Skip to content Skip to navigation

Oliger Memorial Fellowship Established

Jan 9 2018

Posted In:

Announcements
With thanks to an extremely generous gift from Xiaolei Zhu (ICME PhD ‘96, MS ’96) and Jun Teng (Statistics PhD ’96), the Oliger Memorial Fellowship has been created in ICME.  The fellowship is named in memory of Joseph “Joe” Oliger, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University from 1974 to 2001, who was a faculty pioneer in the Scientific Computing and Computational Mathematics program that eventually evolved into ICME.
 
The Oliger Memorial Fellowship will support PhD students who are active in foundational numerical analysis and related fields.  More details will be available early this year. 
 
Excerpted from the Stanford Memorial Resolution for Joseph Oliger:
 
Oliger was well known for his early research in numerical methods for partial differential equations and is remembered with special fondness by many former students in the computer science and mathematics departments and the Scientific Computing and Computational Mathematics Program at Stanford, as well as by many colleagues around the world.
 
In the late sixties, he was working as a mathematician at National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, and was probably not aiming at an academic career at that time. Then Heinz-Otto Kreiss met him there in 1970. He soon discovered Oliger's talent, and they started working together. At that time there was quite an intensive discussion about whether or not one should use higher order methods for large scale problems like weather predictions, and they set out to settle this question. They used Fourier analysis for finite difference approximations of simple hyperbolic model problem describing wave propagation, and estimated the necessary number of points per wavelength to achieve a certain accuracy. The result was quite clear. Except for very low accuracy requirements and short integration times, it certainly pays off to use fourth (and sometimes even higher) order methods in space compared to second order ones. The important point was that the analysis provided simple tools to make the best choice of order given a desired accuracy (OK?). Because of Oliger's affiliation with NCAR, the paper was published in Tellus (1972), and is one of the most quoted papers in numerical PDEs.
 
In 1973, Oliger received his PhD from Uppsala University, Sweden, after having spent a year with the department of meteorology in Stockholm. The same year saw the appearance of the famous GARP report "Methods for the Approximate Solution of Time Dependent Problems" by Kreiss and Oliger. It was a thin soft cover report, but it contained most of the latest theory for difference and Fourier methods, and was quoted a lot in the years that followed. Indeed, it sold out very quickly, and is not easy to find today.
 
Oliger's academic career at Stanford was particularly remarkable for advising so many PhD students, twenty in all, who went on to very successful careers of their own. Since many of these have gone on to have PhD students of their own, Oliger has well over 100 academic descendants.  But even more impressive than the quantity and quality of Oliger's students is the uniform way in which they remember him: a caring, kind person who was never too busy to help them as much as he could, never mind how long the line of other students was outside his door.
 
Read the full Memorial Resolution and more about Professor Oliger on the ICME Faculty Pioneers site.