In the start of July, I went to the SIAM (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics) Annual Meeting, this year held in Portland, Oregon, having been awarded a SIAM Travel Award in order to attend.
I was also attending as the representative for the University of Bath SIAM Student Chapter, as I was the Secretary of the chapter.
This meant that I was invited to give a talk as a student representative in the Student Days minisymposium, speaking about my recent research on “Preconditioning weak constraint variational data assimilation problems”, and to attend a breakfast with the SIAM leadership, where the chapter representatives learnt what other chapters had done in the past year.
The conference was the largest I have attended during my PhD, and had over 1300 registered attendees from across the world. There was also a large number of students attending, including a good showing from the UK and Ireland, many of whom had attended the SIAM UKIE National Student Chapter Conference which we hosted in Bath in June.
There were some very interesting talks at the conference, including one on elastoplasticity, and the technology they created to produce the snow in the film “Frozen” using it, and the community lecture about paradoxes, and the crisis they caused in mathematics a century ago.
A hidden gem however, was at the conference “Applied Mathematics Education” which ran in parallel to the Annual Meeting. At lunchtime on the Tuesday, Gil Strang gave a talk on teaching undergraduates about deep (machine) learning. Despite it being relatively hidden in the conference program, and many people saying afterwards they wished they’d gone, there was standing room only for the talk, even if you’d arrived five minutes early.
Gil Strang is a big name in mathematics, particularly in Linear Algebra, and has been a professor at MIT since 1962, writing a number of books, having been awarded many prizes, and is still on top form at the age of 83, cracking some good (mathematical) jokes. His talk explored a few questions about how to teach this particular area of mathematics, and whether some tried and tested ideas should be changed.
The conference was a great opportunity to speak to and hear from a wide range of mathematicians, particularly those based in North America. It also gave me a chance to visit the west coast of the USA, having only previously visited the east coast.