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Solomonik wins Householder Prize

7/19/2017 2:30:59 PM David Mercer, CS @ ILLINOIS

A CS @ ILLINOIS junior faculty member has won a prestigious early-career award in mathematics.

Assistant Professor Edgar Solomonik
Assistant Professor Edgar Solomonik
Assistant Professor Edgar Solomonik was one of two winners of the Householder Prize XX, announced in June at this year’s Householder Symposia in Virginia. The 27-year-old joins a short list of people who have received the prize since it was first awarded in 1971. 

The Householder Prize, honoring influential mathematician Alston Householder, is presented every three years at the conference and recognizes the best dissertation in numerical linear algebra.

Solomonik, whose research focuses on high-performance and parallel computing, said he is particularly proud of winning the prize as a computer scientist.

“For me it’s a little bit special. It’s really the field of mathematics,” he said. “I am more on the computer science side.”

Solomonik’s dissertation for his Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley, “Provably Efficient Algorithms for Numerical Tensor Algebra,” focused on how to design more efficient parallel algorithms for numerical linear algebra.

University of Maryland Professor Howard Elman chaired the committee that selected the winners from the 19 applicants. He said Solomonik’s work was recognized for, among other things, its application to quantum mechanics and computation chemistry.

CS @ ILLINOIS Emeritus Professor Michael T. Heath, who is deeply familiar with the award and knew Alston Householder, said the award “is obviously a major career boost for the winner. Several of the past winners have gone on to become academic superstars.”

Emeritus Professor Michael T. Heath
Emeritus Professor Michael T. Heath
“The field of research on which it is focuses is one of only a handful of major subareas of scientific computation, and accounts for perhaps one-third of all publications in scientific computing each year,” added Heath, who also is the Fulton Watson Copp Chair Emeritus.

Solomonik hopes the Householder Prize will help him as he applies for grants to fund future work.

The award also includes a cash prize, notable less for its size than how it is financed.

“They have a funky tradition where every year they pass around a bag and give the money to the next winner,” Solomonik said, noting that the few hundred dollars in prize money was collected at the previous conference, in Belgium. “I got a mix of Euros and dollars and other currency. It’s a fun tradition.”

Solomonik shares this year’s award with Marcel Schweitzer, a post-doctoral researcher at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland who wrote his dissertation whole working toward his Ph.D. at the University of Wuppertal in Germany.

Solomonik joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 2016 after completing his master’s degree and Ph.D. in four years and spending two years on a postdoctoral fellowship at ETH Zurich. He grew up in Chicago after emigrating from Russia as a child, and completed his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Illinois in two years.

“I did my undergraduate research on this same floor,” he said from his fourth-floor office in the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science.