From Aircraft to Optics: Wolfram Innovator Awards 2017
November 2, 2017 — Jesse Dohmann, Technical Documentation Writer, Document & Media Systems
As is tradition at the annual Wolfram Technology Conference, we recognize exceptional users and organizations for their innovative usage of our technologies across a variety of disciplines and fields.
Nominated candidates undergo a vetting process, and are then evaluated by a panel of experts to determine winners. This year we’re excited to announce the recipients of the 2017 Wolfram Innovator Awards.
Dr. Chung is the creator of a very extensive symbolic computing and vector analysis package for the Wolfram Language. This package enhances our UI by allowing the user to use and symbolically manipulate expressions in traditional inline notation—the same kind of notation you see when you open up a textbook.
For Wolfram as a company, one of his particular accomplishments has been his presence in the international community of Wolfram Language users. He is the president of the Korean Mathematica Users group, and is very active in arranging Mathematica user conferences across South Korea.
Dr. Fazio is an ophthalmology professor who analyzes data from OCT, a powerful imaging technique that builds a 3D image from a sequence of layered 2D image slices of the eye. Usually this analysis is tedious, which makes what Dr. Fazio was able to do that much more remarkable: he has been using the 3D image processing capabilities of the Wolfram Language to automate the analysis of generated OCT images.
In the future, this automation will be extended to cover the entire diagnostic process of glaucoma just by looking at OCT images—with all computations being done using the Wolfram Cloud architecture, or even embedded within the actual devices that are making these measurements.
Mathematical Methods Computer-Based Exam Team
The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority built a massive system using the Wolfram Language and Mathematica to allow students to go through their entire math education in a computer-based fashion, with actual assessments of student performance taking the form of small computational essays. This is now being done in a dozen or so schools in the state of Victoria.
Accepting the award for the team is Dr. David Leigh-Lancaster, who himself started off studying intuitionistic logic—like classical logic, but without the principle of the excluded middle or double negation rules. Eventually he moved into mathematics teaching and education policy, where he was introduced to Mathematica by secondary school students in the early 1990s; learning from his students, as good teachers often do, he quickly started using it in a very serious way.
His work resulted in the widespread use of Wolfram technologies—nearly 700,000 students in the state of Victoria now have access to our entire educational technology suite, making David instrumental in bringing a very broad license for Wolfram technology to a chunk of the country.
The efforts of David and the team are a neat example of the continuing modernization of mathematics education that’s made possible by the technology that’s been developed here for the last three decades.
David was introduced to Wolfram technologies last year through Wolfram SystemModeler, using it to fully render and model military vehicles. While past projects have primarily been wheeled vehicles, David recently completed a project conceptualizing a successor to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
His octocopter simulation is exciting to see, mostly because it’s a good example of how an extremely complex system can be modeled with our technology—all electrical and mechanical components and subsystems were built completely with SystemModeler.
Peter is one of the more unusual recipients of this year’s award, which in turn makes him incredibly interesting. Far from the typical English teacher, Peter organized the very first high-school digital humanities course using the Wolfram Language.
The course starts off having students analyze Hamlet using our text analysis features. This same analysis is then applied to the students’ own writing, allowing them to see their progression through the course and compare and contrast their own writing style with that of Shakespeare.
Peter is also the director of research, innovation and outreach; he has been involved in many efforts to try and capture the knowledge contained in the practice of teaching, as well as the pure content of teaching.
His background is in English and music, but looking at his code, you wouldn’t expect that. It just goes to show that because you started off learning traditionally “nontechnical” subjects doesn’t mean you can’t be as sophisticated a computational thinker as “officially educated” techies—computational thinking spans all disciplines, and Peter has effectively communicated this to his students through his teaching.
Dr. Reed is an applied mathematician who has worked on a variety of interesting projects in numerous disciplines at the Aerospace Corporation. Using our technology since 1988, Chris has introduced countless colleagues over the years to Mathematica at Aerospace, where it is now a staple piece of software for the company.
Interestingly, many of Chris’s projects have involved algebraic computations where traditionally a numerical approach would be chosen for the job—we think this is a testament to the unique approach that a symbolic language like the Wolfram Language offers when problem solving.
Chris has attended many Wolfram Tech Conferences over the years, using the Wolfram Language to analyze a variety of interesting problems—including problems with satellite motion: he found a way to change their orbit using much less fuel than traditionally required, translating to potentially larger payloads. Additionally, he has used the Wolfram Language to create queuing simulations and management systems for other companies.
Dr. Singh works for Quiet Light Securities, a proprietary trading company out of Chicago that trades in index options and other markets. When the company first got off the ground, trading was still a very physical activity, with people jumping into trading pits and gesticulating wildly to indicate whether they were buying or selling, so it’s interesting to see the timeline of Quiet Light as it has evolved into the now-computational world of trading.
This evolution, spearheaded by Dr. Singh, includes the automation of operations at Quiet Light using the Wolfram Language and the Computable Document Format (CDF). Going forward, Dr. Singh is working to build an automated trading system—completely from scratch.
Dr. Singh himself has a wonderfully eclectic background: with a PhD in quantum electronics, an MS in financial mathematics and an MBA, it’s not surprising that he’s been able to do such extraordinary things with our technology. In addition to all of these accolades, he’s also a major in the Illinois Air National Guard who deployed to Qatar late last year. Dr. Singh is the perfect example of a Wolfram power user—having used our technology for more than 20 years.
Well known to people who frequent Wolfram Community, Dr. Thiel is the author of a huge number of fascinating contributions to the forum—his posts cover some really cool stuff on many different topics. One of his posts that quickly rose to popularity on the site was over the study of the Ebola outbreak from 2015. Another popular post of his detailed—using 20 years’ worth of oceanographic data—how the flow of water could transport radioactive particles from the Fukushima nuclear plant to further out in the ocean.
It’s also interesting to note that Dr. Thiel has been using the Wolfram Language in very far-reaching ways—ranging from legal analyses to medical-oriented applications—and he is keen on teaching his students how to do the same: his modeling course aims to teach students how to use real-world data and the Wolfram Language to connect what they know from other courses, effectively producing miniature versions of projects that Dr. Thiel would do himself.
Assured Flow Solutions (AFS) is a Dallas-based specialty engineering firm within the oil and gas industry. Specifically, they investigate the problem of flow assurance: once you’ve drilled an oil well, how can you ensure oil is actually flowing out of that well?
This might seem like a niche question, but as anyone from Texas will tell you, it’s a very critical question that lies at the heart of the state’s infrastructure and can have a lasting and direct economic impact on consumers. If you drive a car, then you’ve undoubtedly been affected by the work Andrew does: AFS is responsible for keeping oil flowing in many of the world’s major oil fields and wells, especially offshore sites deep in the ocean.
Andrew is the technology manager at AFS, and has been centralizing the computations done in-house—computations that used to be done with a hodgepodge of various tools and methods. Through EnterpriseCDF, Andrew was able to create about 40 unique dashboards for different calculations and workflows that analyze aspects of flow assurance used to keep the oil flowing in different parts of the world.
And That’s a Wrap!
The Innovator Awards are a way to pay homage to people who do great things using Wolfram technology: each recipient has leveraged the language to do exciting things in their community, and it’s through their work that we really see how powerful a tool the Wolfram Language is.
While we are no doubt happy to announce the recipients of the 2017 Wolfram Innovator Awards, I want to take a moment to highlight the fact that it’s not as diverse a list as it could be—not a single woman was presented with an Innovator Award this year, and none of the winners from any year were under the age of 35. This is due to a variety of factors, but it would be remiss of me to ignore this reality—especially when you can so easily see it.
In past years, we’ve had diverse lists of innovators that better represented the broad spectrum of users that accomplish great things with our technology. Which is why, going forward, we hope to highlight the efforts of innovators from varying backgrounds and give them a platform to showcase their achievements. There are so many people out there using the Wolfram Language for interesting things, and we want the rest of the world to see that!
To read a more in-depth account of the scope of each individual project, visit the Wolfram Innovator Awards website.