During a ceremony on June 19, the Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute dedicated its auditorium after mathematician and physicist Ingrid Daubechies of Duke University.
Daubechies has had a sprawling research career, making outsize impacts on fields as diverse as art restoration, evolutionary biology, electrical engineering and, most notably, image and data processing. Her most famous contributions concern wavelets, mathematical structures vital for modern signal processing.
She also played an instrumental role in the conception of the Flatiron Institute: In 2012, she proposed the notion of a center devoted to data analysis, as a way to handle the increasing flood of “big data” in basic research. Since then, that seed has grown into a bustling research institute with more than 150 scientists working across computational centers focused on tackling problems in astrophysics, biology, mathematics and quantum physics.
“She proposed we create a unit devoted to data analysis — one which would be a permanent effort,” said Jim Simons, chair of the Simons Foundation. “I liked that idea. Moreover, I thought we could do this inside the foundation instead of on a university campus.”
Daubechies’ suggestion fit perfectly with the rest of the foundation, says Marilyn Simons, president of the Simons Foundation. “After all, it is data analysis that earns the income that supports our foundation. How great would it be to use those techniques to advance science.”
The fact that the Flatiron Institute exists “is a wonderful dream come true,” Daubechies says. “There is a real revolution going on with all the data — and how we understand it and compute with it and do more science with it.”
The addition of Flatiron Institute researchers has inspired everyone at the foundation, Marilyn Simons adds. “All of a sudden, there was an energy and dynamism. We all felt so much a part of the research that was going on. It really had a tremendous impact on transforming the way the foundation felt.”
The newly named Ingrid Daubechies Auditorium will be a hub for collaboration at the Flatiron Institute, offering a space for meetings, presentations and events. After the ceremony, Daubechies gave the inaugural lecture in the newly named auditorium, discussing a few of her research projects.