UCD Math prof. wins National Science Foundation award


Math professor wins National Science Foundation award

Julien Langou, PhD, assistant professor of mathematical and statistical sciences at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver, recently received the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) National Science Foundation (NSF) award, the second CAREER award for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the third for the University of Colorado Denver Campus.

Langou's $400,000 CAREER award is a five-year project titled Foundations for Understanding and Reaching the Limits of Standard Numerical Linear Algebra.

"The NSF Early Career Development Program is one of the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards made to junior faculty. The award funds outstanding faculty in the Sciences who are at the early stages of their academic careers and have already been able to exhibit excellence in research and outstanding performance in education. Awardees must also display the ability to integrate both education and research as a faculty member," said Michael Jacobson, PhD, chair of the CU Denver Mathematical and Statistical Sciences Department. "Dr. Langou has shown extraordinary growth as a faculty member since arriving at CU Denver. Not only has he become one of the leaders within the Department's Research Group in Computational Mathematics, he tirelessly supervises doctoral students, in addition to having taken on a departmental leadership role as the Director of Undergraduate Studies, over which time, the department has revamped the undergraduate degrees offered by the Department." 

According to the study abstract, faster numerical simulations are critical, having applications in numerous areas, for example, in the basic sciences for enabling novel scientific discoveries, or in engineering, for developing new products and ultimately maintaining the competitiveness of the industry. Numerical simulations are used virtually everywhere today, impacting daily life. For example, numerical simulations enables us to use better models for weather forecasting, resulting in more accurate forecasting, and more accurately modeling automobiles or aircrafts before construction.

"Most research in this vein aims to develop new algorithmitic implementations to accelerate numerical simulations. Rather than moving down that path, this research first answers the question, 'By how much can we accelerate a given simulation?' It turns out that, for some practical applications, there is little to gain. Some existing algorithms are near optimal. It is therefore pointless to start investigating," said Langou. "The difficulty here is that it is not clear how fast the fastest algorithm can execute on a given computing platform. You may not have the fastest algorithm in hand, and, even if you have it, you may not know it is the fastest."

The first research component develops absolute minimum execution time for some selected critical application problems to assess whether current algorithms are near-optimal or not. The second component then develops algorithms which are able to reach these minimum time limits whenever current algorithms are far from optimal. Overall, Langou's research leads to a better understanding of algorithms and their intrinsic limitations, and eventually results in better, near-optimal algorithms.

"We are extremely proud of Julien Langou. Receiving the NSF CAREER research award is a major accomplishment for a faculty member, and it is wonderful news for research at CU Denver," said Jim Hageman, PhD, associate vice chancellor for research at CU Denver.

Both components of this research represent tremendous challenges given the complexity of the current computing architecture and the problem to be solved. The results of this research will be communicated in an integrated education component in which previous and recent work and methodologies are disseminated through classes, the publication of a book, the distribution of source codes and the development of web documents. Important classification and bibliographic work will be performed during interdisciplinary math/computer science reading classes. Broader outreach activities will be conducted in K-12 classrooms and through public Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-related events in the metropolitan Denver area.

Hai Lin, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry, received the first CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences CAREER award in 2010.

The University of Colorado Denver offers more than 128 degrees and programs in 13 schools and colleges and serves more than 28,000 students. For more information, visit the CU Denver Newsroom.