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Pothen named ACM Fellow


Professor Alex Pothen

Alex Pothen, Professor of Computer Science

Professor Alex Pothen is among the 57 distinguished computer scientists named 2022 Fellows by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).


Alex Pothen, a Purdue University computer scientist and applied mathematician in the Department of Computer Science, was recognized, "for contributions to and leadership in combinatorial scientific computing (CSC)." 

Research in CSC identifies problems in computational science and engineering that can be modeled using the techniques of discrete mathematics, solves them by designing combinatorial algorithms, analyzes them for high performance, implements them on supercomputers, and deploys them to enable new science and engineering. Additionally, Pothen has made numerous contributions to the field of computer science in graph algorithms, high-performance computing and bioinformatics algorithms. 

The ACM Fellows program recognizes the top 1% of the association's membership for outstanding accomplishments in computing and information technology and/or outstanding service to ACM and the larger computing community. It is ACM’s most prestigious member grade. Fellows are nominated by their peers, with nominations reviewed by a distinguished selection committee.

“Computing’s most important advances are often the result of a collection of many individual contributions, which build upon and complement each other,” explained ACM President Yannis Ioannidis. “But each individual contribution is an essential link in the chain. The ACM Fellows program is a way to recognize the women and men whose hard work and creativity happens inconspicuously but drives our field. In selecting a new class of ACM Fellows each year, we also hope that learning about these leaders might inspire our wider membership with insights for their own work.” 

Pothen is a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and received the George Pólya prize in Applied Combinatorics in 2021 from SIAM for work on graph coloring models, algorithms, and software for computing derivatives to solve nonlinear optimization problems and differential equations. 

In Combinatorial Scientific Computing, Pothen has worked on approximation algorithms for computing significant subgraphs of a graph, matchings and edge covers, and has applied them to solve problems in data analytics and network alignment. His work on spectral algorithms for graph partitioning pioneered the development of several classes of algorithms for  mapping parallel computations onto supercomputers. In recent work, he and his colleagues have developed fast updating algorithms for visualizations in computational surgery and contingency analysis in modeling the electrical power grid, through an augmented matrix approach. 

In Algorithmic Differentiation (AD), Pothen and his colleagues have developed new formulations and algorithms for several graph coloring problems.These algorithms make feasible the computation of large, sparse Jacobian and Hessian matrices at a small overhead cost over the computation of the functions involved, to enable the solution of nonlinear optimization problems and differential equations The ColPack software developed by his group makes this work available for users in optimization. It has been used to solve problems in more than 50 scientific and engineering domains, ranging from studies of the universe to design of mobility assisting robots. . 

Pothen, with his colleagues, organized the applied and computational discrete algorithms (ACDA) Activity Group within SIAM and served as the AG's Founding Chair from 2019-2020. The ACDA community was formed out of several research subcommunities in computer science, computational mathematics, and computational science and engineering,and includes the CSC research community that was organized in the early 2000's. He was Co-Chair of the first three international workshops in CSC, and served as the Chair of the CSC Steering Committee. 

Pothen is an editor of the Journal of the ACM and is serving or has served on  the editorial boards of more than ten book series and journals, including SIAM Books, SIAM Classics, SIAM Review,  SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing, and Optimization Methods and Software. 

Pothen has mentored 19 PhD students, seven postdoctoral scientists, more than sixty master degree students, and several undergraduate researchers. His mentees hold (or have held) appointments at (among others) Washington State University, Vanderbilt, Indiana University, Penn State, and Drexel; Google, Meta, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Conviva Corporations, Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and Pacific Northwest National Lab.  

Two other 2022 ACM Fellows are alumni of the department. Professor David M. Mount at the University of Maryland at College Park, was recognized, "for contributions to algorithms and data structures for geometric data analysis and retrieval.” Mount earned his PhD in 1983 under the supervision of Professor Emeritus Christoph Hoffmann.

Professor Sumi (Abdelsalam) Helal is a faculty member at the University of Florida, Gainesville. He is recognized, "for contributions to mobile and pervasive computing, and their applications in graceful aging and accessibility." Helal earned his PhD in 1991 and was supervised by Professor Bharat Bhargava.

In keeping with ACM’s global reach, the 2022 Fellows represent universities, corporations, and research centers in Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. 

The contributions of the Fellows have a wide range and involve fundamental contributions in disciplines including cybersecurity, human-computer interaction, mobile computing, and recommender systems among many other areas. The accomplishments of the 2022 ACM Fellows make possible the computing technologies we use every day.

Pothen joins other Purdue University, Department of Computer Science faculty members who have been elevated to ACM Fellow.

About the Department of Computer Science at Purdue University

Founded in 1962, the Department of Computer Science was created to be an innovative base of knowledge in the emerging field of computing as the first degree-awarding program in the United States. The department continues to advance the computer science industry through research. US News & Reports ranks Purdue CS #20 and #16 overall in graduate and undergraduate programs respectively, seventh in cybersecurity, 10th in software engineering, 13th in programming languages, data analytics, and computer systems, and 19th in artificial intelligence. Graduates of the program are able to solve complex and challenging problems in many fields. Our consistent success in an ever-changing landscape is reflected in the record undergraduate enrollment, increased faculty hiring, innovative research projects, and the creation of new academic programs. The increasing centrality of computer science in academic disciplines and society, and new research activities - centered around data science, artificial intelligence, programming languages, theoretical computer science, machine learning, and cybersecurity - are the future focus of the department. cs.purdue.edu


Writer: Emily Kinsell, emily@purdue.edu

Source: Alex Pothen, 

Last Updated: Oct 31, 2023 4:59 PM

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