Computational scientist receives prestigious honor

June 30, 2009

Prof. Franco Brezzi is the 2009 John von Neumann Lecturer

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) will honor Franco Brezzi, one of the leading computational mathematicians of our day, as the 2009 John von Neumann Lecturer during the SIAM Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, July 6-10. Brezzi is Director of the Institute of Applied Mathematics and Information Technology (IMATI) of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) and Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study (IUSS), Italy.

Brezzi is being recognized for his insight, analysis, and exposition, which have had a profound impact on computational science and engineering. In particular, his work clarifying the nature of numerical stability and developing tools to devise stable finite element methods has been hugely influential. It has decisively advanced our ability to simulate a wide variety of physical phenomena including incompressible fluids, flow in porous media, plate and shell structures, and electromagnetics.

Of his many contributions, the best known is Brezzi's stability theory establishing necessary and sufficient conditions for the stability of the numerical discretizations of saddle point problems. Begun in a 1974 paper which is one of the most highly cited in numerical analysis, this theory applies to a wide range of problems. In particular, it completely changed the process of simulating incompressible fluid flow. At the time of its appearance, good finite element methods were not available for this problem, and confusion reigned as to the causes and the cures of the instabilities that arose in calculations.

Brezzi has been active in numerous other areas of numerical analysis, including his work on stabilization techniques and bubble functions, and their application to singularly perturbed problems; the analysis of discontinuous Galerkin methods; the implementation of mixed FEM through interelement multipliers; and the numerical analysis of nonlinear problems. Additionally, Brezzi has been a superb mentor to young mathematicians.

The John von Neumann Lecture is awarded annually for outstanding and distinguished contributions to the field of applied mathematical sciences and for the effective communication of these ideas to the community. Brezzi will receive a monetary award and certificate and will present a lecture entitled "Compatible Discretizations of PDEs," on Tuesday, July 7.

Established in 1959, The John von Neumann Lecture surveys and evaluates a significant and useful contribution to mathematics and its applications. It may be awarded to a mathematician or scientist in another field, but in either case, the recipient should have made distinguished contributions to pure and/or applied mathematics. The selection committee for the 2009 Lecture includes Irene Fonseca, Carnegie Mellon University; David Keyes, Columbia University; Robert Kohn, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University; Cleve Moler, The MathWorks, Inc; and Douglas N. Arnold, University of Minnesota.

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