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
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
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.