TTU math professor appointed to one-year NSF directorship
The National Science Foundation for at least the next year will be using the expertise of a Tennessee Tech University math professor to award research grants.
Sabine Le Borne will temporarily trade in her office in Bruner Hall for another in Washington, D.C. From there, she will direct the computational math program’s merit review process for awarding grants.
“I’m obviously excited about the job and the opportunities it brings,” Le Borne said. “I’ll get the incoming grants, sort them into groups, see who would be suitable to review them and manage the review and award process.”
Each grant application is reviewed by a panel of professionals, oftentimes researchers in academia who have recently received NSF grants themselves. Le Borne received her first grant eight years ago and has sat on these review panels almost every year since then. During her last trip, she was asked to take the directorship.
At first she declined the position, hoping to defer it until her two young children are older. Her husband convinced her to take it and move the family to the capital for what will likely be a two-year appointment.
She said she expects to facilitate the decision-making process that includes creating the review panels for up to 200 proposals for the computational math program. She also will help set up reviews for other programs and interdisciplinary applications.
While in D.C., Le Borne plans to continue her own research, which focuses on improving the speed at which computational math can be performed on computers while maintaining accuracy and reducing necessary storage space on computer hard drives. She said this opportunity also affords the possibility for more research connections that can lead to future collaborative projects.
Le Borne’s research focus is in computational math, in particular the solutions of millions of linear equations that are too complex to be done on a calculator, much less with pencil and paper. The calculations, which are done on a computer, are traditionally one of the largest bottlenecks for researchers in computational simulations.
“Initially, I will be there for a year. The idea is two years but it goes year by year,” Le Borne said. “We’re excited about the prospects offered by D.C., given the national museums and the politics. I guess it’s big city versus small city.”
After her appointment in D.C., she will return to TTU.