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Brown received a $15.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation on Aug. 4 to fund a mathematics institute that will focus on the connection between mathematics and computational research.

The Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics is the first of its kind funded by the National Science Foundation in New England, according to the press release announcing the award.  It will bring top-level researchers to Providence and will make Brown one of the most esteemed math research hubs in the country, Senior Vice President of Research Clyde Briant wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

"The role of the institute is to create the right environment — from the scientific vision and the setting of priorities to the infrastructure and computational tools — which supports the vital research projects of its participating scholars as well as the training and mentoring of the next generation of mathematicians," wrote Professor of Mathematics Jill Pipher, who will lead the institute, in an e-mail to The Herald. A variety of programs will be established to achieve these goals.

Starting in 2011, the institute will begin two of its main programs ­— its "hot topics" conference in the summer and its semester-long research projects in the fall.

The semester-long projects will select mathematicians with different levels of expertise to "come in and work on themes pertinent to the semester," said Jan Hesthaven, professor of applied mathematics and associate director of the institute. Workshops and lectures will supplement these research opportunities throughout the semester.

The institute will bring together senior researchers, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, enabling the advanced participants to act as advisors and mentors to the grad students during their stay, Pipher wrote. The fall 2011 semester will focus on "Kinetic Theory: Analysis and Computation," and the spring 2012 projects will focus on "Complex and Arithmetic Dynamics," according to the institute's website.

Several of the institute's initiatives will focus on "the connection-building and training of future scientists," Pipher wrote. Beginning in summer of 2012, the institute will host undergraduate research programs. An advisory board has also been formed to assess ways to improve elementary and secondary education in mathematics across the country, Pipher wrote.

The research produced will likely have very practical applications as well. Representatives from Google, IBM and Microsoft will serve on another advisory board, giving them the ability to help with programs that direct research towards fields such as health care, finance and national security, according to the press release.

It is expected that all of the programs will be fully functional in three years, with the 2010-11 academic year serving as a "ramp up year," Pipher wrote.

Planning the institute has been several years in the making. A team of five faculty members began working on a proposal in June 2008, with help from related departments such as applied mathematics and computer science. "We believe that we had a compelling proposal with a timely theme, namely the interaction of mathematics and the computer," Pipher wrote.

With the availability of Brown's supercomputer for these projects, Briant wrote, the National Science Foundation could feel "confident that we had that necessary computational power."


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