MPI and FACM: Focusing the Power of Math

Written by: Dean Maskevich,

The power of mathematics to help meet challenges that touch every aspect of life was clearly evident at two back-to-back conferences which convened on the NJIT campus in June: the 33rd Annual Workshop on Mathematical Problems in Industry (MPI) and the 14th Frontiers in Applied and Computational Mathematics (FACM). Both were hosted by NJIT’s highly ranked Department of Mathematical Sciences and Center for Applied Mathematics and Statistics.

MPI, June 19-23, was hosted by NJIT for the third time, and FACM, June 24-25, has been an internationally notable event that NJIT has sponsored each year since 2004. In 2017, for the first time, participants at MPI and FACM gathered in the extensively renovated Central King Building.      

From Effective Advertising to Life-saving Data

MPI is a problem-solving workshop that brings together applied mathematicians and scientists from universities, industry and national laboratories with engineers and scientists from commercial and industrial enterprises who present problems especially significant for their companies. Past problems considered at MPI have been related to engineering and product design, process design and control, environmental remediation, scheduling and optimization, and financial modeling.

In welcoming remarks, Kevin Belfield, dean of the College of Science and Liberal Arts, said that a meeting such as MPI, with working groups taking a week-long look at concrete problems, is surprisingly rare even in his own field of expertise, which is chemistry. He remarked, “Data analysis and modeling provided by mathematicians are essential drivers of real-world advances, and MPI is a perfect example of the core value of math and cooperative focus in so many different areas.”

Associate Professor of Mathematics Richard Moore was among the members of the NJIT faculty and administration who welcomed participants to the Workshop on Mathematical Problems in Industry (MPI), held in the extensively renovated Central King Building.

For 2017, MPI attendees were challenged by representatives of clypd, Inc., Corning, Inc., W. L. Gore and Associates and Revon Systems, Inc.

clypd’s TV sales platform supports workflow automation, data-enhanced decision-making and provides media partners with tools to manage their sales efforts. Their MPI problem involved modeling effective “exposure distribution” — balancing TV ad expenditures with the optimal number of times an ad is shown in order to influence viewers to take the action advocated in the ad.

Handheld devices such as smart phones with touch capability are ubiquitous in 2017, and both users and manufacturers are eager to find new, more sophisticated, ways to communicate with devices.  Corning, Inc., which makes the glass screens used in many smart phones and other devices, asked MPI participants to build a model to predict analytically the deflection of a screen when prodded with a stylus, applied with a specified force. The ability to differentiate sensitively between different intensity forces could give users new ways in which to control their devices. 

Famous for innovations that include the development of  GORE-TEX® products, W. L. Gore and Associates solicited new insights in materials science. More specifically, their problem related to multi-layer membranes widely used in industrial applications such as filtration and separation. Mathematically characterizing and modeling multi-layer membranes could significantly advance understanding of how membrane properties of each layer affect the performance of the membrane stack.

Revon Systems, Inc. has developed a data-collection platform that integrates mobile technology, Bluetooth-connected medical devices and AI learning to enable patients to become more active participants in their health while allowing medical professionals and health plans to evaluate the real-world results of their services. Revon came to MPI interested in developing a mathematical model that predicts the appropriate triage response, or the care needed, for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) using patient symptoms, vital signs, and baseline health characteristics.

Ranging Widely in Mathematics for Industry

For more than a decade, FACM has brought together experts in applied mathematics and statistics from the academic community, publicly funded research groups and the private sector. These individuals have come from the U.S. and other countries; they have been well along in their careers and in earlier stages of professional life. In plenary lectures, minisymposia and poster presentations, topics discussed have spanned every aspect of science and technology, on scales extending from the subatomic to the distant reaches of the universe.

FACM ’17 focused on mathematics and statistics in industry, including applications in materials science, fluid dynamics, electromagnetics, mathematical biology, and modeling and statistical analysis for pharmaceutical applications.

Cleve Moler was the first plenary speaker at FACM ’17. Moler is the chief mathematician, chairman and co-founder of MathWorks. His many achievements in the course of a distinguished career in academia and industry include inventing MATLAB® software — used to analyze and design systems and products that span virtually every scientific and industrial field.  

Those attending were welcomed by NJIT representatives who included Jonathan Luke, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Atam Dhawan, vice provost for research.

In speaking of FACM’s focus on industry for 2017, Luke said, “Industrial participation has always been a significant part of FACM over the years. But this year we are celebrating and acknowledging this participation in a special way, and we are also highlighting the role of specialists in other scientific and technological fields who are advancing the application of mathematics in industry through interdisciplinary collaboration.

“This is, of course, a very large topic, and we can hope for only limited and preliminary answers to come from such a brief meeting. Yet we also hope that bringing together mathematical scientists and other experts will facilitate an exchange of ideas that can both advance science and achieve the effective fulfilment of human needs.”

Dhawan emphasized the central importance of mathematics in every area of basic and applied research at NJIT. He said, “Mathematics is the common denominator across our university’s strategic focus on the life sciences and engineering, sustainable systems, data science and information technology, and transdisciplinary areas where technological challenges presented by complex systems require multidisciplinary solutions — such as the work being done by those who have again joined us for FACM.”   

The four FACM plenary lectures reflected both the relevance and scope of math with respect to industrial enterprises: “Evolution of MATLAB” by Cleve Moler, MathWorks; “Mathematical Modeling of Lithium Ion Batteries,” by Jon Chapman, University of Oxford; “Business-Driven R&D: Leveraging Mathematical and Optical Science” by Gregory Luther, AOX Northrop Grumman; and “Computational Health Methods for Next Generation Healthcare” by Jianying Hu, IBM T. J. Watson Research Center.

The minisymposia and poster presentations spotlighted this analytical power and diversity even more. Topics included membrane filtration, gene expression, institutional financial compliance, drug and therapy responses, pharmaceutical economics, credit-card marketing, optical fiber fabrication, weather prediction and electronic-signal analysis.

Additional details are available by clicking on MPI and FACM ’17.

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