Computer scientist Daniel Spielman named inaugural Simons Investigator

Yale computer scientist Daniel Spielman has been named to the inaugural class of Simons Investigators, providing him and Yale’s Department of Computer Science with $660,000 over five years for curiosity-driven research.

A potential five-year renewal could raise the value of award to more than $1.3 million. The majority of the award, from the New York-based Simons Foundation, is intended to support Spielman’s work directly.

The foundation is a private organization that supports research in mathematics and the basic sciences. It established the Investigators Program “to provide a stable base of support for outstanding scientists in their most productive years, enabling them to undertake long-term study of fundamental questions.”

Spielman, who joined the Yale faculty in 2005, is among 21 mathematicians, theoretical physicists and computer scientists in the inaugural class, all from U.S. research universities. He said the award would be especially helpful because of its flexible terms of use.

“The funding from the Simons Foundation will make it easier to pursue my best ideas, whether or not I had put them into a grant proposal,” he said.

Spielman’s primary research interests include the development of extremely fast algorithms for large computational problems, such as those encountered in machine learning, scientific computing, and optimization. He is also involved in the development of a mathematical field called algebraic and spectral graph theory, which helps solve problems in computer science.

“We’re thrilled to see Dan get this recognition and support,” said Holly Rushmeier, chair of Yale’s computer science department. “Dan contributes a great deal to intellectual life at Yale — as a researcher, teacher, mentor, and colleague.”

The initial appointment of five years could be renewed for an additional five years, pending a successful review of progress after the fourth year.

The Simons Foundation was established in 1994 by Jim and Marilyn Simons.