PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University’s Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM) has been awarded a $17.5-million grant renewal from the National Science Foundation. The funding will support the institute’s operations for the next five years.
ICERM, one of eight national mathematics institutes funded by NSF and the only one in New England, brings together some of the world’s best mathematical minds to explore topics in pure and applied math, computer science, and related disciplines. Research at ICERM has focused on topics of critical and emerging mathematical and societal importance, with a particular emphasis on the interface between mathematics and experimentation, visualization and simulation. Recent programs at the institute have explored cybersecurity, climate modeling, data analytics, and the challenges of exascale computing.
“In its first five years, ICERM has established an international network of scholars with Providence as an important hub,” said Brown President Christina Paxson. “The institute’s programs, which focus on the intersection of mathematics, applied mathematics and computation, bring researchers and students together to innovate, experiment and advance knowledge in an exciting area of inquiry.”
ICERM was launched in 2010, with a five-year $15.5-million grant from the NSF. Renewal of the grant followed a thorough review of the institute’s operations.
“ICERM's initial challenge lay in demonstrating, through its programs and activities, that its mission was both compelling and broad in scope,” said Jill Pipher, ICERM’s founding director. “I think we have more than met that challenge with a wide variety of cutting-edge research programs, and we’re very pleased that NSF has validated our mission, our accomplishments, and our future vision with this continuing grant.”
The institute supports semester-long research programs, week-long workshops, and lectures by prominent scholars. ICERM is also home to a rotating group of visiting scholars in residence and postdoctoral researchers, creating a vibrant, year-round scholarly community at the institute’s headquarters, 121 South Main Street in Providence.
“ICERM is an international center that brings nearly one thousand unique visitors to Providence each year,” Pipher said. “Many of these visitors now have scientific connections to faculty and students here at Brown, making ICERM a terrific resource for Brown researchers.”
Those visitors also provide a jolt for the local economy. The institute estimates that spending by visiting scholars contributes up to $1.85 million annually to the local economy.
“The Division of Mathematical Sciences is extremely supportive of its Research Institutes, which are important components of the U.S. mathematical sciences infrastructure,” said Michael Vogelius, NSF’s mathematical sciences division director. “They serve as national resources for advancing research, engaging with scientific opportunities in other fields, expanding the talent base engaged in mathematical and statistical research, and increasing the impact of the mathematical sciences. Their concentration periods help focus the attention of some of the best mathematical minds on problems of particular importance and timeliness, they expand opportunities for training of the next generation of researchers, and they have unmatched capability for outreach to the general public.”
ICERM also draws support from some of the world’s most prominent computer companies, including Google, IBM Research, and Microsoft Research. “Support from these partners was crucial during ICERM’s startup phase, and they continue to aid our mission as corporate sponsors and scientific advisers,” Pipher said. “ICERM has also attracted a number of academic sponsors, whose contributions are used to support participation of their own faculty and students in our programs.
Another crucial part of ICERM’s mission is to support early career researchers and inspire the next generation of mathematicians. The institute has created mentoring and professional programs for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers and runs an immersive research program for undergraduates, Summer@ICERM. For the last two years, the institute has welcomed young women from high schools across Rhode Island for a summer math camp called GirlsGetMath@ICERM.
The array of activities at ICERM clearly demonstrates the role that this institute and others like it play in advancing mathematical research.
“Institutes foster collaboration between leading scientists and early career researchers on the most exciting problems in the field,” Pipher said. “They identify new areas that are ripe for development, catalyzing synergistic approaches.”
With the renewal of its grant, ICERM can continue its current programs and add a few new ones, Pipher said. And it will do so under new leadership. In 2016, ICERM will welcome Brendan Hassett, who will succeed Pipher as the institute’s second director. Hassett joined the faculty in Brown’s Department of Mathematics this summer after 15 years on the faculty at Rice University.