Friday April 29th

A Whirlwind of a week at ICLR

This is the first time I remember attending ICLR

  • Except, I really didn’t, because I was involved in co-organizing a workshop with my co-chair and partner in crime, with an awesome group of organizers. It was my first time speaking at Townhall; in the past, I thought that I knew that it was a thing that important people spoke at, but certainly not someone ever like me; I was just lucky to be invited to hear them speak, at a chair in a row in the crowd, somewhere at this conference, with a lanyard on. And I think we would call it parliament, and there would be someone writing things down in Hansard or something.
  • To be honest, if I could describe this week, I would have to say it would be like escaping to Narnia and coming back. It felt like I entered this portal outside of my school where I was in this completely different space but not a lot of people knew what I was up to, as I’ve discussed that I am a ghost at my institution. I read the biography of a mathematician who said that she had been in spaces that expected her to be small, and there is a lot of that expectation here (perhaps that is why I really like the first Harry Potter movie so much; in many ways it is about someone who has been taught to be small in one world, while realizing who he really is in another, where he belongs, and that rite of passage), but I cannot be. I have never been, so I have to fulfill that need outside in spaces where I can. Occasionally, those spaces collide, and it’s always a little embarrassing for me, but there isn’t really anything I can do about it. How did Peter Parker do it? So it was like hiding a secret that was certainly not a secret if you knew. Something I worked tirelessly towards, returned to bed exhausted each day, hoping that we could do the best job for these first time submitters, to make this workshop the best it could be for them.
  • Near the middle of the week, I was walking home after class and told one of my classmates that I was co-organizing a workshop and he looked at me, flabbergasted. “You’re what!?”. Uh oh. Worlds colliding. Just walk away quickly and hope he forgets what I just said (haha).
  • I was thinking today that if I could describe myself, I would say that I am a loner with a lot of friends. I’ve been gradually building my group of core friends locally, and some of my local friends profess that I “seem to know everyone” somehow and work really hard, but I don’t think they quite understand that most of my networks have expanded way beyond my institution out of need, and they don’t know about much of the stuff I do not do at school, while attending school (which is fine).
  • A need such as this (or rather, at the time, it was a quiet desperation) can sometimes yield good things. Looking back, perhaps it was unfair of me to assume that I could find all the things I needed in one space. And so, for our initiative this year, I saw these similar themes come up; looking outward to find and make connections with persons who share our passion for a field, and coming together to work on research. And the results of this, as expressed by the workshop, the fruits of our labour, astounded me in the same way that I have come to find in passing in academic circles that persons have heard of me, or know who I am, because I have to constantly pretend that my voice is so small here. I sometimes have to excuse myself silently, without mentioning that I have meetings back to back or a panel or something. I’ve gotten used to saying that I “have to go home now for a thing”, because explaining can be complicated and lengthy. Still, as a ghost, there are people who quietly root for you from afar, for you to get up and keep going, to be true to yourself and not lose who you are. After all, this is just a rest stop, a space to build up knowledge and skills before heading out again. It makes sense to set one’s sights towards building kinship in one’s community, wherever that may be, even if it is virtual. A week ago, a Pure Mathematics professor on another coast told me “I remember you!”; she remembered me from, of all places, zoom, and it shocked me a little, because I am used to being in spaces where I can hear myself think, and expressing my thoughts in iterations of writing rather than with the imprecision of impromptu speaking. Still, in these brief moments, they remind me that even as a loner, I am not alone in this space.

I went to a social this evening

  • We had a BIPOC grad school mixer tonight (and I almost didn’t go but a friend of mine convinced me and I RSVP-ed, and then I realized I couldn’t un-RSVP because it was too late, and then I realized another one of my friends was going on the way there, and then I had a good time!), and there was an organizer who mentioned that in our school, so many of us exist in silos as grad students, even within our own labs, and that he sought to make this better. And I thought about that our ICLR initiative and the workshop, and how in our own way, we sought to do that for first time and underrepresented researchers, too. In a way, I had come full-circle trying to find this outside of my institution, trying to create those spaces there, and then finding that there were, in fact, people at my own institution who realized this, and were trying to do that, too.
  • Looking back, I’m really grateful for the experience; I could have never imagined in my wildest grad school dreams to have had such a week. It made me introspective, because I was so happy for all the persons who presented today; a few years before grad school I only wished such a program had existed for someone like myself and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it and to have experienced the high of joy when everyone had presented their work; it was incredible. I look forward to hearing about all the stories and new friendships going forward.

Anyways here are some pics

  • I decided to dress like the person I wanted to be, which is graduated and a pirate! (because I love sailing)

  • Arrrr…dissertation!!

  • It was really touching how much freedom and how supportive the committee was of us and our initiative. I’m happy.

  • We got it to be part of the main conference, too; a first!

  • Can someone with a voice so small make a difference? The answer is yes.

  • And they can sit on panels, too!

And this week

  • I attended the BIRS Coding Theory conference, although only a teeny bit because of organizer duties and classes.
  • I attended a talk by MoMath on Geometry, Euclid and saw some GeoGebra and someone mentioned Hartshorne, who I’ve met at MSRI (ha!)
  • Combinatorics: saw a talk on R-rowmotion, antichains, positive and negative root posets, Stanley-Thomas words and Homomesy, transfer maps and piecewise linear rowmotion.
  • Elliptic Curves: Koblitz, valence formula and fundamental domain (orbifold stuff), holomorphic function and elliptic points, used Cauchy’s Integral Theorem, q-series expansion from last week (I reviewed the lecture I missed from Friday), Bernoulli’s number defined by Taylor series and zeta function.
  • Algebra: Characterization of Zero divisors in a ring, reviewed notes from Friday that I missed (including a proof using Zorn’s Lemma), Uniqueness of Minimal Primary Components and Localization of Primary Decompositions, Localization of Primary Ideals, proof using projective lines.
  • Elementary Number Theory: Continued Fractions.
  • Random Probabilistic Graphs: Latin Squares and Lovasz Lemma applications in k3 graphs represented by nxn matrix.
  • I also went to office hours to chat about Cantor’s Diagonalization and some other proofs, went over fundamental domain but topologically and spoke about complex analysis.
  • I attended the probability class and we went over pdf functions, Bayes and Borel-Kolgoromov and some Moments.

Stuff upcoming

  • I am giving a talk, being interviewed for a documentary and have some other stuff going on, but I’m taking the last hour left or so off to enjoy my evening (I hope) :)

And that’s it

Written on April 29, 2022