James Glimm has made deep and original contributions in a variety of areas in both pure and applied mathematics, including operator algebras, quantum field theory, statistical physics, partial differential equations and scientific computing. In the latter area, he is noted for his contributions to flow in porous media. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1984 and won the National Medal of Science in 2002. From 1987 to 2011 he was chair of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics. In recent years a major focus of his work has been the simulation and modeling of turbulent and mixing fluid flows. He is also active in the area of quantitative finance, where he leads a group of students in the development of portfolio risk analysis for intraday trading. He received his PhD in mathematics from Columbia University in 1959.
Q: Why did you select your field?
Opportunities for high-level science and interaction with students and colleagues.
Q: What attracted you to Stony Brook?
Opportunities to build and lead a research group. I have always been interested in mathematics, physics and engineering. While I was a student, I felt it very difficult to choose among these interests. As it turns out, I have managed to do all three, mostly by choice of projects and goals that rotated among these choices. The mixture of these topics especially when combined with computing is very powerful, as it allows one to address a very wide range of problems.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish while you are here?
While at Stony Brook, I had been chair of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics Department for over 20 years. In this time, the excellence of the department has increased steadily and it is now ranked No. 7 in NRC rankings. I value the success of my colleagues whose accomplishments made this possible. My individual research program has also prospered. I am currently developing theories of turbulence and mixing.
Q: If you could offer one piece of advice for someone starting out in your field, what would it be?
Never stop learning new topics, methods and ideas.
Q: Which historical figure, living or dead, would you most like to meet and why?
John von Neumann was one of the deepest thinkers within mathematics over the past century. He was profoundly influential in areas of functional analysis — where I started my research — and he was perhaps more profound in his seminal role in computational science, where I have been active in recent years. He thought deeply about quantum mechanics and its mathematical foundation, which has also been a concern of mine.