Professor Peter Smereka 1959-2015
University Record Article
Peter Smereka passed away September 15, 2015, after suffering a heart attack. Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to Virginia and Edward Smereka, Peter was the first of four children. He attended Aurora High School in Aurora, Ontario (1974-1978) where he was valedictorian of his class. He participated very actively in Ontario science fairs, winning the Canada wide science fair competition for three consecutive years.
In 1983, Peter received his bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Waterloo, Canada. He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1989. After visiting the Courant Institute of Math at NYU, and the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, Peter joined the faculty of the Department of Mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1991 on an NSF postdoctoral fellowship.
Peter came to the University of Michigan Mathematics Department in 1994 as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1997, and Professor in 2003. He was also active as a member of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics. Peter was an early and integral member of the department’s Applied and Interdisciplinary Mathematics (AIM) program, providing an important link with the areas of Engineering and the natural sciences. He served as director of the AIM program for several years. He received a prestigious NSF Career Award in 1996, and an Excellence in Education Award from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts in 1997. Peter was one of the original developers and instructors of a new honors sequence for first-year science and engineering students. He served the department through numerous committee assignments, undergraduate counseling and research coordination.
Considered one of the leading applied and computational mathematicians of his generation, Peter worked on a wide variety of problems, ranging from fluid dynamics to materials science. His early work had great effect on problems in “bubbly liquid flow” and he was widely regarded as the leading authority on this subject. His work on algorithms for multi-phase flow—for example, for simulating the motion of two immiscible fluids and the surface that separates them—has been particularly influential. In that field, and more generally in the topic of interfacial motion, Peter made fundamental contributions, and the algorithms he invented and helped develop are used in many branches of science and engineering. Many of his more than 60 research articles and numerous conference proceedings have had tremendous impact, and some are considered classics in their respective fields. In addition to being a leading authority in computational mathematics, applying his extensive knowledge of Physics and Engineering to mathematical modeling and computational simulation of physical problems, Peter also excelled as an applied analyst, exploring the associated mathematical problems in great depth. In 2009, Peter was part of a team that received a patent for “a method for designing aerosol spray dispensers.” During his career he supervised six Ph.D. students and acted as a co-advisor for many others.
Peter was always inquisitive and he provided a lot of humor, insight and thought-provoking questions for his family over the years. He was an incredibly sensitive and kind person often running to help his family members when in need. Peter loved to surf, hike, listen to jazz and eat street food, and play games. He also enjoyed golfing and swimming, and loved watching Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart with his son Aidan. Peter is survived by his wife Brenda, son Aidan, parents Ed and Virginia, sisters Karen and Susan, brother Robert and Aunt Joan, as well as many friends and colleagues from all over the world. He will be greatly missed by all. Memorial notes may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A memorial gathering will be planned for the Spring, 2016. The Peter Smereka Memorial Graduate Student Fund has been established in the University of Michigan Deparment of Mathematics, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043, or online at https://leadersandbest.umich.edu/tributes. (The Fund constitutes a gift for endowment, and distributions from it shall be made in accordance with the University’s then existing endowment distribution policy. Any surplus distributions during any period may be accumulated for later use for the above purposes or may be added to the principal of the Fund, in the University’s discretion. If the University’s minimum threshold of $25,000 to establish an endowment is not met by December 31, 2016, the endowment will be terminated and the funds will be used on an expendable basis for the stated purpose of the Fund.)