University of Texas at Austin


Visiting Researcher: Golden State to the Lone Star State

By Rebecca Riley

Published June 5, 2023

Tammy Kolda

Tammy Kolda's collaboration with the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences began when she and Rachel Ward attended a workshop at UC Berkely’s Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing

“I ended up talking to her and posing a problem to her, because I knew she had the right expertise for it,” said Kolda. “She and her student were able to solve it very quickly and easily and turn that into a paper.” 

Now, years later, Kolda returned to the Oden Institute as a JT Oden Visiting Research Fellow, working with Core Faculty members Rachel Ward and Joe Kileel on new problems in the domain of low-rank tensor factorization. “During my time here, I met with a lot of different folks, both students and professors, and just chatting with them about anything,” she said. “I enjoyed this quite a bit.”

The Oden Institute is far from the only research hub that Kolda regularly visits. As a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Northwestern University, she flies to Illinois every year to teach a short course — this year’s course covering randomized algorithms. She is also visiting and collaborating with colleagues at Flatiron Institute in NYC, as well as spending time at the nearby Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU

After twenty-two years at Sandia National Laboratories, Kolda is now an independent mathematical consultant under the auspices of her company based in California. 

Her consulting work has different flavors, including strategic advice on machine learning research and development that is tailored to the customer’s specific data domain, in-depth technical consulting, development of specialized training courses on tensor decompositions, and evaluation of candidates for academic appointments.

With such a wide range of specialities and research institutes at her disposal, Kolda has built a robust network of colleagues across the country. Kolda’s on-the-go lifestyle has another benefit lost to many of us since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic: in-person connection.  

During my time here, I've been meeting with a lot of different folks, both students and professors, and just chatting with them about anything. I’m enjoying this quite a bit.

— Tammy Kolda

“There's always a lot of other people who are visiting at the same time as I am,” she said. “The first time I was at the Oden Institute, I ran into two colleagues from the UK who I had never met in person. I went to their seminars and we had dinner, which was quite nice. Then more recently, I ran into my colleague from Berkeley who was here giving a seminar, which I attended, followed by a lunch together.” 

Tammy Kolda’s stint at the Oden Institute ended in late March, and she is now back at work in California… or flying between Northwestern University, the Flatiron Institute, and the Courant Institute.

“This is my last trip here for my current proposal,” said Kolda. “Hopefully, I'll be back. There's certainly much more to do.”

The J. Tinsley Oden Faculty Fellowship Research Program was established in 1993 by an anonymous endowment donated to enhance the Oden Institute research environment. The program provides visitors finanical and technical support, along with facility access to bring outstanding researchers and scholars to collaborate with Oden Institute faculty, researchers and students on advanced research.