U prof elected int’l math society president

One of Dr. Arnold’s goals is to increase diversity in the field of applied math.

It’s been said that math is a universal language, and one University professor has been chosen to lead applied mathematics at the international level.

Last month, Douglas Arnold was named president-elect of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, an international professional society for applied mathematicians.

Arnold said he has been active in SIAM since receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago 30 years ago.

Increasing diversity in the field of applied mathematics and encouraging interdisciplinary research are two of Arnold’s main goals for the organization when he assumes the two-year presidency in 2009, he said.

But the organization, like others of its kind, is facing declining membership, current president of SIAM Cleve Moler said.

“In the face of the change of publication, many individuals find it less important to be members of a society when they can get the journals online,” Moler said.

SIAM is also becoming more internationally based, he said.

The SIAM members hail from over 90 countries, according to its Web site.

SIAM is “capitalizing on the fact that we are not really an American society anymore,” he said.

Arnold said his current position as leader of the University’s Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, which he’s held since 2001, has prepared him for his duties as the president of SIAM.

Lawrence Gray, head of the School of Mathematics, said applied mathematics is the area where math is used to solve problems that arise in outside disciplines, such as physics and engineering.

SIAM and the IMA face “a lot of same issues connecting math with other areas,” he said.

“The exciting stuff now is all interdisciplinary,” he said of math and science research.

For instance, biomedical genomics wouldn’t be possible without the biology, Arnold said, but it also wouldn’t be possible without the applied mathematics.

Gray said one of Arnold’s biggest achievements as director of the IMA is growing the institute enough to surpass University of California-Berkeley as the largest mathematics institute in the nation.

Arnold said he hopes to take his experience at the IMA to enhance SIAM. “You don’t have to call yourself a mathematician to be in SIAM,” he said.

“I expect to call a lot of people and welcome them,” he said, “reach out to people who haven’t been asked before.”

Arnold said he hopes to encourage scientists and mathematicians of different races and genders to get involved with SIAM, but also hopes to reach leaders in engineering and science fields.

The IMA’s success since the early 1980s has led other mathematics institutes to borrow their organizational model, aerospace engineering and mechanics professor Richard James said.

Arnold was “a world-famous numerical analyst” before coming to Minnesota, James said.

“It’s a tremendous achievement to be elected to the president of SIAM,” he said, “and it brings prominence to the University of Minnesota.”

James said Arnold has always had high ambitions in the field, but “his own personal gain was always put second to the promotion of science and mathematics.”

Holly Miller contributed to this report.