Meet Mikaël Slevinsky, 2022 Rh Award Winner in the Natural Sciences category
Mikaël Slevinsky is an associate professor in the mathematics department whose research focuses on spectral methods and orthogonal polynomials.
Slevinsky is the 2022 recipient of the Terry G. Falconer Memorial Rh Institute Foundation Emerging Researcher Award in the Natural Sciences category, in recognition of his work developing new spectral methods and creating free, open-source software to make these methods accessible to the scientific community. UM Today caught up with him to learn more about him and the research he is undertaking.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your research.
I am a numerical analyst, husband of Katrina, father of Eva and Sébastien, amateur musician, skier, and griller of meat. I received my PhD in applied mathematics in 2014 from the University of Alberta and took up an NSERC postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Oxford before joining the University of Manitoba in 2016.
My research is in the area of spectral methods and orthogonal polynomials. Spectral methods seek to solve certain ordinary and partial differential and integral equations with an optimal number of degrees of freedom—the number of coefficients in an orthogonal polynomial series. A related problem is the task of numerically evaluating such orthogonal polynomial series on special grids. Every one of my mathematical contributions is accompanied by an implementation in free and open-source software.
Why is this research important?
The combination of new basic research in this field and its free and open-source implementation has had many surprising uses over the years. Perhaps the most captivating is seeing how a numerical algorithm I developed, known as a fast spherical harmonic transform, has been used to analyze the cosmic microwave background radiation, colloquially known as the light of the early universe.
What does the Rh Award mean to you?
To me, the Rh Award signifies that UM recognizes the nontrivial efforts of early career researchers to successfully establish their careers with national and international links and integrate their work within the UM community.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
I have recently put in place a framework for fast orthogonal polynomial transforms that has substantial room for growth and new exploration. This includes the design and analysis of algorithms for associated, gyroscopic, rationally modified, semi-classical, and Sobolev orthogonal polynomials, among many others. I feel that the greatest achievement would be to share this framework with as many student researchers as possible.
What about you would people find surprising?
I was a professional dancer with Canada’s Ukrainian Shumka Dancers for ten years.
Any advice for early career researchers and students?
Let’s go with a classic from Max Ehrmann: “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”