Mathematician wins award from WHOI
By James Hrynyshyn, Special Writer
Cape Cod Times
WOODS HOLE - An environmental award to be presented Monday by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution recognizes a man on the front lines of physical, biomedical and earth sciences.
Dan Lynch, a mathematician is this year's recipient of the B.H. Ketchum Award, presented annually by the WHOI Coastal Research Center to a scientist tackling coastal pollution problems. Lynch, a professor of engineering at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., has done extensive work on mathematical models of freezing soils, ground-water pollution and ocean currents from the Canadian Pacific coast to the Straits of Gibraltar.
But he has also worked on blood circulation and electric fields in humans, topics that share oceanography's increasing reliance on computational science, or math.
Until recently, Lynch said Thursday, math was unable to address many problems raised by such complex research subjects. As a result, mathematicians rarely rose to the forefront of exciting scientific fields.
The advent of faster and more powerful computers has changed all that, said Lynch. Now, "when you make a breakthrough in (one) such field . . . you find a whole variety of separate disciplines are connected," he said.
Lynch said mathematics is rapidIy emerging as a new force in scientific research. "It's not so pedestrian as it was when you used to learn it," he said.
In the past, science was divided into theory and experiment. Many scientists are now treating mathematical computation as a third element that can bridge the other two.
Computer models in oceanography, for example, can give researchers vital clues on where and when to take their field measurements.
Lynch, a professional mathematician for 12 years, has created computer models for WHOI scientists for much of the last decade. He said he is now trying to devote his career to problems that "push ahead our understanding of largescale environmental problems."
His latest WHOI project involves circulation patterns in the Gulf of Maine.
At Monday's award ceremony, at 4 p.m. in Redfield Auditorium, Woods Hole, Lynch will discuss computer models and their role in oceanography.
The Ketchum Award was established in 1983 in tribute to the late Bostwick Ketchum, a WHOI oceangrapher for 40 years. Lynch is the first mathematician to receive the award.