New Connections in Applied Mathematics

January 22, 1999

Getting an early taste of the most pleasant of presidential duties at SIAM's Toronto meeting last summer, Gilbert Strang (right) filled in for then SIAM president John Guckenheimer in awarding several prizes. Here he congratulates Bart De Schutter of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, the 1998 recipient of the Richard C. DiPrima Prize.

From the SIAM President
Gilbert Strang

I would like to write to you about SIAM. This is the first month of a new job for me, and I hope to do that job right. SIAM has to be active; it needs to find good directions for the growth of applied mathematics, it can't just passively wait. I will be so pleased if this column leads you to suggest what SIAM can do and should do for applied and computational mathematics. I guess that Kirchhoff's Current Law applies as much to a society as to a network: Flow in equals flow out. This equation of continuity and conservation is basic to all the models I know (and I trust there will be a source term too, anyway not a sink).

One project is a pretty regular column for SIAM News, and I hope you will forgive that this first try is so personal. My own work has been enormously helped by SIAM journals and especially by the meetings. I can remember individual lectures (perhaps the speakers should remain anonymous, but they are certainly not forgotten) that opened my eyes to new connections in applied mathematics. It is fascinating that this interaction with each other is so important. The public has an image of solitary mathematicians, which is also a part of the truth. But it is somehow crucial to speak and write about what we learn (and then learn more from the responses).

My goal is for SIAM to do everything it can to encourage this cooperation. We all recognize how international our subject has become, and how beautiful that is. We are close when the mathematics is close, not the geography. Research is more and more a joint effort, and SIAM has become very strongly international. There is a new SIAM Section in East Asia, and an-other is forming in Mexico. In the U.S., a Great Plains Section is being organized, and Florida State University now has a SIAM chapter.

There is one direction of activity that is essential to our future. I firmly believe that there are many mathematicians and scientists and engineers around the world who have thought of joining SIAM and would like to become members. This society is held in great respect. My purpose in writing this column is simply to say yes, please join. You will be very welcome. To apply, see I hope you will also join in the work (and the fun) of SIAM.

This summer in Toronto, the discrete mathematics activity group met at the same time as the annual meeting. In Atlanta in May, the 1999 annual meeting will be combined with the conference of the activity group on optimization. A joint meeting of the geosciences and parallel processing groups is scheduled for March (San Antonio). The largest activity group is the one in dynamical systems, whose Snowbird meetings have become tremendous events. The next one is coming later in May, and I will write about it in this column.

One small thought about our annual meetings. You might agree that the Business Meeting is traditionally not the most exciting part. In Atlanta it will be included in the first SIAM Town Meeting. This will be an open discussion of new directions for SIAM (journals and books, memberships and dues, meetings and conferences, national policies, and much more). Please come to the 1999 Town Meeting! You can have a direct voice in what SIAM is doing, and influence our future. And all suggestions for this column are very welcome.

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