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January 1993

Bruce W. Char

Mathematics and Computer Science Professor and Interim Associate Dean for Graduate Study and Research, College of Arts and Sciences, Drexel University

Bruce Char works in the areas of symbolic and numeric mathematical computation, parallel computation, interactive multimedia for education, and problem-solving environments (PSEs). His current work on the NSF- funded PSEware Project with CRPC researchers K. Mani Chandy of Caltech, Dennis Gannon of Indiana University, and others has led to the naming of Drexel University as a CRPC affiliated site.

"PSEs are integrated collections of software tools that facilitate problem solving in certain domains," explains Char. "A goal of our PSEware Project is to help scientists and engineers refine their symbolic specifications to efficient parallel object oriented programs. We are also adapting Internet-based collaboration technologies to help groups of people use shared PSEs to solve problems together, and are using PSEs for outreach and education." (See http://www.extreme.indiana.edu/pseware/.)

Char received his B.A. in mathematics from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 1973 and became interested in computational science as a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley. "I had the opportunity to use MACSYMA, a general purpose symbolic-numeric-graphical mathematics software package that was available to a small community of users," he says. "I was impressed how it applied to scientific and engineering problem-solving what were then advanced ideas in software design, such as symbolic computation, fixed and variable precision floating points, and an interactive user interface with graphics. I became interested in the ingredients and components of a software system that could be useful in a scientist's or engineer's personal working environment."

After receiving his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science in 1980, Char worked at Argonne National Laboratory as an assistant computer scientist and in 1981 joined the computer science faculty as an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Char became a member of Waterloo's Symbolic Computation Group and was instrumental in developing Maple, a general purpose computer algebra system that performs both symbolic and numerical calculations and has facilities for interactive two- and three-dimensional graphics. Maple is now marketed by the company Waterloo Maple Software and is one of the tools used in the PSEware project. (See http://www.maplesoft.on.ca/.)

"Maple and other systems such as Mathematica have allowed integrated symbolic, numeric, graphical, and presentation environments to enter the desktop computing mainstream," says Char. "However, it's clear that the integration of non-numeric capabilities into scientific computation is far from complete."

In 1987, Char joined the University of Tennessee at Knoxville as an associate professor of computer science and in 1990 joined the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia. This year, Char was named professor of mathematics and computer science, and is serving as interim associate dean for graduate study and research. In addition to teaching computer science and working on the PSEware Project and Maple, Char is a collaborator on the development of Sugarbush, a parallel version of Maple for distributed memory architectures.

Char is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Mathematical Association of America, the IEEE Computer Society, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. He is the author or co- author of five books and more than 70 articles and papers.

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