James Sethian is the James H. Simons Chair in Mathematics in the Department of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Head of Mathematics Group at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is an applied mathematician, recognized for his work on computational physics. He is particularly known for his work on mathematical and algorithmic methods for modeling interface dynamics, which have had a large impact in applications such as fluid mechanics, semiconductor manufacturing, industrial inkjets and jetting devices, shape recovery in medicine, and industrial foams. He was born in Washington DC in 1954, and graduated from Princeton University with a degree in mathematics. He received a doctorate in applied mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1982, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

Research Interests

Sethian works in the area of computational physics, combining mathematical formulations and efficient algorithms to model a host of scientific and engineering problems, particularly those involving propagating interfaces. Examples include methods to model multiphase multiphysics problems, such as in fluid mechanics, combustion, and industrial foams, algorithms to optimize engineering processes, such as the manufacture of semiconductors, and techniques to extract structures from image data, such as in medical and bio-medical imaging.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 32: Applied Mathematical Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 31: Engineering Sciences