Thursday December 17th

My First Problems in Number Theory conf

I attended my first WCNT

  • What is WCNT? It’s the West Coast Number Theory conference traditionally, which is virtual this year, and referred to as “Problems in Number Theory” this year. You can find the schedule here.
  • And what is so special about this conference? Well, in a recent Number Theory conference, 80 percent of persons an organizer spoke with said that persons said their first Maths talk had been at this very conference. How cool is that?
  • I didn’t know what to expect, but essentially, there is an entire breakdown, including that “every idea deserves 15 minutes.” So everyone who signs up gets an opportunity to present 15 minutes of a problem or work they find interesting. It’s also a really friendly, collaborative space.
  • As they put it, “Everyone is welcome” and “Strive for excellence, not perfection”. Your talk is not meant to be some super polished work; it’s a place to work out ideas, ask for feedback, or just generally talk about the thing that gets you excited in Number Theory.
  • The culture of the conference also speaks about helping each other, citing that people come to Number Theory from a variety of backgrounds. In my very first day, I met an isogenist who is completing their PhD, and they reached out to me. That was amazing and more than I could ever ask for!


  • The first day in person is usually a social banquet. Because it is virtual, we had a series of breakout rooms, and we were rotated every 9 to 15 minutes or so. So I got to meet a variety of people.
  • On the second day (today), we listened to some of the 15-minute talks; after each talk, there is a brief Q&A time, and there are also breaks. I was able to take a nap, pack and get lunch 10 minutes’ walk from where I am all in the space of lunch time!


  • This year, because it was virtual, we used a mix of tools; Zoom, Slack and Cocalc. Once people figured out Cocalc had built in LaTeX, people began to have a blast. But it was great that there was a session to get everyone up to speed on the tooling and troubleshoot any issues persons might have had.


  • The talks ranged from a variety of topics from Modular Forms to Happy Integers, to Class Field Theory and Isogenies.
  • For the Class Field Theory talk, it was cool that we had covered some of the foundational work most recently in class! So I was able to follow along, which was great! The range of persons presenting spanned undergraduate (I’ve heard even high school sometimes!) to professors of many years. And everyone gets the same 15 minutes, which is interesting!

Problem Sessions

  • There are motivated problem sessions, which interestingly, over the years have been collected and have resulted in persons coming back in the future to present their work from some of these problems, which is pretty cool! So that’s one thing that’s super interesting in comparison to a lot of the CS conferences; there seems to be a lot more brainstorming, without a need for finished work, and researchers willing to meet and collaborate, which has been really great for me. They also seem to care less about what school you attend, which is such a big deal. So you can just bring yourself as you are! Yes; with all your weirdness!
  • In the past, as a new-ish (I say ish because I’ve started my PhD a few years now) PhD student who didn’t have research experience before, CS groups can unfortunately feel a bit cliquey, so if you aren’t a known entity in research, you can find that it feels like everyone around you seems to be collaborating and publishing, but no one is asking you. It can lead to “ugly duckling” syndrome, where you feel like no one will ask you or give you the chance, because “you’re not good enough” or something. But how cool is it to give someone the opportunity to start working on a paper in a group or on a research topic or questions even before they’ve started working with an advisor, or outside of working with their advisor? It can end up spurring all sorts of new ideas, enriching the students’ research experience, and building their network of collaborators and research scientists. And I think that’s awesome, regardless of whether it leads to an actual paper or not. I attended a Sage Days workshop in my first semester, and expected nothing of it, only to hear about and be included on an NSF proposal several months later. In Maths, I’ve had dozens of persons reach out and ask if I’d be okay with working on a proposal with them (my first semester of my PhD this unexpectedly happened!), research, etc. I’ve been asked by a really nice guy in CS who does programming languages research before grad school to collaborate, but it isn’t really common. I think it would be cool if there were more opportunities like this across the board in CS.

Socials / Happy Hour


  • I have a social to attend, and then I’m going to catch a nap and catch my flight (hopefully..fingers crossed).
  • Pretty pictures to come (I promise)!

And that’s it

Written on December 17, 2021