Counting on Dongarra

MathWorks Recognizes Dongarra’s Contributions with Endowed Professorship

By David Goddard. Photography by Shawn Poynter.

Jack Dongarra is a well-known figure in the computing world. His expertise and knowledge of supercomputing and his experience producing the annual top 500 list of the world’s most powerful computers make him a familiar name even to some outside that community.

Now one of his most familiar contributors, MathWorks, is adding another accolade with the creation of the MathWorks Endowed Professorship in Scientific Computing in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“Having this professorship will be a legacy to the work we have been doing for the last 32 years here at the University of Tennessee,” said Dongarra, who also serves as director of UT’s Innovative Computing Laboratory and holds a joint appointment with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “Importantly, it will help to ensure that the work we are involved in will continue into the foreseeable future as well.”

To say that Dongarra has strong ties to MathWorks and founding member Cleve Moler is a massive understatement.

The pair first worked together in the early 1970s, when Dongarra was an undergraduate student working at Argonne National Laboratory. He was assigned to develop a software package, known as EISPACK, which dealt with software and algorithms in linear algebra. Moler, a professor at the University of Michigan at the time, was also on the team.

Professor Dongarra has a long, well-respected history in computing and in the development and application of numerical libraries. MathWorks is proud to endow this new professorship, and we look forward to the future breakthroughs it helps make possible.”

Penny Anderson, MathWorks Director of Software Development

The two quickly struck up a friendship and later worked together on a National Science Foundation proposal that led to the creation of LINPACK as a new form of software for use in linear algebra. During that work Moler had the idea for developing MATLAB, a matrix calculator software package that would later be the product that helped launch MathWorks in 1984.

In the meantime, Dongarra, then pursuing a doctorate, followed Moler to the University of New Mexico, earning his PhD in applied mathematics in 1980 with Moler as his dissertation advisor.

“I have always had a close relationship with the MathWorks company and the people who work there,” said Dongarra.

Dongarra’s reputation as a key person in the computing world has resulted in his recognition as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow in 1994, an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellow in 1999, and an Association for Computing Machinery Fellow in 2001. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2001 and was named a Foreign Fellow of the Royal Society in 2019, among countless other accolades.

This new support from MathWorks comes in addition to previously endowed funds, bringing the total amount of support to $1 million.

It’s the latest recognition of what Dongarra has meant to computing and the scientific community, helping to ensure that his legacy will continue long into the future.

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