Computer scientist reveals the math and science behind blockbuster movies

ombustion for scientific reasons quickly translates into the ability to make animations of smoke, water and fire," Fedkiw says. "Similar statements hold for soft biological tissues, muscles, fractures and other solid material problems. Once the scientific numerical simulations are worked out, interesting animations can be made shortly thereafter."

Most of Fedkiw's students double-major in math and computer science. "Graphics itself is a bit less important, and many of them don't take their first graphics class until their junior or senior year of college," Fedkiw says. "I started [learning computer graphics] rather late, working in pure mathematics until I was 23 years old, and then switching to applied mathematics after that. I didn't know anything about computer graphics until 1998. And although I did work on engineering-related problems, I didn't do any work in computer science until I started working with a company in 1998 to learn more about graphics."

Fedkiw earned his doctorate in applied mathematics from UCLA in 1996 and did postdoctoral work at UCLA in mathematics and at Caltech in aeronautics before joining Stanford's Computer Science Department in 2000. He wrote his first two papers for the 2001 SIGGRAPH (short for Special Interest Group for Computer Graphics), an annual CG conference convened by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). In 2005, ACM SIGGRAPH honored him with its Significant New Researcher Award for contributions to the computer graphics community.

Getting research experience is important for anyone applying to Stanford's computer science doctoral program. "Connecting with a research group is quite important to do in addition to taking classes," Fedkiw says. He and his students have worked closely with ILM, Pixar, Intel, Honda and Sony Imageworks. "This collaboration with industry is a two-way street and has produced a number of academic papers--as well as some screen credits," he says. "Both the compani

Contact: Dawn Levy
Stanford University

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