Umer Altaf, PhD

Research Scientists

Joint Appointment with ErSE (Prof Hoteit) and EnSE (Prof McCabe)



Dr. Altaf recently joined the ESOM group as Research Scientist. He has worked as Research Associate at Delft University of Technology (TUDelft) working in Prof. Arnold Heemink's research group on data assimilation. During 2010-2012, Dr. Altaf was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the  Earth Fluid Modeling and PredictionGroup directed by  Dr. Ibrahim Hoteit within the Physical Sciences Division at the  King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Research Interests

In the last few years, Umer has extensively been involved in the field of inverse modelling with focus on large scale systems. Altaf's recent projects include developing common data assimilation tools for hydrological and related communities and involve several research partners within Europe. His work at KAUST as a Postdoctoral Fellow was mainly developing a real time forecasting system to monitor storm surges from hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, while collaborating with researchers at the  Institute forComputational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) at the  University of Texas atAustin. Another important aspect of Altaf’s research is the development and application of model order reduction methods within the optimization framework by avoiding complex adjoint model derivations.

Selected Publications

  • MU Altaf, T Butler, T Mayo, X Luo, C Dawson, AW Heemink and I Hoteit (2013) "A comparison of ensemble Kalman filters for storm surge assimilation", Monthly Weather Review.
  • Altaf M., El-Gharamth M., Heemink A. W., Hotiet I. (2013), A reduced adjoint approach to variational data assimilation, Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics, 254, 1-13.
  • Altaf M., Heemink A. W., Verlaan M. (2009). Inverse shallow water flow modelling using model reduction, International Journal of Multiscale Computational Engineering, 7(6), 577-594.


  • 2010. Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
  • 1997. Masters in Applied Mathematics, Quaid e-Asam University, Pakistan

Professional Profile

  • 2014-Present: Research Scientist, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia
  • 2012-2014: Research Fellow/Project Lead, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
  • 2010-2012: Post-Doctoral Fellow, KAUST/University of Texas at Austin, USA

Scientific and Professional Membership

European Geophysical Union
Dutch Institute of System and Control


  • Best Poster Award, SIAM Conference on Mathematical & Computational Issues in Earth Sciences, Long Beach, USA, 2011
  • Best Poster Award at the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference, San Francisco, USA, 2011
  • Scholarship from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Pakistan during master studies

Research Interests Keywords

Hydrology Environment modeling Fluid mechanics Numerical analysis