J. Tinsley Oden, director of ICES, awarded 2013 Honda Prize

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J. Tinsley Oden, director of the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, received the 2013 Honda Prize for his works in the field of computational mechanics.

The Secretariat of the Honda Foundation, Norie Yamamoto, said Oden is widely credited with the early development of computational mechanics — an integration of mathematics, computer science, physics and applied mathematics in order to solve problems in science and engineering.

“Oden’s work focuses on the theory and development of multi-scale models that influence events such as that of atoms and electrons to full-scale systems, such as machines, aircrafts and automobiles,” Yamamoto said.

The Honda Prize, a nonprofit established by the founders of the Honda Motor Company, is given to a person who has achieved results in the field of ecotechnology, which is described as “technology that advocates both the natural and human environments,” according to its website. It was established in 1980 and comes with a 10 million yen prize — which is a little less than $100,000. Oden is the first UT professor to receive the prize.

Monica Kortsha, informational writer for the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, said Oden’s impact has been profound and wide-ranging. 

“The Honda Prize recognized his role as an early supporter and cheerleader of sorts for [computational science], which in its early days was not being applied much outside of select industries,” Kortsha said.

Kortsha said computational science enables physical questions to be investigated in the digital realm. The science investigates theories via models, evaluates structures before they are built and studies past and future scenarios in present time.

“Computational science works are defining problems mathematically, and then uses a computer to discretize those mathematical models into numerical parts that describe a physical phenomena,” Kortsha said. “These numerics are then often used to construct complex visual simulations.”

Kortsha said investigating scientific phenomena computationally allows easy consideration of multiple scenarios, as well as experimentation with designs that can be tested digitally, saving time and resources.

“It enables scientists to research problems that have been conventionally too complex to confidently study through traditional means, such as the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates, storm surges caused by hurricanes, and massive-scale drug screening,” Kortsha said.

Yamamoto said the computational mechanics Oden works in has allowed for the development of computer simulation technology, which is widely utilized in various fields and has improved product quality and safety.

Oden received the 34th Honda Prize on Nov. 18 at an award ceremony in Tokyo, where he delivered the laureate lecture.

“I was stunned and gratified to be treated with such hospitality,” Oden said. “My wife and I were treated like royalty.”

Clarification: Due to an editing error, this article has been updated from its original version. The Honda Prize was established in 1980.