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Pomona Professor Wins $400,000 National Science Foundation Grant

Tzu-Yi Chen, an assistant professor of computer science at Pomona College, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Career Grant of $400,000. The grant, which will be distributed over five years, will fund a project on “Preconditioning Large, Sparse Linear Systems: Theory and Practice."

The National Science Foundation's Career grant is its most prestigious award supporting the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. Awardees are selected on the basis of creative proposals that effectively integrate research and education.

Chen focuses her research primarily on sparse matrix algorithms though her interests also include parallel computing, graph theory, numerical linear algebra and scientific computing. The funded project focuses on preconditioners, which are methods for solving large linear algebra problems more quickly and accurately. The goal of this project is the development of better preconditioners, as well as tools to help users choose preconditioners that are likely to be beneficial for their particular problem. The initial focus will be on preconditioners that are based on reordering the rows and/or columns of a matrix and those that compute an incomplete factorization of the matrix.

Chen plans to involve up to four students per year in the research. In addition to reaching out to groups traditionally underrepresented in computer science, she also plans to develop and refine courses that emphasize the role of mathematics in computer science, as well as of courses that give a basic understanding of computing to students who are not computer science majors but whose education will nevertheless be enhanced by such knowledge.

A member of the Pomona College faculty since 2002, Chen teaches Introduction to Computer Science, Algorithms, Discrete Mathematics and Parallel Computing. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.