Entrance hall of the ICMSApplied and computational complex analysis workshop

In May 2017, ICMS hosted a workshop on Applied and computational complex analysis

This workshop looked to bring together mathematicians, at all career stages, who share an interest in using fundamental complex analysis.  There was over 30 presentations across the week.

Delegates from the applied and computational complex analysis workshop, May 2017

During the week, Peter Clarkson celebrated his birthday.  As a special birthday treat he gave a public lecture entitled Rogue waves, tsunamis and solitons! Peter Clarkson with birthday cake (left) and delivering public lecture (right)


Whilst the workshop was on, we took the opportunity to speak to one of the delegates in a bit more detail.

Natalie Sheils, University of Minnesota/Institute for Math and Its Applications

Tell me about today's event and your role in it

I really enjoyed taking part in the Applied and computational complex analysis workshop.  It was a great chance to get to collaborate with many exceptional folks and hear about new work people are doing.  We got plenty of time to chat together after talks to think about new work.

What brought you to this area of research?

I became interested in the Unified Transform Method (UTM or Fokas Method) during my PhD at the University of Washington.  This method uses complex analysis to solve PDEs in a new, systematic way.  It was through work using this method that I was introduced to some of the organizers who invited me to participate.

Other than exploring maths, what are the benefits of taking part?     

The major benefit to me was the ability to meet face to face with collaborators from around the world.  I also love workshops because they tend to throw me head first into a new project or direction.  This was certainly true for me at this workshop since it was my first week back after three months of maternity leave.

What will you take back to your [day job/research/studies]?

I will take back the connections I made and some new ideas of how to tackle problems I’ve been thinking about for a while.

Have you met interesting people, and if so, what connections have you made?

Yes!  I met new people and was able to grow relationships with others that I have met previously.

Do you have any advice for first-time ICMS attendees? 

Make the most of your time over lunch and on coffee breaks to network with other participants.

Have you been to many other conferences? How does ICMS differ?

I have been to many math conferences over the years.  I enjoy the style and size of the ICMS workshop and the focus on collaboration.  It is great that lunches are provided at the ICMS so we don’t have to waste time wandering around and end up eating with only a small group of people. Instead, I got to spend a full day with ALL of the participants.  

If you could solve one maths problem, what would it be?

Currently, I’d like to find an analytical solution to 1D evolution PDEs with space-dependent coefficients.  

Do you have any thoughts regarding how we can raise the profile of maths?

Continuing to make our work accessible to a general audience through events such as public lectures and panels.

Do you have any thought on how diversity in mathematics can be improved?

I think we need to fundamentally change the culture of mathematics and academia.  We need more women and more people of color in leadership roles.  We also need to create safe spaces for marginalized people to voice their concerns and make concerted efforts in hiring, promotion, and retention at all levels.

Who is your favourite mathematician and why?

Ada Lovelace— I love her description of her work as “poetical science.”  I feel like that is a particularly apt description of mathematical research.

 

Michael Dallaston, Imperial College

Tell me about today's event and your role in it

The workshop on Applied and Computational Complex Analysis brings together researchers with interests from different areas, including integrable systems, transform methods and asymptotic methods, which all share a central theme of complex analysis.  I was invited to present a talk by the organisers. 

What brought you to this area of research?

My PhD research was in applications of complex analysis in fluid mechanics, which introduced me to many of the prominent researchers who work in this field (many of whom were at the workshop).  While my interests have broadened a bit since then, I try to stay connected to the community and sometimes find relevant applications popping up in my other research when I least expect.  

Other than exploring maths, what are the benefits of taking part?     

As well as the social and networking aspect, it is great to see the sights in Edinburgh, which is a beautiful city.  Some of the other participants climbed to Arthur's Seat on one of the afternoons; I instead explored some of Edinburgh's charming second hand bookshops and scored a copy of Horace Lamb's classic text on hydrodynamics (nerd).

What will you take back to your [day job/research/studies]?

Lamb's Hydrodynamics notwithstanding, the meeting was great for renewing contacts and seeing the other research being done gave me one or two ideas to add to the list of things I want to look at one day.  I got a couple of questions about my own research which I'll have to think about too!

Have you met interesting people, and if so, what connections have you made?

I met many new people and also renewed old contacts within this research community.  As an early career researcher it is great to put faces to the names of people whose work you have been studying.

Do you have any advice for first-time ICMS attendees? 

Don't be afraid to ask 'stupid' questions after a talk - they're guaranteed to be better than the questions the professors ask.  Follow up in the tea breaks - that's when the most important conversations happen.  Also the cafe next to the ICMS does great coffee

Have you been to many other conferences? How does ICMS differ?

I have been to many conferences, national and international.  The ICMS workshop was much more specialised than most conferences which means problems can be discussed in more depth.  The ACCA workshop in particular focused on a few topics, and I could appreciate the intricacies of those I wasn't an expert in, while getting the most out of topics I was intimately familiar with.  I also have to say the ICMS staff ran a great show - it's the first conference I've been to where there was a birthday cake for one of the organisers!  Making a public lecture part of the programme is also a great idea which I see being adopted by a greater number of conferences.

If you could solve one maths problem, what would it be?

Being able to model turbulence in fluid flows in a general and reliable manner - I can dream.

Do you have any thoughts regarding how we can raise the profile of maths?

It's important to promote a greater understanding of histories and personal stories of mathematicians, which can be appreciated by a general audience.  It's vital for mathematics to be understood (both by the public and by students) as a dynamic and human endeavour, in which everyone can take part, and not just a bunch of formulas and methods set in stone.  

Do you have any thought on how diversity in mathematics can be improved?

The lack of gender diversity becomes most stark at the postgraduate/postdoctoral level, so it is important to focus on why women do not see the pursuit of academic careers as viable at this stage.  I think changing the pathways to success in academia is crucial; there needs to be more options than spending several years of uncertainty in the postdoctoral wilderness.

 Who is your favourite mathematician and why?

James Clerk Maxwell (not just because he was an Edinburgh local!).  I read a biography of Maxwell's in my undergrad which was an influence in my eventual decision to focus on applied maths.  His most profound insight was deducing the relationship between electromagnetism and light and finding that the speed of light was constant, setting the scene for the development of special relativity.  What's most interesting to me is that this insight fell naturally out of the mathematics itself - I'm sure every applied mathematician dreams of having a moment like that in their careers.