Materials Science: Materials Meetings Spawn New SIAG

July 23, 2010

David Kinderlehrer and Robert Kohn chaired the organizing committee for the 2010 SIAM Conference on Mathematical Aspects of Materials Science. Held in Philadelphia at the end of May, the conference was the sixth in a series but the first to be sponsored by the eponymous SIAM Activity Group.
SIAM's 6th Conference on Mathematical Aspects of Materials Science was a great success by just about any measure, drawing more than 350 participants to Philadelphia for four jam-packed days of networking and science, May 2326, 2010. Highlights of the program included a panel discussion, "Education at the Interface Between Mathematics and Materials Science," and a minisymposium, "Undergraduate Research in Mathematics of Materials," organized by Maria Emelianenko.

David Kinderlehrer and Robert Kohn co-chaired the organizing committee for the meeting. Many participants commented on the meeting's broad coverage. Kohn himself found the meeting "fun, but exhausting. With eight minisymposia running in parallel for much of each day, I was often torn between sessions---on metamaterials, grain boundary motion, epitaxial growth, and micromagnetics, to name just a few of the many temptations."

David Srolovitz, the closing speaker in a three-part minisymposium on grain boundary motion, had a more focused appreciation of the meeting: "I learned about wholly new and very exciting approaches to grain growth simulation--a field in which I have been active for more than 25 years." (Grain network dynamics, multiscale modeling of energy systems, and other scientific topics covered at the meeting will be featured in upcoming issues of SIAM News.)

"The most exciting thing about the meeting for me," said graduate student Peter Bella, "was the chance to talk with people whom I previously knew only through their articles, such as Basile Audoly, Kaushik Bhattacharya, and Tim Healey. Of course, such discussions quickly revealed information that hadn't yet hit print."

SIAM has held meetings on the mathematics of materials at reasonably consistent intervals since 1994. Until the 2010 meeting, Kohn says, the algorithm for organizing them was something like this: (1) the organizers of the previous meetings would wake up one day and decide that it was time for another one; (2) an e-mail discussion would ensue, leading to the selection of meeting co-chairs, a date, and a location for the next meeting; (3) the co-chairs worked with their committees and SIAM to make it happen.

This algorithm has obvious deficiencies. Most topical SIAM meetings are associated with activity groups, and the co-organizers of the 2008 SIAM materials meeting---Michael Ortiz and Stefan Mueller---initiated the formation of a materials-oriented SIAG, to formalize SIAM's commitment to this area and make the organization of the meetings more robust. The SIAG on Mathematical Aspects of Materials Science was approved by SIAM in the fall of 2008, with initial officers Robert Kohn (Chair), Irene Fonseca (Vice Chair), Michael Ortiz (Secretary), and Kaushik Bhattacharya (Program Director); this meeting in Philadelphia was its first major activity.

A new slate of officers will be elected in the fall of 2010, for three-year terms starting in January 2011. Their responsibilities will include organizing the 7th Conference on Mathematical Aspects of Materials Science, which is tentatively scheduled for June 2013. SIAM members can easily enroll in the SIAG by going to or by checking the appropriate box when renewing their annual membership.

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