Feature Stories

Doing the Math

Professor John Bechtold welcomed nearly a hundred participants to the Thirtieth Annual Workshop on Mathematical Problems in Industry.

Math experts representing the academic community and four major corporations gathered on campus during the last week of June for an intensive five-day workshop focused on applying the power of mathematics to real-world industrial challenges. Previously hosted by NJIT in 2011, the Thirtieth Annual Workshop on Mathematical Problems in Industry was organized by members of the Department of Mathematical Sciences with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the four corporations.

The NSF grant that helped to make the workshop possible was secured through the efforts of Linda Cummings, professor of mathematics and director of graduate studies, and Richard Moore, associate professor of mathematics. Cummings explains that the NSF’s goal in supporting the workshop series is to encourage productive real-world interaction between academia and industry in the area of applied math, including increased funding from the private sector for such mutually beneficial collaborative research.

In his opening remarks, Professor John Bechtold, acting department chair, welcomed representatives from Pall Corporation, Corning, Inc., Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, and W.L. Gore & Associates. Each firm brought a specific problem to the workshop for collective mathematical analysis. The problems presented by Pall and W.L. Gore spanned air and fluid microfiltration, and Corning’s involved the transmission of light in glass fibers. Indicative of the diverse utility of applied mathematics — and the current economic climate — Standard and Poor’s initiated investigation of “New Performance Measures for Credit Risk Models.”

The typical takeaway for a participating company is not a definitive answer to the questions raised, Cummings and Moore say. It’s most often a conceptual direction, promising ideas that an organization can go on to test for real-world validity and usefulness. But this is the solid foundation for technical progress and innovation that applied mathematics can provide. “We can help to build a first-principles mathematical model,” Cummings says, “a predictor of what could happen when the engineering begins.”

Members of the NJIT math faculty anticipate engaging once again on the practical computational frontier at the 2015 workshop, to be hosted in June at the University of Delaware.