Innovation Award Winner Wrote Popular Research Algorithms

August 21, 2018

Tim DavisScientists and engineers need math—a lot of it—to solve much of the work done in research. And with data sets growing in size, researchers need more efficient algorithms to support their work. Luckily, they have Tim Davis, a professor of computer science and engineering at Texas A&M University, whose algorithms are incorporated into MATLAB and Linux and widely used in laboratories. Davis, who will receive Sigma Xi’s 2018 Walston Chubb Award for Innovation for the algorithms he created, will speak October 26 at the Society’s Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference.

One of Davis’s specialties is sparse matrix algorithms, which crop up in many research areas. These matrices represent systems of equations with many more zeros than nonzeros. Davis writes tens of thousands of lines of code for algorithms that solve equations on a scale of millions of rows at a time. A hallmark of his code is its reliability, speed, and efficiency for solving sparse matrix problems. His solvers are installed on a half billion smartphones, and are used to place images in Google Street View and map Mars faster than possible before. In 2015, his code helped the FBI rescue six girls from human trafficking. He recently developed the code behind GraphBLAS, an opensource library from a collaboration that aims to support big data analytics by standardizing the building blocks for creating graph algorithms.

When he’s not writing research software, Davis creates algorithms that visualize the structure of music as a song is played. “With my algorithmic translation of music into artwork, I can give everyone a glimpse into the beauty of mathematical software,” Davis said.

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety