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CAMS: Fast Track to Prominence
Dina Abou Salem learns how the Center for Advanced Mathematical Sciences has become the regional ieader in scientific research


In just four years of operation, AUB’s Center for Advanced Mathematical Sciences has become the cutting edge of the University’s revitalization and is recognized as the Middle East’s leading institute for mathematical research.

Planning began in 1994, when Nicola Khuri, member of the AUB Board of Trustees Academic Committee, assembled four Lebanese scientists to address the question, “How do we attract world-class scientists and mathematicians to campus?” Pooling their minds to come up with some answers were Khalil Bitar of the Supercomputer Research Institute in Florida, Ali Chamseddine of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Wafic Sabra of London University, and Ramzi Khury, a specialist in elementary particle physics at the European Organization for Nuclear Research at Rockefeller University in New York.

Out of the meeting emerged a blueprint for establishing the Center for Advanced Mathematical Sciences (CAMS). Subsequently, the plan was combined with a similar
proposal recommended by Sir Michael Atiyah, one of the world’s leading mathematicians, then president of the British Royal Society and master of Trinity College, Cambridge. The center was inaugurated in 1999.

CAMS’ mission, according to Director Ali H. Chamseddine, is “to create opportunities for top-quality research and teaching, to encourage academic collaboration and interdisciplinary research at AUB and in the region, to serve as a flagship institute in AUB’s academic revitalization, and to attract exceptional faculty to the University.”

At the heart of CAMS, of course, is a staff of exceptionally talented people made up of four faculty members who teach in the mathematics and physics departments. Heading the team is Director Ali H. Chamseddine, PhD, Imperial College London, a distinguished physicist in super gravity and super symmetry. Senior fellows are Kamal Khuri-Makdisi, PhD, Princeton University, assistant professor of mathematics, a number theorist; Wafic Sabra, PhD, University of London, associate professor
of physics, a string theorist; and Jihad Touma, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, assistant professor of physics, an applied mathematician specialized in non-linear dynamics and chaos.
The center’s mission is supported by state-of-the art technology and research facilities. High-performance computers and broad high-speed access to electronic sources of scientific literature provide the tools needed by scientists working on demanding computations. With the help of a grant from the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) foundation, CAMS recently acquired an IBM 16 processor p630 cluster, named Ibn Sina, the only one of its speed and sophistication in the Arab Middle East. “We have an ongoing commitment to acquiring faster up-to-the minute equipment,” points out Dr. Chamseddine. “However, the exceptionally talented people we have here are much more important than a computer; its only a machine.”

 


The center not only facilitates the research work of this core faculty but also conducts a program for the visiting scholars who come to AUB for different periods of time to do research and to present lectures, seminars, workshops, and short courses. Since September 2002, CAMS has had 86 associate scholars in residence, conducting research in fields such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, civil engineering, biomedical engineering, and business management.

Soon after its inception, CAMS began hosting major international conferences; nine have been held to date. The inaugural conference, “Mathematical Sciences after the Year 2000,” attracted 150 participants including Fields medallist Sir Michael Atiyah and Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann of the Santa Fe Institute. In addition to the conferences, CAMS sponsors lectures, seminars, and workshops.

Overseeing and guiding the scientific programs of the Center is a distinguished International Advisory Committee, which assesses the academic performance
of CAMS and recommends appointments. It consists of scholars from seven European and two American universities and is chaired by Dr. Atiyah, now at Edinburgh University.

In an effort to consolidate its regional impact, CAMS became a Millennium Science Initiative (MSI) associate for the Middle East in February 2002, after Dean of Arts and Sciences Khalil Bitar and Center Director Ali Chamseddine visited Trieste to discuss possibilities of establishing an MSI in the Middle East. At the meeting, hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) and led by Dr. Phillip A. Griffiths, chair of the Science Initiative Group (SIG) and director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, CAMS was selected as an associate.

CAMS continues to evolve. “Our goal,” says Director Chamseddine, “is to harvest the potential of the mind,
an ever-evolving challenge.” The dream has rapidly become a reality—CAMS is indeed a top-ranking institute contributing daily to scientific research and training in Lebanon and the Middle East.Further information may be found on the CAMS web site: http://www.cams.aub.edu.lb.