A Few Good Men and Women in Washington

December 1, 1999


H.T. Banks (left) congratulated Charles Holland on his outstanding leadership at both the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research. Holland, who is now director of information services at the Pentagon, was commended by SIAM especially for his work in identifying and nurturing "several new research areas that have matured and produced remarkable new methods in control sciences." His leadership at AFOSR "had a profound impact on the Air Force's basic research program in the mathematical sciences," according to the citation, "including computational mathematics, discrete mathematics, operations research, electronic prototyping, sensor fusion, dynamical systems, control and signal processing, imaging, turbulence and space sciences."

The SIAM Council and Board of Trustees, points out board chair H.T. Banks, are often called on to speak for the mathematical sciences community in Washington. Thinking about this important ongoing responsibility in connection with the ever-present need for good people to manage government programs, Banks came up with what he saw as an obvious idea: an official SIAM commendation for exceptional service at government agencies.

It quickly became clear that this was an idea whose time had come: Three people who had recently concluded many years of valuable service to the community---Jagdish Chandra, Charles Holland, and Anna Tsao---were immediately identified as eminently worthy recipients of the new honor. A few months later, all were present in Atlanta at the 1999 SIAM Annual Meeting to accept the commendations during the prize ceremony at the 1999 SIAM Annual Meeting.

Jag has always brought out the best in our community," said James Glimm (right) on presenting a certificate of commendation to Jagdish Chandra, long-time director of mathematics and computer science at the Army Research Office. Chandra, who retired from ARO in 1997, becoming deputy director for information science and technology at the Army research lab in Adelphi, Maryland, was commended by SIAM "for his exemplary service and leadership in the development of basic research programs in applied and computational mathematics." During his tenure at ARO, the citation continues, "he played an unparalleled role in setting directions of research in applied mathematics and computer science." Especially noteworthy was his support for innovative programs in intelligent control systems, which "helped establish the United States as a world leader in this field. In addition, his strong support of creative expository writing provided a unique mechanism to disseminate new breakthroughs in mathematical research."

Together, Banks explains, these first three recipients exemplify the different ways in which people can put their talent, creativity, and insight to use in government programs on behalf of the community. Chandra, who for 22 years (1975-97) was director of the Mathematical and Computer Sciences Division at the Army Research Office, held a permanent position, as did Charles Holland, who directed various combinations of research in the mathematical sciences, computer science, and the geosciences during his ten years (1988-98) at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Before moving to AFOSR, Holland spent several years at the Office of Naval Research, where he was also responsible for programs in applied mathematics and computer science.

Anna Tsao was the only one of the three to hold a "rotator" position, at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. From 1994 to 1998, on leave from the Center for Computing Sciences of the Institute for Defense Analyses in Bowie, Maryland, she was a program manager in DARPA's applied and computational mathematics program.

Chandra, Holland, and Tsao all held positions at defense agencies, although outstanding people from other agencies, and from corresponding agencies in other countries, are also eligible for the commendation. Indeed, about a month after the Atlanta meeting, SIAM presented a commendation to Donald J. Lewis on his retirement as director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation (see SIAM News, September 1999). At that time, DMS, which relies on a relatively large proportion of rotators to run its programs, needed new people in almost every program; filling the positions was a top priority for Lewis at the end of his term.

DMS needs talented people every year, says Philippe Tondeur, Lewis's successor at NSF; in fact, "we want good representatives in all the agencies that fund the mathematical sciences." Spending time as an agency program manager is a "fantastic opportunity for entrepreneurial people who have a view of where the mathematical sciences are going, where opportunities are arising," he says. "These people help to define the discipline; they make a difference."

DMS has eight new people this year, Tondeur reports, and is looking for a person with broad interests to fill one additional position in interdisciplinary applied mathematics in January, and for several more program directors to begin in the fall of 2000. When people take advantage of these opportunities, he points out, everyone benefits: the person who takes the position, the person's department, and the entire community.

"Being at DARPA was the most fun I've ever had," Tsao told the audience on receiving her commendation. "I wish you could all take advantage of such opportunities. . . . DARPA has two slots available."

SIAM executive director James Crowley had the pleasure of presenting a commendation to his successor at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: Anna Tsao, who, he said, "ran a $20 million program that's important to this community." Tsao was cited for "unique leadership in the integration of applied and computational mathematics into DARPA's programs" and for her "key role in building teams of engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists to address important DOD problems." Through her activities, the citation concludes, she "provided a model for the way in which program managers can positively affect scientific research directions in the United States."

According to current staff, DARPA is always looking for good people; at press time, one of the two slots mentioned by Tsao was still open.

SIAM will award certificates of commendation for government service from time to time, as warranted. The service being recognized must have been completed at the time of the commendation.


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