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April 11, 2013

Courant’s Bruce Kleiner Wins National Academy of Sciences Award

Bruce Kleiner (right), a professor of mathematics at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, was named the recipient of the National Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Reviewing.

He shares the prize with John Lott, a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Kleiner and Lott were recognized for their explication of Grigori Perelman’s solution of the Poincaré Conjecture, which is a century-old theorem explaining three-dimensional spheres. In 2002 and 2003, Perelman, a Russian mathematician, presented a proof that claimed to solve the Poincaré Conjecture. But many mathematicians had difficulty deciphering his work, presented over three papers, thereby raising questions about the proof’s viability.

Kleiner and Lott set out to make Perelman’s work transparent by first understanding, then explaining, the proof in greater detail.

“The Kleiner/Lott presentation was instrumental in making the solution accessible to the mathematical community, and, as the first detailed scientific presentation, played a crucial role in the verification of the solution,” the academy said in announcing its selection.

The award, which includes a cash prize of $10,000, honors authors whose reviews have synthesized extensive and difficult material, providing a significant service to science and influencing the course of scientific thought. The prize annually rotates the discipline it recognizes; work in the field of mathematics is spotlighted once every 17 years. 


Courant Institute’s Andrew Majda Receives Applied Mathematics Prize

Andrew Majda (right), a professor in the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, received the 2013 Norbert Wiener Prize in Applied Mathematics, an award sponsored by the American Mathematical Society and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

The Wiener Prize is awarded every three years to recognize outstanding contributions to applied mathematics in the highest and broadest sense. The prize was given in January at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego.

The Samuel F.B. Morse Professor of Arts and Sciences at the Courant Institute, Majda is well-known for his theoretical contributions to partial differential equations and his applied contributions to a range of areas, including shock waves, combustion, and atmosphere ocean science.

Majda was recognized for “his groundbreaking work in theoretical fluid mechanics and its application to problems in atmospheric science and oceanography,” the prize citation states.  “Mathematicians and geophysicists alike have embraced Majda’s pioneering advances on important and recalcitrant issues arising in climate modeling and prediction. This work includes the development and exploitation of the methods of statistical physics in geophysical problems, as well as the multi-scale analysis of moist fluid dynamics in the atmosphere.”

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Majda has received numerous honors and awards, including the National Academy of Sciences Prize in Applied Mathematics, the John von Neumann Prize of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the Gibbs Prize of the American Mathematical Society. 


Professor Tom Bishop Honored by the French Government

Tom Bishop (left), the Florence Gould Professor of French Literature and the director of the Center for French Civilization and Culture at NYU, was presented with the insignia of “commander” in the Order of Arts and Letters by Antonin Baudry, the cultural counselor of the French Embassy, at a ceremony held this winter in NYU’s La Maison Française.

The order’s highest rank, the insignia of “commander” recognizes significant contributions to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance.

In his remarks, Baudry noted that Bishop played a key role in furthering the intellectual friendship between France and the U.S., and that he is credited with creating one of the best French departments in the United States, a department he headed for 40 years. 


High School Students Working With Psychology’s Denis Pelli Named INTEL Semifinalists

Two high school students who worked on research projects in the laboratory of NYU psychology professor Denis Pelli were among the 300 national semifinalists for the international INTEL Science Talent Search competition for 2013.

These students, Carolyn Yao and Zofii Kaczmarek, both at New York City’s Stuyvesant High School, conducted research projects on perception in Pelli’s laboratory at NYU.

Semifinalists were selected from more than 1,700 entrants at 190 high schools in more than 30 states and one American high school overseas.

Yao explored how the number of visual features used in word identification grows with the number of possible words. She used a theoretical model to analyze the way human accuracy increases with duration. Fitting the model yielded an estimate of the number of features that her observers used to identify words. In doing so, she found a logarithmic relationship between the number of features used and the vocabulary size. Thus, vocabulary size, not word size, limits reading speed.

Kaczmarek examined why spaces between words increase reading speed. Classic Greek and Roman texts had no spaces, but all modern languages do. Using English text, she replaced the spaces with various letter and symbol combinations to test two hypotheses about the function of spaces in text. She found that spaces help because they relieve crowding between letters, rather than because they guide eye movements.

In 2012, four high school students working on science fair research projects with scientists at NYU’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology were among the national semifinalists for the INTEL Science Talent Search competition. These students worked on a range of projects, including plant nutrient dynamics, protein structure prediction, nema- tode genomics, and bacterial spore development. 


NYU-Poly’s Nikhil Gupta Honored by the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society

Nikhil Gupta (right), an associate professor of mechanical engineering at NYU-Poly, was given a Young Leader Professional Development Award from the Structural Materials Division of the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, known as TMS. This organization encompasses the entire range of materials science and engineering, from minerals processing and primary metals production to basic research and the advanced applications of materials.

Gupta’s recent research focuses on developing lightweight materials with high damage tolerance for helmets, body armor, and automobile structures—work with enormous practical applications in both peacetime and on the battlefield.

In addition to fundamental research supported by federal agencies, he is currently working with several small companies on developing technologies and products such as lightweight composite automotive brake rotors that could significantly improve fuel economy and lightweight, blast-resistant materials for the military. 


NSF Awards NYU-Poly Team Grant to Advance Big Data Visualization and Analysis

The National Science Foundation awarded a team of NYU-Poly professors an $800,000, multi-year grant, supplemented by a $350,000 institutional cost share, for a project titled “Acquisition of an Infrastructure for Prototyping Next-Generation Algorithms for Large-Scale Visualization, Data Processing, and Analysis.”

The team includes Claudio Silva as principal investigator, and co-principal investigators Torsten Suel, John Iacono, Juliana Freire, and Huy Vo.

The project, acquiring an instrument for prototyping the next-generation algorithms for large-scale visualization, data processing, and analysis, facilitates the development and evaluation of next-generation algorithms and systems that leverage different hardware configurations.

The instrumentation supports projects in various domains; the computer science projects include dataflow architectures, theoretical models of computation, Web search, visualization, and data mining.

The application area research projects, which are being undertaken with external collaborators, relate to wildfire simulation, bird migration simulation, and climate science. The team plans to release the software developed as part of this project as open source, which carries potential for significant broader impact.

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