CSE 2007: Fourth Conference in SIAM Series Showcases New Methods, Broadening Set of Applications

June 12, 2007

Invited speaker Tom Lange of Procter & Gamble (left), with John Lewis and Padma Raghavan.

The week of February 9 was "National Engineers Week" in the United States, and more than six hundred lucky members of the SIAM community celebrated with a trip to southern California. But most of them never even glimpsed the beach, spending their time instead at the 2007 SIAM Conference on Computational Science and Engineering---the fourth and largest yet in this series. As always, the conference showcased the latest mathematical and computational techniques for addressing a diverse set of applications. CSE continues to blossom as an interdisciplinary field, with rapid advances in methods and capabilities and an ever broadening set of applications.

Finite element methods for stochastic partial differential equations were among the methodologies strongly represented in the program, including in the plenary talk of Hermann Matthies. With the ever increasing capability of computers and improved methods for deterministic simulations, issues of uncertainty and optimization are becoming accessible. As discussed in the accompanying article on this page, finite element methods for stochastic PDEs are gaining prominence both for their mathematical elegance and for their explanatory power.
A second increasingly visible topic is the enabling power of combinatorial algorithms. As simulation methods and computers grow in complexity, discrete algorithms are playing a steadily increasing role in ensuring computational efficiency and tract-ability. This topic was explored at the SIAM Workshop on Combinatorial Scientific Computing that immediately preceded the CSE conference (see SIAM News, May 2007, page 1).

A number of plenary and minisymposium speakers discussed exciting applications. Peter Cummings kicked off the meeting with an overview of the many computational challenges in nanoscience. Nanoscience, bridging the classical and quantum realms, presents enormous computational challenges. Simulation will play a crucial role in making the promise of nanomaterials a reality. Tom Lange of Procter & Gamble gave an inspiring plenary talk on the importance of computational science in the consumer goods industry. He persuasively dispelled the widespread notion that high-end simulation is only for niche applications. And in an overview of the rapidly emerging field of systems biology, Lee Hood described a role for computation in dramatically reinventing biomedicine.

One novel feature of the meeting was a stimulating panel discussion on the future of computational science, organized by Dan Reynolds. Panel members touched on the remarkable breadth of technologies involved in this rapidly evolving field (see SIAM News, May 2007, page 1). A second new activity was a student paper competition with an unusual award: a week-long visit to Bavaria. Prize committee members Uli Rüde and Tammy Kolda describe the intense competition for the prize in "First BGCE Student Prize in CSE."

Despite the warm California sun, few attendees returned with tans. What they did take home was the deeper glow of new ideas and the stimulating exchange of views that are the hallmark of a successful SIAM conference.---Max Gunzburger, Bruce Hendrickson, and Andy Wathen.

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