Published: April 25, 2023

James Meiss named a fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, which recognizes those who made ‘outstanding contributions’ to the field

James Meiss, professor of applied mathematics at the University of Colorado Boulder, has been named a 2023 fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), the group announced on March 30.

SIAM fellowships are reserved for those who have made outstanding contributions” to the fields of industrial and applied mathematics. He was cited for his “contributions to the understanding of the onset of chaos and transport in Hamiltonian and volume-preserving dynamical systems.”

Meiss focuses on the transition to chaotic behavior in deterministic dynamical systems, often those in the Hamiltonian form that is ubiquitous in physics. Though chaos (the so-called butterfly effect—sensitive dependence on initial conditions) can result in motion that has some characteristics of randomness, his research has shown that remnants of the regularity characteristic of integrable (or symmetric) systems persist into the chaotic regime, resulting in non-uniform transport that can slow the escape of particles in plasma-confinement devices, impede the mixing of dye in a stirred fluid, and enhance the lifetime of bodies in the asteroid belt. 

Image of James Meiss

James Meiss received a Ph.D. from University of California at Berkeley, in Physics, 1980. Meiss has been teaching Applied Mathematics at the University of Colorado Boulder since 1989.

Mathematically his work helps explain the geometrical distinction between “canonical” (symplectic) systems—described by the momenta and coordinates of Newton’s equations and those that are merely “conservative” (incompressible or volume preserving).

Meiss joined the CU Boulder faculty in 1989 after nine years at the University of Texas Austin in the Institute for Fusion Studies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Washington, and a PhD in Physics from the University of California at Berkeley in1980. 

In addition to 136 Journal articles and 47 articles in conference proceedings, he is the author of two textbooks, Plasma Confinement, with R. Hazeltine, and Differential Dynamical Systems published by SIAM and used as a text for graduate classes in applied mathematics.

Meiss said his first exposure to the worldwide applied mathematics community was through the SIAM Dynamical Systems conference in 1992, fondly called the “Snowbird” meeting. 

“I was amazed at how welcoming this group was to a broad spectrum of interests, including mine—of course. I ended up co-organizing the next Snowbird meeting, becoming involved in the formation of the new Dynamical Systems Activity group (through what is now called DSWeb), and was one of the founding editors for the new SIAM Journal of Dynamical Systems in 2002,” Meiss said, adding: 

“I still view SIAM as my home scientific community and am extremely pleased and honored that I was selected to be a fellow by my colleagues in this group.”

Meiss is the 11th faculty member at CU Boulder to be named a SIAM fellow. Previous SIAM fellows from CU Boulder are James Curry, Mark J. Ablowitz, Gregory Beylkin, Richard Byrd, Xiao-Chuan Cai, Bengt Fornberg, Steve McCormick, Max Donald Gunzburger, Thomas A. Manteuffel and Bobby Schnabel.

He was named a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1990, won the College of Engineering Student Leadership Council Outstanding Faculty Award in 2012, and was a Simons Visiting Professor at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in 2018.