Sunday October 24th
Upstate Number Theory Conference and an old friend
We drove to the Number Theory conference from VT
- We (my Maths advisor and her son and myself) left closer to 8pm, and got to our hotels around 11, and I ended up meeting my roommate, Yunan, who was awesome. She had quite a trip to get to the conference, and we had attendees as far as San Diego! I had no idea how we would get to upstate New York, specifically Schenectady, but as it turns out, if you drive along the south VT, you can cross the border to NY state and it only takes 3-ish hours or so.
- I really enjoyed all the talks, and noted some papers that I have to read up on my own. It was exciting to see a lot of that community thinking about some problems in common with some of the work I’m focusing on, and to hear my advisor say that it was an new, exciting area that “feels like it could be blown open any minute”, because it’s true. She gave a talk on post-quantum cryptography, and three interesting open problems, one of which involved work that myself and some of her other students are working on, and at least another of the three that I also know one of her other students is working on, too. It was really well received!
- I also got to hang out with two PhD Maths students from our school (Anton and Rick); we found this tiny Pizzeria place near the conf location that had the BEST food. I was SO happy, especially considering just last week, I had unfortunately bought some soup from a location in my state and it was so bland that I dumped it into a cooking pan, added seasoning, and then retried consuming it.
- It was a fun group! In one of the contributed talks, the author said that “we realize we aren’t any closer to solving the problem, but instead, we have now made a big old mess of the problem. So what do we do? We give it a name!” and with that, the entire room erupted in laughter. It was a good, fun time!
One of the coolest surprises
- One of the coolest surprises was seeing a professor from years ago, who is at Cornell, who apparently remembered me! It reminded me that I’ve been in this community for a long time! It’s been since about 2017 or 2018, to be honest. Everyone was so nice!
Who told you Number Theory confs don’t have computers?
- An Apple II! Reminded me of being at CHM in Mountain View!
Some Olivier models I took photos of
Years ago this guy supported me!
- Years ago, the gentleman to the extreme left, who is at Cornell (Ravi), provided me with funding to attend a Number Theory conference at Cornell. It must have been either 2018 or 2019, but it was before grad school. I wrote a really long letter stating why I really wanted to attend, and was granted funding. Apparently, he remembered me! And he was happy to hear all that I had been doing, and that I was still involved in the Number Theory community. How cool is that!? My advisor said that was such a wonderful story, and that I already knew people in this community! Omg yes!
My roommate and myself trying not to get lost on the way to campus
- So I’m part of this community-driven crypto group, and we had our second session, where we were chatting about the paper on the Morality of Cryptographic work, by P. Rogaway. You can see his talk here. One of the quotes I had written down was where he had quoted someone else who said that “our job is not to save the world, but to interpret it”. I had mentioned that my past background had a similar issue; years ago I had been tasked to produce a government-sponsored segment on HIV/AIDS in my home country. One of the key persons I ended up interviewing basically said that they (the government) could be doing a better job. However, my superior at the time wanted to make sure that basically I didn’t make the government look bad, so I was tasked with providing a script ahead of time.
- Even back then, I had a mind of my own (this was one summer during college, by the way) and would keep my script as open as possible so I could still tell the point of view that needed to be heard. I was not going to support the propaganda machine; I shared the belief that my personal responsibility was to ensure that I could showed some of the issues. Even back then, I had formed in my mind how taking an ethical stance might be important, and years later, in grad school, our group of cryptography scientists would be chatting about this again. So I thought that that was super interesting, because I would say that we spent a LARGE portion of my undergrad talking about these issues in our work, and doing critical thinking, but I am now at a “more advanced” level, in a field that some persons may dub to be “serious”, and we are having the same conversations. I would even say that my first degree prepared me even better to think critically and deeply about these issues, and for that, I’m super grateful.
- Years ago (2012?), last week, I saw that I had been reading Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”. I made a pledge to myself to never lose that part of myself while doing science that cares about these kinds of questions. I think that they are particularly important for fields like Privacy, Cryptography, etc because they are built upon an inherent trust by people, that we (people who make those technologies) have their best interest at heart. This is something in undergrad I came across again and again; if I am asking you to do an interview with me, the person might trust that I will show them in a good light, or that I will tell their story in a way that is faithful. But it isn’t guaranteed. I might have a malicious intent, or an agenda.
- This week, I may go trick or treating with some Maths people! I have never done this, and so the only costume I can ever imagine is dressing as a garbage bag. Garbage bags are pretty scary, right? I’d give a garbage bag candy!
- I’m continuing along with the Combinatorics and Abstract Algebra work, and on the drive home, my advisor mentioned that she agreed with my other professor about which class I should take (between two I was musing on), and I think we all agreed on that.
- There’s both a hackathon for four hours this week (crypto-related) and a wireshark thing I plan on sitting in on, as well as a homomorphic encryption event that I’m hoping I can attend, and I have some interviews to do.
- This season is looking to be pretty tough; there are so many good companies, and I will have to really make a choice soon! So we’ll see!
And that’s it
Written on October 24, 2021