The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $15.5 million to four universities in Illinois, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to create an institute to bring powerful mathematical ideas to bear on key contemporary scientific and technological challenges.
Researchers at the new Institute for Mathematical and Statistical Innovation (IMSI) will build a platform that accelerates the translation of applied mathematical and statistical techniques into solutions for urgent scientific and societal problems. Many of these problems arise naturally in a range of fields already being studied across the four partner institutions, including climate change, health care, quantum information theory, artificial intelligence, data science, economics, and materials science.
In addition to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IMSI will include a collaborative group of mathematicians and statisticians from the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The $15.5 million grant will be provided by NSF over five years.
“The IMSI project is a powerful investment by the National Science Foundation in four great universities and in the state of Illinois,” said Matt Ando, associate dean for life and physical sciences at the College of LAS, who played a key role in forming the institute. “It puts the state and these universities in a position of national leadership in bringing mathematical and statistical research to bear on pressing societal challenges and in training the next generation of mathematicians and statisticians to collaborate with their colleagues across the academy and in business, industry, and government.”
IMSI will bring together researchers in application areas from across the nation and around the globe. Scientific activity will include workshops and long programs, typically a quarter (10 weeks) in length. Research activity will be organized around themes that will evolve over time, with an initial focus on data and information, climate science, health care, material science, quantum computing and information, and uncertainty quantification.
There will also be a sustained focus on communication with researchers in other fields, and in educating the public about the broad utility of mathematics and statistics to everyday problems and social issues. IMSI will sponsor outreach and workforce development programs aimed at K-12 students, teachers, undergraduates, and graduate students to introduce participants to career opportunities in mathematics and statistics, especially those from communities traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.
“The influence of mathematical sciences on our daily lives is all around us and far-reaching,” said Juan C. Meza, division director of mathematical sciences at the NSF. “This program represents an investment in interdisciplinary connections across fields of science, and with impacts across sectors like computing, engineering, and health.”