Terry Herdman, Associate Vice President for Research Computing, Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Mathematics and Professor of Mathematics, has resigned from Virginia Tech effective September 9, 2022. During his 48-year tenure, Herdman made significant contributions to the University’s research mission, helping expand Virginia Tech’s research computing capabilities, securing millions in funding for interdisciplinary research projects, and building one of the strongest university-level research computing teams in the United States.
After earning his master’s degree and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Oklahoma in 1970 and 1974, respectively, Herdman came to Virginia Tech, where he was a visiting professor on the mathematics department. He later accepted a full-time position and remained a part of the department throughout his career. As a professor of mathematics, Herdman directed Virginia Tech’s undergraduate program in applied and computational mathematics on the Blacksburg campus and the graduate program in interdisciplinary applied mathematics at the Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church.
In 1987, Herdman, John Burns, a colleague in the mathematics department, and Eugene Cliff, professor of aerospace engineering (now emeritus), co-founded the Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Mathematics (ICAM), which supports and facilitates transdisciplinary research in applied and computational mathematics and has gained international recognition for the level of research produced and its outstanding students. Herdman has also served as Director of ICAM for the past 35 years.
In 1987, when Herdman and his colleagues from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) accepted ICAM’s original nearly $1.4 million grant for their “Integrated Research Program for the Modelling, Analysis and Control of Aerospace Systems” received, this was the largest grant ever awarded to a Virginia university for mathematical research. Herdman said that grant and significant support from key figures across campus gave ICAM a strong start, enabling the center to purchase computer resources and renovate the Wright House, where ICAM remains today.
We really started ICAM because it was time to invest in interdisciplinary research,” said Herdman. “Almost every modern scientific and technical research project, especially large national and international efforts, requires applied and computational mathematics. Technological advances in the 1980s, particularly with regard to large-scale scientific computation, enabled researchers to solve increasingly complex problems using new mathematical tools and methods. ICAM became a vehicle for us to enable research by providing access to these tools and facilitating collaboration between researchers both at Virginia Tech and in labs around the world.”
Since its inception, ICAM has managed more than $60 million in external funding from industry partners and federal agencies, including grants from major centers such as grants from the Department of Defense (DoD) Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative. In 2010, ICAM led Virginia Tech’s efforts in the $122 million HUB Energy Efficient Buildings Initiative, a multi-university collaboration by the Department of Energy that resulted in a $5 million award to the university . ICAM was named a State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Commonwealth Center of Excellence in 1990 and a DoD Center of Research Excellence & Transition in 1996. Additionally, ICAM’s international influence has grown steadily over the years – between research collaborations and student internships, ICAM has a presence in more than 32 states and 14 countries.
“Terry is a unique talent and visionary,” said Burns, who was appointed interim director of ICAM following Herdman’s retirement. “Most of what we have built over the past 35 years is a direct result of his leadership. Terry is without question one of the finest academic leaders I have met in my higher education career.”
In 2005, Herdman was named associate vice president, research computing, and assumed leadership of Virginia Tech’s Advanced Research Computing (ARC) unit, which provides the university’s core research computing infrastructure and support services. His responsibilities in this area included advocacy, planning, funding, and organization of research computers across campus.
Virginia Tech had established itself as a pioneer in high performance computing (HPC) in 2003 when System X went online. Administration of this system was transferred to the Department of Information Technology and the newly formed ARC entity in August 2005, a moment that marked Virginia Tech’s commitment to providing HPC as an ongoing service to the university’s research community.