The Quite Reasonable Effectiveness of Mathematical Sciences

Thursday, June 6, 2019 - 1:00pm - 1:45pm
Keller 3-180
Juan Meza (National Science Foundation)
Juan C. Meza, Ph.D., is currently serving as the Division Director at the National Science Foundation’s Division of Mathematical Sciences. Prior to this position, he served as Dean of the School of Natural Sciences at the University of California, Merced. Juan also holds a position as Professor of Applied Mathematics, where his current research interests include nonlinear optimization with an emphasis on methods for parallel computing. Prior to joining UC Merced, Juan served as Department Head and Senior Scientist for High Performance Computing Research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he led research programs in computational and data sciences. He held the position of Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories and served as the manager of the Computational Sciences and Mathematics Research department before joining Berkeley Lab.Juan received the 2013 Rice University Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award and was named to Hispanic Business magazine’s Top 100 Influentials in the area of science.

Today's Lecture: Why is it that mathematics has proven such a powerful tool for understanding the world around us? In a famous article the physicist Eugene Wigner called this “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences”. Mathematics and statistics have gone far beyond the physical sciences and today are routinely used in the biological and life sciences, geology, environmental sciences, social sciences, and even in the humanities.

In this talk, I will provide an overview of the research supported by the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) at the National Science Foundation, which supports approximately 64% of the basic mathematical sciences research in the US. With a budget of $235M last year, we supported close to 5000 researchers including undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. Spanning fields as diverse as algebra and number theory, topology, geometry, mathematical biology, and applied mathematics these programs support the National Science Foundation mission to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare, and secure the national defense. In addition, DMS has workforce programs to address the education and training of our next-generation of mathematical scientists. I will highlight some of the opportunities for students including internships and graduate fellowships.