NAE Announces New Members

April 14, 1998


A numerical analyst with extensive ties to other communities, Mary Wheeler has drawn a lot of people not traditionally involved in SIAM into the SIAM Activity Group on Geosciences. In February she became the most recent of the SIAM members elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
Mary Wheeler, director of the Center for Subsurface Modeling at the University of Texas, Austin, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. The list of 84 new members announced by NAE in February, in addition to Wheeler, includes Robert J. McEliece of the California Institute of Technology (for his work on error-correcting codes and cryptography), David Middleton, an independent consultant from New York (statistical communications theory and applications), and Neil Sloane of AT&T Laboratories (coding theory and its applications).

In her recent work, Wheeler has emphasized massively parallel computation, in two application areas: petroleum reservoir simulation and groundwater modeling (see SIAM News, October 1997, page 24). "The thing about Mary," says long-time collaborator Gary Pope of the petroleum engineering department at Austin, "is that she's put in the time to understand the problems from the physics point of view, from the engineering point of view, and from the field point of view, as well as from the computational point of view. It's wonderful and fun to encounter an applied mathematician with such a wide range of interests."

Pope credits Wheeler's broad perspective, along with her energy and enthusiasm, for significant contributions to the next-generation model for petroleum reservoir simulation on which UT Austin and Argonne National Laboratory have been working, along with 12 industrial partners, as part of a DOE-funded project. The group is now able, he says, "to do computations on a million-plus gridblock reservoir model."

Wheeler has also put her considerable energy and connections with other communities to work for another group---the SIAM Activity Group on Geosciences. "More than any other single individual," says Thomas Russell of the University of Colorado, Denver, the current chair of the SIAG, "Mary was instrumental in getting the group started, in getting people motivated, and then in expanding it."

The idea for the SIAG probably grew out of a conversation between Wheeler and then SIAM managing director Ed Block, says Russell. It was then Wheeler's widely ranging connections that attracted a lot of members "not traditionally involved in SIAM, from the petroleum industry and the groundwater modeling community, to name just a few." She has continued her efforts, first as chair (199295) and then as vice chair (199597) of the group, and has been especially influential in encouraging people to organize mini-symposia for the group's successful biennial conference series.

"The quality of Mary's work speaks for itself," says J. Tinsley Oden, director of the Texas Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics (within which Wheeler's Center for Subsurface Modeling resides), "not only in numerical analysis, but also in numerical methods for flows in porous media." Everyone who knows her is extremely loyal, he concludes; "Mary's a Number 1 team player."


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