*Colleagues, collaborators, students and friends gathered at a four-day conference to honor Nochetto and his remarkable achievements in numerical analysis and scientific computing.*

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On May 16, 2023, the University of Maryland’s Department of Mathematics, Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST) and Brin Mathematics Research Center kicked off a four-day conference commemorating Mathematics Professor Ricardo H. Nochetto’s 70th birthday and his outstanding achievements in computational mathematics.

Held in Kirwan Hall, the celebratory conference hosted world-class mathematicians who were all impacted by Nochetto’s work. Speakers shared their perspectives on the many branches of mathematics Nochetto helped to advance, particularly highlighting his work in solving partial differential equations (PDEs), which can be used to develop algorithms, as well as analyses and computer simulations used in weather prediction modeling and the manufacturing of novel materials.

The event also offered a unique opportunity for Nochetto’s current students and postdocs to meet alums he advised and his closest collaborators—a reflection of Nochetto’s continuing scope of influence over his field.

**From Argentina to Maryland**

Nochetto’s professional journey as a mathematician started in Argentina, where he received master’s degrees in mathematics in 1976 and electrical engineering in 1979 from the University of Rosario. After completing his Ph.D. in mathematics at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral and University of Buenos Aires in 1983, Nochetto moved to Pavia, Italy, to begin his postdoctoral studies. There, Nochetto says, he enjoyed years of intellectual growth and friendship, starting years-long collaborations with a number of Italian mathematicians, many of whom came across the ocean to be part of his milestone conference at UMD.

“I met Ricardo for the first time almost 40 years ago while he had a scholarship position at the University of Pavia,” recalled Lucia Gastaldi, a professor of mathematics at the University of Brescia in Italy. “It was very inspiring for me to work with him as a collaborator because his approaches to tackling a mathematical problem helped me shape some of my own, but we have also remained good friends over the years. I’m very glad we were able to honor his achievements in person this year.”

In 1986, after his three-year stint in Italy, Nochetto spent a year working in numerical analysis at the University of Minnesota's Institute for Mathematics and its Applications. Nochetto joined the UMD faculty in 1987. Since then, he has continued to influence students and peers alike with his mentorship and collaborative efforts; during his career, he authored or co-authored 160 research journal articles and successfully advised 18 graduate students and 22 postdocs who have gone on to make their own marks on the mathematics world.

In addition to his work in College Park, Nochetto has been active on the international stage, giving plenary talks at prestigious events such as the International Congress of Mathematicians and the International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics. In 2011, Nochetto was named a Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Fellow for his contributions to the study of free boundary problems and phase transitions. The following year, he was named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

Nonlinear PDEs and free boundary problems are ubiquitous in modern science and engineering. Fundamental research in these areas has led to Fields Medals, one of the highest honors a mathematician can receive. Nochetto's work has been pivotal to important developments in the approximation of such problems.

**‘Math research is a team sport…pass the ball’**

Thanks to his extensive network of frequent collaborators and colleagues, Nochetto’s graduate students and postdocs have always been able to connect with top-tier mathematicians and access both guidance and resources essential to their research.

One of Nochetto’s former students, Omar Lakkis (Ph.D. ’02, applied mathematics & statistics, and scientific computation), who is now a reader in mathematics at the University of Sussex in England, credits Nochetto as a major contributor to his love for abstract math and his current research trajectory.

“He described to me that modern math research is a team sport, like football. What could be reached by lone players is harder to achieve because different skills are required to finally make a goal,” Lakkis said. “Ricardo’s motto is to ‘pass the ball,’ implying that when you’re stuck on a hard math problem, you should share it with someone else. His teaching goes beyond the lecture hall.”

Many others who worked with Nochetto echoed Lakkis’ sentiment.

“It’s hard to express how Ricardo impacted and continues to impact my career,” said Abner Salgado, a former postdoc of Nochetto’s who is now a professor of mathematics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “It was under Ricardo’s mentorship that I started working on nonlocal problems, singular diffusion problems, fully nonlinear equations and many other topics that to this day shape my research profile.”

Salgado also nostalgically recalled spending Fridays with Nochetto sharing prosciutto and gorgonzola pizza at the Three Brothers Italian Restaurant on Kenilworth Avenue, a local haunt for Nochetto’s research group.

Figuring out complex mathematical concepts over delicious food and coffee with Nochetto was a shared memory for many of his students and colleagues—one highlighted by the lighthearted ribbing and bantering peppered between math presentations at the conference. Nochetto’s current graduate student Lucas Bouck and Lakkis both referenced Nochetto’s penchant for “religiously brewing coffee” in an Italian ‘moka’ percolator while discussing difficult questions or theories.

Even Ronald DeVore, a frequent collaborator and Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Texas A&M University known for his work in wavelet theory and compressive sensing, admitted that some of his first few in-person meetings with Nochetto also started as conversations over coffee.

“Ricardo’s involved in a field called adaptive finite elements, which is a way to solve PDEs on a computer. He was one of the first to promote these adaptive finite elements methods, and it’s really proven the test of time,” DeVore said. “I became interested in his work because it was related to what I was working on. With my experiences collaborating with him, I can say that I respect not only the quality of his math but also the quality of his thinking and communication. That is not a pairing that every mathematician possesses.”

DeVore added: “Interestingly, Ricardo was also a postdoc advisor for Andrea Bonito, who is now my colleague at Texas A&M—that really cemented our relationship over the years.”

**Building a legacy**

As Nochetto reflects on his decades-long career, he believes that the people he met and mentored will become the foundation of his legacy in the mathematics world. Seeing them become independent and masters of their destinies is among his proudest accomplishments.

“I would like to continue my collaborations with colleagues around the world, to travel and meet new people to learn new ideas,” he said. “There are also a few books and several pending projects with former students and postdocs that I’d like to finish.”

In addition to his academic achievements, Nochetto also shared some personal successes at this major milestone of his life; he’s a proud grandfather to three and looks forward to spending more time with them in the years ahead.

“I have a lot of plans for my math projects, but I really want to devote time to my dear family, which has been a pillar throughout my life,” Nochetto added. “Math and family—thankfully, they both keep me active and alert.”

*Written by Georgia Jiang*