. The President's budget called for a $20 million increase for DMS, on a base of approximately $121 million. Congress is also requesting an increase for DMS---$11 million, for a total of $151.9 million, in the House version and $5 million, for a total of $146.5 million, on the Senate side. Either version would provide a major increase for DMS. The next step is a House/Senate conference, where anything can happen. The SIAM leadership plans to continue to push for additional funding for mathematics by meeting with staff of both the Senate and the House Appropriations Committees in late September, before the conference meets.

While many groups promote science, like the Coalition for National Science Funding, much of the focus is on NSF. The Department of Energy, whose science programs are extremely important to people in computational and applied mathematics, generally receives less attention from advocates for science funding. The recently announced SciDAC program is one example of an important new DOE initiative. We hope to emphasize the importance of DOE programs, as well as DOD programs, in our discussions with congressional staff this fall.

As always, I urge you to get in touch with your elected representatives and reinforce the idea that science in general, and mathematics in particular, is very important to continued advances in technology. Since scientific discovery is a driving force in the economy, these efforts are especially important when the economy is slow and the tendency might be to cut scientific programs. If you need help in contacting your representatives, please feel free to contact me or the SIAM office.

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