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WPI Professor Wins National Science Foundation CAREER Award

June 29, 2000

Marcus Sarkis-Martins of Paxton, Mass., assistant professor in Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Mathematical Sciences Department, has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award. "The CAREER award is NSF's most prestigious honor for junior faculty members," according to a press release from the foundation.

"WPI faculty have been extraordinarily effective in landing these awards," said Homer Walker, head of the math department. "My feeling is that our project-based undergraduate program gives us a significant advantage in the CAREER competition because it makes it easy to incorporate undergraduate work in our proposals-and this is weighted especially heavily in the CAREER program."

The award, which will amount to $125,000 over the next two years, will fund a research project titled "Multi-Level Multi-Material Problem Solver Environment with Semisolid Material Applications and Education." The award is expected to be continued through 2004.

"Marcus's CAREER award will support him to work on something called the Material Point Method for modeling materials," Walker explained.

"The focus will be on the development of the Material Point Methods (MPM), multiple temporal and spatial scale methods, domain decomposition methods, together with distributed parallel computing," said Sarkis-Martins. "The research will target applications such as crack propagation, granular materials, impact problems, fragmentation, damages and semisolid materials, among others."

This spring Sarkis-Martins directed a WPI senior Matthew Shaw's Major Qualifying Project. Titled "The Material Point Method: Matlab Simulations and New Algorithms," it won the Provost's MQP Competition for the math department. Future student projects will be completed with the help of the CAREER award.

Sarkis-Martins has won earlier awards including a National Science Foundation CISE Fellowship and a Dean's Dissertation Fellowship Award from New York University.

"My doctoral thesis focused on studies of domain decomposition algorithms for the solutions of elliptic problems with highly discontinuous coefficients using conforming and non-conforming elements," Sarkis-Martins said. "After receiving my Ph.D. degree and moving to Boulder, I turned my attention to solving unsteady compressible Navier-Stokes equations on complex and moving geometries. Theoretical and experimental techniques were adapted with the aim of developing new computational techniques, algorithmic methodology and efficient software tools for the new generation of supercomputers. The close contact with a multidisciplinary team of experts composed of mathematicians, computer scientists and aerospace engineers provided me with considerable understanding of the engineering aspect of the computing and made the results more useful. In addition, I developed real expertise in large scale parallel computing."

He earned a Ph.D. in mathematics at Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and a master's degree in mathematics at Pontifcia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has an expecialization degree in petroleum engineering from Setor de Ensino da Bahia (Petrobras), Salvador, Brazil, and a B.S. in engineering of infrastructure aeronautics from Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica, S.J. Campos, Brazil.

Since 1998, he has been an assistant professor in WPI's math department. He was a post-doctoral research associate from 1994-1998 at the Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado at Boulder, and before that, a teaching assistant and research assistant at Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences in New York.

From 1986-1987, he was a petroleum engineer at Petrobras in Brazil, conducting research on the flow in porous media, and from 1983-84 he was a research assistant at Instituto de Pesquisas Espaciais in Brazil, where he pursued research in computer graphics algorithms.