Finite Element Rodeo returns to Rice

Conference brings a close-knit community of mathematicians, testing ground for new ideas.

Ray Qu presents at Finite Element Rodeo

Rice Engineering’s Department of Computational Applied Mathematics and Operations Research (CMOR) hosted the Finite Element Rodeo conference on March 8-9, 2024 for the first time in 12 years. 

For nearly three decades, this annual conference has brought together researchers interested in the implementation and theory of the general class of finite element methods. Attendees are primarily from universities in Texas and Louisiana, which make up a close-knit finite element community in the Gulf Coast region.

“The local nature of the conference makes it easier to network and get to know different people in the field,” said Jesse Chan, CMOR assistant professor and conference organizer. “It is a really good way for junior attendees to get to know faculty and for faculty to see what junior attendees are working on.”

Instead of formal keynote speakers and panels, this conference features 15-minute presentations delivered by attendees. Seasoned faculty and early career researchers alike benefit from the informal nature of this conference. This year, 27 researchers presented, with more than half being junior attendees.

The unique design of this conference is ideal for graduate students to present in a low-pressure, supportive environment. “These informal talks put everyone on equal footing in a workshop-like setting,” said Chan, who gave his first conference presentation as a graduate student at a Finite Element Rodeo years ago. 

One of Chan’s Ph.D. students, Ray Qu, gave his first conference presentation this year. “Giving my first conference talk at Rice was uniquely comforting,” Qu said. “The 15-minute format enriched the experience, quickly connecting me with peers' work in the field of numerical methods.”

The workshop style of the conference gave attendees a mash-up of insights on finite element trends and emerging areas of research in the field. 

Presenters received constructive feedback on recent, unpublished work. “The conference serves as a testing ground for new ideas,” said Beatrice Riviere, CMOR Noah Harding Chair, professor and co-organizer of the conference.

Host schools for the Finite Elements Rodeo rotate annually. Hosting the conference at Rice University this year showcased the CMOR department and the significance of finite element methods research at Rice Engineering.