Ren Wins 2006 Simon Prize

Photo (left-right): Prof. Andreas Hielscher, Dr. Kui Ren, and Prof. Guillaume Bal

The Robert Simon Memorial Prize is awarded annually by the APAM Department to the graduate student who has completed the most outstanding dissertation. Dr. Kui Ren was the recipient of the 2006 award.

Dr. Kui Ren receives his Ph.D. with distinction from Columbia University in May 2006. His dissertation is entitled “Inverse Problems in Transport and Diffusion Theory with Applications in Optical Tomography”. He was advised by Prof. Guillaume Bal of the Applied Mathematics Program within the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. Dr. Ren’s area of research is the theoretical and numerical analysis of inverse transport problems. In addition to his work with Prof. Bal, Dr. Ren also worked closely with Prof. Andreas Hielscher in the Department of Biomedical Imaging where Ren learned about and solved important practical problems arising in medical imaging. In 2002, Kui Ren was awarded an Excellent Teaching Assistant Award from the Fu Foundation School or Engineering and Applied Science.

Dr. Ren’s contributions to the theoretical understanding of inverse transport were developed with regards to three important topics: reconstruction of gas concentration profiles in the atmosphere from satellite measurements, a generalized diffusion model that accounts for proton propagation in non-scattering “clear layers” as needed for accurate reconstructions of blood oxygenation in neonates, and a shape differentiation method to address the effect of clear layers on boundary measurements. In these areas, Dr. Ren both formulated the theoretical problem and developed numerical methodologies that showed the adequacy of the inverse solutions. Dr. Ren’s achievements in the application of inverse transport theory to medical imaging included the implementation of two and three dimensional algorithms and PDE-constrained optimization to the reconstruction of optical parameters in small animals.

Dr. Ren received his B.S. in Mathematics from Nanjing University in 1998 and his M.S. from Peking University in 2001 where he received the Proctor and Gamble (P&G) Award for Outstanding Graduate Student. Later in 2001, Ren entered Columbia University as a graduate student in Applied Physics and the following year started his thesis work in under the supervision of Prof. Bal. While at Columbia, Ren was first author on three articles in Optics Letters, Applied Optics, and SIAM J. Sci. Computing, and he was a contributing author on four other papers.

Dr. Ren will continue his research at Columbia University where he presently holds a postdoctoral position and is working in collaboration with Prof. Bal.

History of the Robert Simon Memorial Prize

The Robert Simon Memorial Prize is awarded annually by the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics to the graduate student who has completed the most outstanding dissertation. Should no graduate student’s dissertation qualify in any given year, the prize may be awarded to either the most outstanding student who has completed a master of science degree in the Department or to the most outstanding graduating senior in the Department. The Department chair in consultation with the Department faculty selects the awardee.

Robert Simon (December 25, 1919–February 11, 2001) received a B.A. degree cum laude in classics from the City College of New York in 1941, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and an M.A. in mathematics from Columbia University in 1949. Between 1941 and 1944, Mr. Simon was a lieutenant in the United States Armed Forces serving in England, France, and Italy. He participated in the D-Day operation as a navigator for a plane that dropped paratroopers in the vicinity of Omaha Beach. General Dwight Eisenhower personally shook his hand and wished him well the night before the D-Day assault.

Mr. Simon, who was born and lived in New York City, spent a lifetime making valuable contributions to the field of computer science. Starting in 1953, he worked for 15 years at Sperry's Univac Division in various capacities including marketing, planning, systems engineering, systems programming, and information services. He also spent a year working at the Fairchild Engine Division as director of the Engineering Computer Group. He personally directed the establishment of several company computer centers at sites throughout the United States. Between 1969 and 1973, he was a partner with American Science Associates, a venture capital firm. Mr. Simon was a founder and vice president of Intech Capital Corporation and served on its board from 1972 to 1981 and a founder and member of the board of Leasing Technologies International, Inc. from 1983 until his retirement in 1995.

The prize was established in 2001 by Dr. Jane Faggen with additional support from friends and relatives of Mr. Simon.



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