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UT Hires Next Director of No. 1 Ranked Computational Institute

Karen E. Willcox, co-director of MIT’s Center for Computational Engineering, to lead UT’s Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences.

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Karen E. Willcox, co-director of the Center for Computational Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been selected as the new director of the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) at The University of Texas at Austin. Her appointment begins Aug. 1.

Willcox will also hold the W.A. “Tex” Moncrief Jr. Endowment in Simulation-Based Engineering and Sciences Chair No. 5, and she will join the university’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics as a tenured professor.

She will succeed J. Tinsley Oden, who has served as ICES director since its founding in 2003. Oden will continue his remarkable service to the university and to ICES as a researcher and an educator.

“I am thrilled to join UT Austin and lead ICES at a time when there are many exciting new opportunities at the interfaces of computation, mathematics, science, engineering and medicine,” Willcox said. “I am truly honored to have the opportunity to build on the tremendous foundation that Dr. Oden has created. I very much look forward to working with UT’s administration and the ICES community of faculty, students, staff and alumni as we embark on exciting new endeavors in research and education.”

Willcox has long-standing ties to ICES as a collaborator with the institute’s researchers on a number of research projects, as a J.T. Oden Faculty Research fellow, and through her six years of service on the ICES Board of Visitors, including three years as chair.

An accomplished computational scientist and aerospace engineer, Willcox focuses her research on uncertainty quantification, optimization, reduced order modeling, data analytics and aerospace system design. As an educator, she has a keen interest in innovative multidisciplinary graduate and undergraduate education in computational science, engineering and mathematics. She has served in numerous leadership roles at MIT and in the computational science community.

She earned a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and a master’s and Ph.D. from MIT, where she has served on the faculty since 2001.

“Dr. Willcox is a scientist with the vision and leadership skills to maintain the existing excellence of ICES while leading the institute into the exciting new areas emerging in computational engineering and sciences,” said Daniel Jaffe, vice president for research at UT. “As an accomplished researcher, she understands what is needed to improve on the already excellent creative environment that ICES provides for its faculty and students.”

As one of the world’s premier programs in computational science, engineering and mathematics, ICES fosters interdisciplinary research and graduate studies for developing high-performance computing solutions to address complex societal problems. The institute draws its faculty from 18 departments and five schools and colleges at UT. In 2017, ICES ranked No. 1 worldwide in the field of interdisciplinary mathematics.