Eminent US mathematicians awarded CityU’s William Benter Prize

Two highly impressive mathematicians have been awarded the William Benter Prize in Applied Mathematics by City University of Hong Kong (CityU) for their significant contributions to applying mathematics to solving cross-disciplinary problems.

They are Professor Michael S. Waterman, the founder of the field of bioinformatics and computational biology, and Professor Thomas J.R. Hughes, a phenomenal leader in the field of computational science, engineering and mathematics.

Professor Waterman, University Professor Emeritus of the University of Southern California, US, and Distinguished Research Professor, Biocomplexity Institute, University of Virginia, US, won the William Benter Prize in Applied Mathematics 2020.

He was one of the earliest researchers to apply rigorous mathematics and computationally efficient algorithms to comparing biological sequences and he has pioneered work in computationally intensive approach to genetics. He helped to develop the Smith-Waterman algorithm, one of his most impactful innovations. In the 1970s, he advanced bioinformatics with Professor Temple Smith, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, by developing the first algorithm for the local alignment of DNA and protein sequences, and by demonstrating its essential role in genomic research. The algorithm is a standard tool in genomic analysis today.

The Lander-Waterman model and the De Bruijn technique for sequence assembly exemplify Professor Waterman’s ingenuity in establishing the foundations of computational biology. He also developed fundamental algorithms for declumping sequences and analysing the complex secondary structure of RNA molecules, and many key developments in mathematical progress for the biological sciences.

Professor Waterman’s book Introduction to Computational Biology: Maps, Sequences and Genomes in 1995 has made the field of computational biology a distinct discipline and has become the standard text for countless university courses in computational biology.

Professor Waterman has received numerous accolades for his innovative and sustained impact on bioinformatics. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the US National Academy of Engineering, and a foreign member of the French Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is the awardee of such prestigious awards as the Gairdner Foundation International Award and the Dan David Prize.

Professor Hughes, Peter O’ Donnell Jr. Chair in Computational and Applied Mathematics and Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, University of Texas at Austin, US, won the William Benter Prize in Applied Mathematics 2022.

Professor Hughes created isogeometric analysis, a novel approach to integrating computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided engineering (CAE). The ingenious idea is to derive finite element basis functions from CAD, which has revolutionised numerous engineering applications. His fundamental paper on this topic has been cited over 6,000 times on Google Scholar and is widely referred to throughout industry, national labs and academia.

Variational multiscale methods (VMS) and stabilised methods are the groundbreaking results of Professor Hughes’ research in computational fluid dynamics (CFD). They overcome a fundamental mathematical obstacle, the Babuska-Brezzi condition, and have enabled the construction of widely used methods for simulating viscous compressible flows. VMS is leading to new turbulence models and multiphase flow algorithms.

Additionally, Professor Hughes applied his expertise in computational mechanics to a different field: blood flow modelling. This work has evolved into the concept of “predictive medicine”. The underlying methodology has been commercialised to provide non-invasive, patient-specific, coronary disease diagnosis based on CFD.

Among his many prestigious awards, Professor Hughes has received the ASME Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the John von Neumann Medal from the U.S. Association for Computational Mechanics (USACM), and the Gauss-Newton Medal from the International Association for Computational Mechanics (IACM).

There are two awards under the name of Professor Hughes: the Thomas J. R. Hughes Medal of USACM, and the Thomas J.R. Hughes Young Investigator Award of ASME.

Professor Hughes is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the US National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a foreign member of the Royal Society of London. He has been a plenary lecturer at the International Congress of Mathematicians.

The William Benter Prize will be presented during the opening ceremony for the International Conference on Applied Mathematics (ICAM 2023), which is co-organised by CityU’s Liu Bie Ju Centre for Mathematical Sciences (LBJ) and the Department of Mathematics.

The William Benter Prize in Applied Mathematics was set up by LBJ in honour of Mr William Benter for his dedication and generous support to the enhancement of the University’s strengths in mathematics. The prize recognises outstanding mathematical contributions that have had a direct and fundamental impact on scientific, business, finance and engineering applications. The cash prize of US$100,000 is given once every two years.

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