Householder Symposium XIX Trip Report

Posted by Cleve Moler,

The nineteenth Householder Symposium, Householder XIX, was held June 8-13 at Sol Cress, a conference center near Spa, Belgium. If you have been following either the web or the newletter edition of Cleve's Corner you know that the Gatlinburg/Householder series of conferences have played an important role in both my professional life and the history of MATLAB. I attended what turned out to be the third conference in the series, in Gatlinburg, Tennesse, when I was a graduate student in 1964. I have been to all 17 of the conferences that have been held since 1964. Here is a link to my News and Notes article about the Gatlinburg/Householder conferences.


Householder Symposium Committees

The Householder Symposium has been organized over the years by an evolving volunteer committee. The symposium is not affiliated with any professional society. The organizing committee for Householder XIX was:

  • Ilse Ipsen (chair), North Carolina State University, USA
  • Jim Demmel, University of California at Berkeley, USA
  • Alan Edelman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
  • Heike Fassbender, Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany
  • Volker Mehrmann, Technical University of Berlin
  • Jim Nagy, Emory University, USA
  • Yousef Saad, University of Minnesota, USA
  • Valeria Simoncini, University of Bologna, Italy
  • Zdenek Strakos, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic
  • Andy Wathen, Oxford University, UK

The local organizers in Belgium were:

  • Paul Van Dooren (chair), Universite catholique de Louvain
  • Pierre-Antoine Absil, Universite catholique de Louvain
  • Karl Meerbergen, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
  • Annick Sartenaer, Universite de Namur
  • Marc Van Barel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
  • Sabine Van Huffel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


In order to facilitate interaction, attendance is limited. The organizing committee accepts applications and evaluates resumes. This time only about half of the 300 applicants were selected. This has been a controversial aspect of the conference, but I am in favor of limiting the number of participants.

A little over 100 of the attendees made it to the group photo. A few are wearing neckties and their best dresses in the photo because the conference banquet was scheduled shortly thereafter.

A list of the attendees is available on the symposium web site.


Everybody who attended the conference had an opportunity to give a talk or present a poster during the five day conference. There were a total of 26 half-hour plenary talks. Each day there were two sets of three parallel sessions of less formal 20 minute talks. A couple of days had late afternoon or evening poster sessions.

The complete program is available here. The overall theme is numerical linear algebra. Applications include partial differetial equations, image processing, control theory, graph theory, model reduction, and gyroscopes.

Householder Prize

The Householder Prize is given for the best PhD dissertation written during the three-year period preceeding the meeting. A list of the winners of the prize in previous years is available here The committee judging the dissertations for the prize this time was:

  • Volker Mehrmann, Technical University of Berlin, Germany (chair)
  • Michele Benzi, Emory University, USA
  • Inderjit Dhillon, UT Austin, USA
  • Howard Elman, University of Maryland, USA
  • Francoise Tisseur, University of Manchester, UK
  • Stephen Vavasis, University of Waterloo, Canada

Volker reported that 17 theses from 9 countries were submitted. From these, a short list of six finalists were selected:

  • Grey Ballard, UC Berkeley
  • Saifon Chaturantabut, Rice University
  • Cedric Effenberger, EPF Lausanne
  • Nicolas Gillis, UC Louvain
  • Agnieszka Miedlar, TU Berlin
  • Yuji Nakatsukasa, UC Davis

From this short list, the two winners of the 2014 Householder Prize were announced:

  • Nicolas Gillis, UC Louvain
  • Yuji Nakatsukasa, UC Davis

Nicolas is now an Assistant Professor at Universite de Mons in Belgium and Yuji is an Assistant Professor at the University of Tokyo.

The two winners gave talks about their thesis work in the last days of the meeting. They shared prize money of a little over $2000 obtained by passing a hat at the banquet dinner during Householder XVIII three years ago in Lake Tahoe. A hat was passed again at this meeting to fund the next Householder Prize. The location for the next Householder meeting has not yet been decided.


Traditionally the Wednesday afternoon of the Householder meeting is devoted to an excursion of some kind. The XIX excursion was to "Notre Dame du Val-Dideu", an abbey founded in 1216 by Cistercian monks. There are no longer any monks living at the abbey -- it is now best known as a brewery. Their beer is Val-Dieu. We toured the abbey and the tiny brewery, which is operated by just five people. We then had the opportunity to taste three different beers and their wonderful cheese. Belgian abbey beers have nine percent alcohol. It was a very pleasant afternoon.

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