Center for Research in Scientific Computation

The Center for Research in Scientific Computation (CRSC) is a formally recognized, multidisciplinary center administered by North Carolina State University. Its purpose is to foster research in scientific computing and provide a focal point for research in computational science, engineering and applied mathematics. Graduate education and postdoctoral research are also major interests of the CRSC faculty and staff.

Carl Meyer, IBM Rep, Tim Kelley
and Bob Plemmons with the IBM 4361

The CRSC was approved by the UNC Board of Governors in 1986, based on a proposal submitted from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Garrett Briggs was the Dean then, and the proposal was written by Associate Dean Les Sims and Bob Plemmons with input from Ernie Burniston, Carl Meyer and Bob White. The idea of the Center was suggested by the success in obtaining a number of research grants relating to scientific computing by Bob Plemmons, Carl Meyer, Tim Kelley, and others. The department also had obtained an IBM mainframe computer, the IBM 3641, which could be used by the center.

The center got off to a gradual start, with a part-time secretary and a small amount of funding ($5000) from the Dean's Office. Carl Meyer directed the Center from 1986-88. Bob Plemmons took over in 1988 and was the director until 1990. During that time period the Center was not a high priority with the University Administration. Nevertheless there were some accomplishments during these first years:

  An increase in interactions between faculty in several departments in PAMS and in Engineering on scientific computing activities,
  New courses in Mathematics related to scientific computing and parallel processing were developed,
  A grant was obtained from the Air Force for a small supercomputer (Alliant FX4) which was located in the Mathematics Department.

When Bob Plemmons left for Wake Forest University in 1990, the Center lay dormant until Tom Banks was hired as director in 1992.

In the summer of 1989 Bob Martin, who had just become the Head of the Mathematics Department, met Tom Banks at a conference in Austria. Tom was leave on leave from Brown University and had just started an Applied Mathematics Center at the University of Southern California. Martin thought that Banks's distinguished record at Brown and his experience in building an Applied Math Center at USC made him an ideal candidate to to rejuvenate the CRSC. The facts that Banks was an undergraduate math major at State and a native of North Carolina just put icing on the cake. When offered the position, Banks declined, but Martin asked him to come to State and advise them in regards to the center. Banks did come in 1991 and wrote a report to the Dean Whitten of PAMS indicating that State, with strong departments in Mathematics and Physics and an excellent Engineering College should take advantage of the industrial research organizations in the Research Triangle Park. He pointed out that the charter of the CRSC giving joint responsibility to the Mathematics and Computer Science Department made the administration of the center cumbersome, especially since Computer Science moved to the Engineering College. He suggested that the director of the center report directly to one person, either the Dean of PAMS or the Dean of Engineering.

When a University Professorship became open, Martin put in Banks name as a candidate, even though Banks told Martin he was still not interested in coming to State. It turned out that Banks won out in the university wide competition for the University Professorship. Finally in 1992 Banks succumbed to the relentless pressure of Martin and Whitten and decided to join NCSU as a University Professor of Mathematics and Director of the CRSC. The CRSC was initially charted as as a center for research in scientific computation. Banks was interested in a center in the broader area of industrial and applied mathematics. Applying for a name change would have essentially meant applying for a new Center, a long and trying process. Martin, Banks and Whitten adopted a simple solution: just broaden the scope of the center without changing its name. In addition, with the acquiescence of the Computer Science Department, it was agreed that Banks would report directly to the Dean of PAMS on all activities regarding the center. The mathematics department was to supply a secretary for the Center. Otherwise the operational budget for the center was to be funded by the Dean.

R. H. Martin, Jr.  J. Whitten  H. T. Banks

Whitten took the opportunity of hiring Banks to not only rejuvenate the Center but also to bolster the Mathematics Department. He put considerable resources into the Center. First, at Banks suggestion, Dr. Kazufumi Ito, who was a colleague of Banks at Brown and USC, was hired as a tenured Associate Professor of Mathematics; this was rarely done (normally only full Professors could be hired with tenure). Second, he allotted considerable space on the third floor of Harrelson for the use of Post Docs for the center. This was the cause of some temporary resentment by the faculty and graduate students who were displaced and had to move to new space that was obtained on the first floor of Harrelson Hall and in Withers Hall. Third, he assigned four new faculty positions to the Mathematics Department. Two of these would be for faculty who would also be associated with the CRSC, and two positions for faculty not necessarily having anything to do with the center. The money for all this came in part from the one-time grant of new money and by reallocating money from within the College.

The Center grew rapidly in activity and prestige. Most of the credit for its success was due to the leadership of Banks. However the excellent working relationship among Banks, Whitten and Martin helped pave the way for this success. The Center now has around 40 Associated Faculty and 10 Postdoctoral Researchers. It produces about 40 Technical Reports each year, most of which are ultimately published in refereed journals.

In 1994 the CRSC started the Industrial Applied Mathematics Program (IAMP), which is now co-sponsored by the Mathematics Department. The main goal of the program is to provide substantive non-academic research-related experiences for graduate students, postdoctoral and faculty participants while contributing to the research efforts of industrial participants. These experiences, involving a year-long participation in an industrial, governmental lab or agency or other non-academic research project, facilitates the development of participants' ability to communicate and interact with scientists who are not traditional mathematicians but who have an interest in quantitative aspects of science and engineering. These experiences improve graduate student and faculty vision about the type of mathematics and science that should be pursued by students who aspire to a non-academic postgraduate career. The IAMP is open to graduate students, postdocs and faculty who commit to appropriate projects. The projects may or may not be related to a student's Ph. D. thesis research. Student participants normally are enrolled in one of the mathematics Ph.D. programs or be associated with faculty who are members of the CRSC. In the 2000-2001 academic year the program involved approximately 23 projects, 14 faculty, 4 postdocs, 20-25 graduate students. Its governmental and industrial collaborators include: The Lord Corporation, US Air Force Research Laboratory, US Army Waterways Experiment Station, NASA Langley Research Center, Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, Aerospace Corporation, Environmental Protection Agency, ETREMA Products Inc, The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, MedAcoustics and Jenike & Johanson Inc.

In 1999 the Lord Corporation of Cary contributed $200,000 to endow the Lord Corporation/Center for Research in Scientific Computation Fellowship Fund at North Carolina State University. The fellowship provides awards for graduate and post-doctoral students in applied mathematics and scientific computation at NC State. The recipients are known as Lord Corporation Fellows.

An Acoustic Experimen
Another initiative of the CSRC is a modeling course (MA 573-574) developed by Professors Banks and Tran. Fundamental physical processes are studied: heat flow, wave propagation, fluid, population and structural dynamics, electromagnetic dispersion, and optics. A major innovative component of the course is the exposure of mathematics students to specific laboratory experiments, data collection and analysis. The pedagogy involves beginning with first principles in a physical, chemical or biological process and deriving quantitative models (partial differential equations with boundary conditions, initial conditions, etc.) in the context of a specific application such as thermal nondestructive damage detection in structures, active noise suppression in acoustic chambers, smart material (piezoceramic sensing and actuation) structures vibration suppression, and fluid transport in thin film vapor deposition reactors. The students then use the models (with appropriate computational software - some from MATLAB, some from routines the instructors have developed specifically for the course) to carry out simulations and analyze experimental data. The students are exposed to experimental design and data collection through laboratory demos in certain experiments and through actual hands-on experience in other experiments. The laboratory is located in the Centennial Campus and is also being used for demonstrations in other courses.

Dr. H.T. Banks is Director of the Center for Research in Scientific Computation at North Carolina State University where he is also a University Professor and Drexel Professor of Mathematics. Prior to this current appointment in 1992, he spent three years on the faculty at the University of Southern California where he was founder and the first Director of the Center for Applied Mathematical Sciences after having spent over 20 years on the faculty at Brown University. Dr. Banks has published over 300 papers in applied mathematics and engineering journals and written three books. He currently serves on a number of editorial boards including Computational and Applied Mathematics, Quarterly of Applied Math, Inverse Problems, J. Intelligent Material Systems and Structures, Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems and is Editor-in-Chief of the SIAM Frontiers in Applied Mathematics. Dr. Banks is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, and was the recipient of the IEEE Control Systems Technology Award in 1996 and the W.T. and Idalia Reid Prize in Mathematics in 2002.

Dr. Banks' research interests include Inverse Problems and Control for PDE, Modeling in Structures, Fluids, and Biology.

(February 2003)

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