Heidelberg Laureate Forum: Your last minute checklist for the Oscars of Maths Conferences

As you board your plane this week for the 5th Heidelberg Laureate Forum, get ready to have the time of your life! I know I will and I am doing some very strategic prep to relish every picosecond of this awesome, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to mix and mingle with the brightest stars and emerging leaders in mathematics and computer science. My degree is in mathematics and my sheer joy in life is thinking in equations and telling nerdy jokes about icosahedrons. So clearly my expectations are high for Heidelberg but I know I will not be disappointed.

Now before you travel to Germany, put your liquids in teeny tiny jars, polish off your passport, and dust off your lin alg textbook, because you are going to want to get lots of autographs from the laureates, and what better place to store them than in your cherished text.

In addition to the above necessities, there are a few other things you can do right now- yes. right. now. – to make your journey and experience at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum special. Like, so special, you know you have to post your Heidelberg Hoorahs on multiple channels. Yeah, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, telegram, carrier pigeon, postcard, post secret, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and your blog. Your thousands of followers are dying to hear about who you meet, what you learn, and how you plan to change the world. So here are a few tips to say hello to Heidelberg and optimize your experience.

1. Stop jumping up and down and screaming for joy. I know you’re excited and you can’t stop smiling, so much so that your colleagues and friends are convinced you are perpetually in an endorphin-flooded mental zone. But believe me you have to save some of that energy! And when you see Vint Cerf and speak with John Hopcroft at the Heidelberg Laureat Forum, you’ll be so overcome with delight that you’ll probably end up skipping through the streets of this hamlet like a kinder learning about multivariable calc. All your training has led to this moment so don’t overdue it before you get here. Taper now!!

2. Assemble your nerdiest garments. Yes, you will be presenting yourself in polished garb. But that doesn’t mean you can’t proudly display your maths and computer science pride with a few strategic touches. You don’t have to go too fancy. For example, I have washed, dried, ironed, and pressed no less than 2 t-shirts with equations and figures plus an additional 4 shirts with nerd themes. I purchased a pair of maths socks. And of course I will bring my maths dress. See? I’m keeping it totes simple (!!) I’m not going cray cray and you shouldn’t either, but if you have appropriately geeky garb, this is the place to display it! Don’t be shy- indulge in your inner geekdom!

3. Read the program and learn who the math stars are. OMG this is a celebrity packed docket of the stars of maths and computer science, so you want to have some background knowledge about what they are going to be discussing. Review the program and start thinking about the kinds of questions you want to ask the leaders and stars of maths and comp sci, whom I very affectionately refer to as Dr. Gods.

4. Get ready to network! In my book Networking for Nerds (Wiley, 2015), I wrote that Networking is not an ancillary exercise that you do if you have time. Rather, it should be woven in with your overall strategy to advance your career in STEM and your field. Networking is am honorable activity, and in fact it is the most honorable endeavor you can pursue because networking is about creating mutually beneficial alliances where both parties provide value to each other. Check out my article on ScienceCareers entitled Networking with Dr. God for some tips.

5. Don’t be afraid to approach Dr. God. They are humans and they want to meet you too! So when you see Dr. X or Dr. Y in the hallway, don’t be afraid to politely and respectfully introduce yourself to them. Share with them what you love to do in STEM.

6. Get your marketing materials in order. This means your CV, resume, LinkedIn profile and research gate profile and website

7. Tweet strategically! Use the conference handle, @HLForum and #HLF17, to appropriately promote yourself and to share with the world all of the insight and ideas you gain.

8. Celebrate the success of yourself and those around you. You didn’t get to this point in time and space by accident, luck, or because of your astrological sign. There’s a simple equation that determined your achievements: your hard work + your talents (which you always look to improve) + your intelligence + your passion + your curiosity + your drive/ambition= your success. So pat yourself on the back and get ready to be recognized for this and many future achievements.

9. Be humble. Yes, you’re amazing but remember to recognize the honor you have in participating in a meeting like this. Don’t let it go to your head as an inflated ego serves as a barrier to advancing knowledge. Sustain and maintain, and recognize the privilege you have to be here by being open to exchanging knowledge and knowhow.

10. Make new friends and colleagues. The people you see at this conference will be your collaborators, mentors, protégés, decision makers, inspirers, and so forth. So make those connections and nurture them in the future so you can fuel novel innovations and amazing fruitful collaborations.

11. Enjoy the ride! Make sure to take a mental snapshot of your time at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum. Have a great experience, enjoy your window of time where you have to chance to network with and learn from these maths stars.
I can’t wait to see you in Heidelberg!

Alaina G. Levine is a science writer, science careers consultant, professional speaker and corporate comedian. She is the author of Networking for Nerds (Wiley, 2015), which was named a top 5 Book of 2015 by Physics Today. Contact her via her website or follow on twitter @AlainaGLevine.

whose bachelors is in mathematics, is an award-winning entrepreneur, science journalist, career consultant, professional speaker and corporate comedian. Her first book, Networking for Nerds, was published by Wiley, and beat out Einstein (really!) for the honor of being named one of the Top 5 Books of 2015 by Physics Today Magazine. The author of over 350 articles, she is a columnist for Physics Today and APS News, and a regular contributor to Science, ScienceCareers, Physics World, and NatureJobs. She has also written for NatGeo News Watch, Scientific American, Smithsonian, COSMOS, and IEEE Spectrum. @AlainaGLevine

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